I think it’s going to take more than one post to fully cover all of my thoughts on my Chicago Marathon experience, but I’m going to dive in and get right to the heart of it with a recap of the race itself. Warning: long post ahead!
Let’s go back in time to early Sunday morning, when I woke up around 5 and headed down to the kitchen of our (super cool and nice) hostel to make my bagel and banana. The whole place, of course, was full of sleepy runners chowing down on their pre-race meals. I left myself lots of time to eat and sip coffee leisurely… by which I actually mean running to the bathroom 7 times. #runnerprobs. The coolest thing about Chicago other than the fact that it actually starts at a reasonable morning hour (looking at you, NYC and Boston and your post-10am start times) is that most people end up staying close enough to walk to the start. Even in the dark, at 6 am, the city’s main streets were full of runners all heading downtown. Excitement! Nervousness! I have to pee again!
I rendezvoused with the girls at Alexa’s downtown hotel and we made our way together to the start area. Despite being a huge race (around 40K finishers–for reference NYC has around 50K and Boston has approximately 30K) everything was incredibly well organized, and we found our start gate no sweat. We had a few minutes to spare before our 7:30 start time so we waited for one last stop in the porto potties before entering our corral. We squeezed up to the front and chatted a bit with some of the vets around us–and then we were off!
As pretty much everyone will tell you, you run under a bridge during the first mile or so of the race and everyone’s GPS watches get completely thrown off for the rest of the race. So that happened. For evidence, take a look at my Strava which somehow thinks I ran 27.6 miles… yeah, NO. Also, we tried our best to follow the blue line painted on the street that is supposed to help you run the shortest race distance–not sure it was helpful, but it was definitely distracting!
The first 13 miles were a little bit of a blur, but a really fun/fast one where I got to see J and my Boston running friends Aime and Liz all within the first few miles (hi guys!!) One of my buddies, Danielle, had a 3:30 pace bib on her back so we ended up with a little crew of people all aiming for the same goal time. We ran with them for about 15 miles or so–they were lovely! Given our messed up watches we had to put a fair amount of mental math into keeping ourselves on pace, but we hit the half mark at 1:45:40, putting us almost exactly on track for our goal. (I think this was mistake number one, TBH–more on this to come!)
The second half was where things started to unravel a little bit. I lost both Danielle and Alexa around mile 16. I ran with one of our other newfound 3:30 buddies until mile 18 or so when I stopped for a quick bathroom break. This was followed by a couple of miles of pretty bad cramps, which I think may have been due to a bit too much water too fast (it was getting hotter and I was definitely drinking to compensate). Either way, I was not feeling fantastic, and my pace definitely reflected that.
It was about at this point that I knew 3:30 wasn’t going to happen.
I’m actually glad I was alone at the moment of that revelation. It wasn’t easy, and I needed to keep my head in the game to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I plugged in my headphones and set my mind on thinking about mile 21, where I knew Jeremy and my bestie Deby and her bf would be cheering. Headphones on, my new goal was just to keep moving. My cramps had cleared up but I was feeling it in my legs. And hot, still hot–it had been in the mid 50s at the start but it inched up to almost 70 in the sun at the finish. I trooped by my fans, which gave me a big boost, and aimed my mind ahead to the finish. I HAD this. I was going to finish and I was going to hit a big PR! The last few miles were loud and crowded, and I kept my focus forward, trying to ignore the runners around me who had juice left to pick it up for the final push.
At the very end of the race there is a tiny hill/bridge that feels like a mountain–I pushed myself to work up it and ticked off the 800, 400, and 200 meter signs to plod through the finish line. It was a big rush of emotions–mostly grateful to be done, mostly proud, a little bit angry that I still had to walk to get to Jeremy and a place to sit, and a little bit disappointed. I held it together and hobbled out of the chute (which is not as long as NY but not short) and grabbed a water, snack bag, and a bag of ice (because why not…?) I trekked through family meeting area, where I pretty much collapsed onto J and let a couple of tears and a bunch of sweat fly onto his shoulder. I was DONE, and ready to be happy and proud. I did something I never thought I could come close to doing.
So the big overall takeaway? I ran my first marathon 11 months ago in 4:05:54, and I ran my second marathon this past weekend in Chicago in 3:36:03. I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment–I know that it’s no trivial feat to cut 29 minutes off of a marathon time in less than a year. That said, I would have loved to scoot in under 3:32 or so for a Boston Qualifying time, and I think that given the right circumstances it’s something that I still have in me. Much more to come on my weekend adventures in Chicago, HAMILTON, the marathon expo, and my reflections on this training cycle–where I’ll revisit my takeaways from last year and and see how I measure up. Plus I’ll include some thoughts on what’s next for me 🙂
Thank you for reading, commenting, and supporting me throughout this training cycle! I’ve had so much fun documenting everything and will absolutely be continuing to chronicle my journey moving forward. Happy trails!
Linking up with The Weekly Wrap!