What a weekend. There were men in dragons and men in drag! Cheerleaders lined the course and the streets ran yellow with Gatorade (at least I hope it was Gatorade)! The Chicago Marathon was quite different from anything I’ve run before. The crowd support was huge.
I went up the night before with my friend Megan Bachman, and a friend of hers from St. Louis, Erin. We grabbed our packets at the expo, toured the booths, lamented that the shirts that came with the packets were underwhelming at best, bought new shirts to make us feel better (well played Bank of America), and checked into our the hotel.
People asked me a lot if I was nervous for the marathon. The answer was no. I believe being nervous is a waste or energy. At that point I had done everything I could do to make sure the race went the way I wanted it to go. There was nothing that I could do the night before to help me except eat a good dinner, relax, and get good sleep. Since I wasn’t nervous I was able to do those things. I was eager for the race, maybe even a little anxious, but not nervous.
The gun fired for the elite start at 7:30 a.m. I was in a start corral, so I didn’t go right at that moment. It was probably another five minutes until I got to the start line and the race started for me. Having the corral was great. There were very few people I had to fight my way around and I was able to get up to an acceptable pace quickly. Megan and I planned to stick together as long as it worked well for us, so I had company for little while.
It was either around mile 3 or 6 that we were split up. It kind of just happened. The gap between us filled with other runners and that was that. Too bad since having some company for a while more would have been nice.
Race highlights: I managed to stay with the 3:50 pace group for most of the race. They were a good way for me to stay on target to meet my goal of doing the marathon in less than 4 hours. I arrived at the half way point at about 1:55. I was pleased with that, although I was greatly humbled when I found out that the guy who won the marathon finished in 2:05…10 minutes after I had only run half of it! He must have literally been flying. He received $100,000 for placing first and another $50,000 for setting a course record by 4 seconds. 4 seconds! That’s the difference between high-fiving someone or picking up a cup of water. It just shows how much every movement can matter.
But anyway, back to me. As usual it is too bad that there is not a record for peeing during a race. I was not one of the dozens who went under the bridge right after the race began, but around mile 9 I had to go and knew it was better to stop sooner than later. I broke from the pace group and went into the port-o-john in record time. Seriously, I was in and out in seconds. I was like freaking Superman ducking into a phone booth. I was able to catch the pace group again in less than one mile.
Sometime after using the restroom I accidentally took a gel early because I got confused, so I had to restructure my nutrition for the rest of the race. I was running with one fewer than I had originally planned, so I took the gel provided on the course at mile 17.8. Now I won’t say the flavor and brand of this gel. It was awful, but I recognize that I have not trained with it and it might be a very good gel. So officially I am not knocking it. But it just coated my mouth throat and stomach in a bad way. Remember Slimer, that green ghost from Ghostbusters? Well this gel made me feel how I’d feel if I had licked Slimer. It made me want to wretch. Luckily I got it under control quickly.
Still, the last few miles of the race were tough. Thankfully I never hit the wall, but I was tired and slowed a bit. I avoided walking for the most part with the exception of water stops and plowed toward the finish. I had another welcome distraction at mile 24 when a race official pulled a nearby runner off the course who had snuck on. A small part of me thought it sucked for him that he had theoretically run almost an entire marathon and didn’t get to finish. But the part of me that paid $130 to participate had a good laugh. “Sucks to be you” was the sentiment I settled on.
It was starting to get pretty hot, but I was at the end. 3 hours and 56 minutes of running put me across the finish line. I had met my goal.
The pictures may show a lot of joy and happiness, and I was/am. But to be honest, after crossing that line, all I wanted in the world was to lay down on the sidewalk. You’d really have to run a long race like that to appreciate how comfortable a slab of cement can look.
I am thrilled to have met a goal I placed a year ago. Thanks to my training partners, supporters, and people tracking me during the race. It helped greatly. More training to come. I have a 70.3 distance triathlon to prepare for.
***Special thanks to Laura Wheatley for the mantra “You know you’ll be able to make a bunch of excuses for why you can slow down or walk, but …” I forgot the second part of what she said, but it helped every time I thought about it.