The Running Gods gave to me: (This is a long one!)
The Chicago Marathon. The big one. The goal that had been looming in the back of my mind for a year. Can I be honest? By July, when I ran the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon, I was a tad burned out. I didn’t want to train anymore. I didn’t want my runs to get longer. I didn’t feel I was improving at all and summer runs just kept getting longer and hotter. I hurt my Achilles somewhere in there and was sidelined for a few weeks just as the long runs were getting much longer. I wanted to quit, to give up. And since I’m being honest, it was only the thought of how much money I had already spent for two entries into the Chicago Marathon that kept me going.
So I spent the entire training cycle doubting myself. I wasn’t sure if I’d finish. Or if I did finish, would I make it before the cut-off? Would I spend all this time, effort, and money chasing this marathon and then be disappointed in my performance?
It wasn’t until we were in the car driving to Chicago that I got excited at all. And then it all came at once in a HOLYCRAPWE’RERUNNINGTHECHICAGOMARATHON on Sunday kind of way. I couldn’t even sleep that first night I was so excited. Gone was (most of) the doubt and the desire to quit. I was going to do this!
On Saturday, we hit up the expo. Like the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon, the expo was at McCormick Place. But this time they were busing people in from various locations. We decided to leave from the Nike store on Michigan Avenue (the Miracle Mile). But first I wanted to check out the merchandise so I could decide if I wanted to buy anything at the expo. I knew I wanted a marathon jacket, but didn’t know if the selections would be different.
Once at the expo, picking up our bibs was pretty easy. The rest of the packet (shirts, freebies, flyers and the like) were in a different area and it took us a bit to find it. Then we just wandered around the expo spending money. Just about any piece of clothing that said “Chicago Marathon” I bought. (I’m exaggerating a BIT though I did buy quite a few items). There was a sweatshirt from the North Face that I’m still a little disappointed I didn’t buy.
After spending hours at the expo, we made our way back to the Nike store. I hadn’t found my marathon jacket, so I was going to buy one at Nike. Unfortunately, by the time I made it back to the store, they were out of women’s jackets in my size. Bummer! But I was determined to get a jacket, so I bought a men’s jacket instead. It’s baggy on me, but I don’t really mind.
Not wanting to just sit in our hotel room after all of our shopping and expo-ing, we decided to take an architectural tour via the river. Sightseeing plus sitting is a win in my book the day before a marathon!
After the cruise, we tried to find some dinner, which was a frustrating experience in and of itself. Carmine’s (an Italian restaurant), made me feel like a total idiot because we didn’t have reservations. Guess where I will NOT be trying to eat again? Eventually we found some food and then made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the morning.
Sunday morning dawned bright and early and the first thing I noticed was that my legs and feet were TIRED. Crap, I had spent too much time on them the day before. Nothing to do about it now except get ready. I had brought some throw away clothes, so I bundled up. I had also packed a check-bag with some warm, dry clothes for after the race. I’d noticed that there would be changing tents. I wasn’t sure if I’d want to change or not, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring some extra clothes. Soon, we were on our way!
Bank of America had a VIP tent set up for military, veterans, and customers. Since we have a BofA credit card, we got a wrist band for access into the tent. The only problem, it was in located in the area for the first wave, and we were in the second. The bibs we color coded, so we got stopped several times. Why have a special VIP tent if only your fast customers can access it? We were allowed to pass the first time, but when I was stopped again maybe 10 feet later, I gave up and
stormed walked away. Not my best moment of the day, and I spent some time being annoyed and embarrassed by the whole thing. Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want it to ruin my race and (with some effort) let it go.
Soon enough, we began walking to the start line! It was a pretty cold morning, so there were lots of throw away clothes all over and it was kind of an obstacle course. And then finally, we were at the start line and off to run a marathon!
This is what I remember from the course:
Mile 1: LOTS of throw away clothes on the course. Also maybe went out a tad too fast and my Garmin had some messed up signals, which I expected since we almost immediately ran through a tunnel. I remember there not being many spectators right away and being disappointed, thinking maybe it was too cold for them, because I had heard spectators line the start area. And then I looked up and they were thick along the bridge/top of the tunnel we were about to run under.
Miles 2-6: feeling good.
Mile 7: starting to feel a little tired but still have a LONG.
Mile 8-13: Kind of space out. I spent a lot of time staring at the ground and just running in the zone. Or just watching the crowd. I think it was somewhere in here I saw someone with a Michigan State umbrella and I called out “GO GREEN!” and he called back “GO WHITE!”. Ron looked at me funny and I shrugged, it was a good 20 second distraction (we both have MBAs from Michigan State).
Mile 13.1: Fastest half marathon of the year! (2:29:03)
Miles 13.2-16: Just get to mile 16, just get to mile 16, just get to mile 16
Mile 16: Stop to walk for the first time. Furthest distance I have EVER run in training or otherwise without walking.
Mile 16.1: OW. Stopping to walk was a BAD idea. Running was hard, but walking HURTS.
Mile 18: I’m going to finish this marathon. No more doubt, I’m going to finish it.
Mile 18-20: WHERE. IS. CHINATOWN.
Mile 21-Mile 23.1: Just keep moving forward. Try not to run into the walkers. Why is the course so crowded? I didn’t think I’d have to weave so late in the race. Where is Chinatown?
Mile 23.2: 5K to go! There should be a sign. I wish there were a sign.
Mile 23.2-Mile 25: Keep Running, keep running, keep running. Okay, walk a little.
Mile 26: 1 mile! You can do this, go, go, go! Wait, can’t sprint for a mile, slow down. Don’t quit now, go! Slow down (etc).
800 yards to go: How is there still a half mile left? How long IS this mile? Wait. Is 800 yards a half mile? (answer: not even close, 800 METERS is close to a half mile).
800 yards-Finish: Lovely, here’s the hill, just get over it, don’t stop, don’t stop! Give it everything you have left. I grab Ron’s hand just as we crest the hill… but I can’t sprint while holding someone’s hand so I drop it. I’m giving it everything I have. Ron has his camera out and is filming our finish. I cross the line and stop my watch. 5:14:59. Just under my realistic goal time.
Mile 26.2: We are done! We ran a marathon!
There is a picture of Ron and I just after the finish. We’ve received our medals and a heat sheet and a photographer stopped us. We both have big smiles on our face, the real deal, not the “oh, someone is taking our picture” smile. I bought a copy of it and put it on my desk at work. I was so proud that I finished, that I didn’t give up.
We did end up using the changing tent, it felt good to put on warm dry clothes. I pulled the tags off of my Marathon jacket and threw it on. I’d earned it.