The Chicago Marathon was, in one word, Amazing.
I'm so glad that my sister and I decided to do this together, and also for the support from Greg and my parents who came to watch. This was the culmination of almost a year's worth of training (and 3 pairs of running shoes!) starting in November of last year when I decided to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) and continuing on after that to train for the full (26.2 miles).
I feel like I could have trained more, but I did a good job of being consistent. I'm lucky that I dont have to stand all day or do manual labor at my job, but it's still not easy to commute an hour, work nine hours, commute an hour back...and then go to the gym. It's really easy to say "screw it, I've had a long day and I'm really tired." It's not easy to get up at 6:30am every Sunday and run 10+ miles by yourself each time. But I did it, and I'm really proud of myself. I may have walked a bit on my training runs and during the race, but I essentially ran 26.2 miles!
We got to Chicago very early...about 6:00am Sunday. My awesome mom ordered us a limo to take us there. It was more like a van...but still, we arrived in style. I had food and gatorade in my system. I was not going to repeat my mistake of not eating before the half marathon. Goal number one was to finish. Goal number two was to not throw up. I used the restroom, twice. I was ready.
The start area was huge. I found my assigned start corral, which I had qualified for with my half marathon time. But I noticed the pace groups there were 8 minutes per mile. I was not feeling like that was going to happen for me, so I moved back to the beginning of the open start area by the 9 minutes per mile pacers. We basically walked up to the start. It took about 10 minutes to cross the tracking mat.
The first 3 miles was probably one of my favorite parts of the race. People were fighting for spots in the street. The crowd was insane. I am truly in awe of the amazing people of Chicago who came to watch and cheer. There was not a single area of the course that didn't have people cheering. People came out of their houses with hoses for runners to run under.
The first half I went out fast, about 9:00 minute per mile pace (estimated 4 hour finishing time). I kept seeing people with 4:00 on their backs. At the expo you could sign up for a pace group and put a goal time on your back. I didn't do that because I had no idea how I would do. I didn't want to put 4:00 on my back and finish in 5:00. Plus, if you were an hour behind (like the guy with 3:10 by the 4:00 group) everyone would know.
Wise move because....I had to slow down. And by slow down, I mean walk. Several times. I made it to mile 15 without really walking (only slowed down for water/Gatorade). After that, I had to stop and walk about 6 or 7 times. Not for too long, maybe up to a minute each time. I am not surprised that I had to walk because that's what I did on my training runs. I would stop for water, stretch, walk a minute, etc. And, the longest training run I did was 20 miles. I did one 20 miler 3 weeks before the race.
The people on the course were super helpful. They had plenty of aid stations. When I got to about 24.5 there was a guy on a PA yelling something like "YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU ARE GOING TO FINISH THE CHICAGO MARATHON. YOU ARE GOING TO BE PART OF HISTORY!" And that gave me the motivation I needed to run the last part of the race and finish strong. Greg and my parents saw me finish, but I didn't see them. I was just looking straight ahead at the finish. In fact, I didn't really take in the crowd as much at the end as I did in the beginning due to being so focused on just crossing the line...
Kept moving through the finish area. They don't really let you sit down. You get a medal and protective blanket. You can get bananas, Gatorade, or whatever you want (beer was available, didn't take it). My only thought was Must Sit Down because it started to hit me that I just ran 26.2 miles. THEN I saw people directing runners to the family reunion area which was only 3 blocks away. I thought I could make it...I was wrong. I walked about a block more, and then just sat down on concrete. Got up...walked a little more....sat down again. Finally stumbled over there, and luckily my mom spotted me right away.
The next 30 minutes to an hour was a daze. I went to lie down on a grassy area...walked over to medical to get ice bags...sat down some more. Walking was somewhat difficult. Unfortunately I didn't have the energy to walk the half mile back to the bleachers to see my sister finish. I didn't feel like eating, but Greg practically forced me to and that was the right call. I instantly felt better (less nauseous). I found out my final finishing time was 4 hours, 14 minutes, and 28 seconds! Average mile pace was 9:43.
Then Colleen finished! She seemed to be recovering better than I was, wasn't having issues walking or anything. The bad news was we had to walk back to the train station to get home! It was 10 blocks! I made a deal with my dad that I would walk halfway, we would look for a restaurant to get lunch, then walk the rest of the way back. So that's what we did, and everyone made it. Leg muscles are still a little sore. I can't say for sure if I'll ever do a marathon again, but I know this. After running Chicago, I can't imagine ever running a little rinky dink marathon. I don't think anything would compare! Chicago is simply the best.