B: sub 5:00
C: Cross that finish line
Most of you have probably been following along with my training, but basically I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 plan. I followed the plan very closely, only missing one run, and cutting a couple others a little short. I did two 20 mile runs leading up to the marathon, with one at 10:59 pace and one at 10:42. I felt strong and prepared!
I had decided to run with the 4:30 pace group. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to maintain this, or if I’d want to go faster, but I figured it’d give me faces in the crowd to recognize. I wasn’t set on staying with them for the whole race, but I planned to at least start with the group.
Dustin and I went to my parents’ house on Friday night, and we planned to leave early Saturday morning for the expo. My parents were joining us in the Chicago for the weekend, which I was excited about! I slept well on Friday night after we had a delicious spaghetti dinner, and we left their house around 8:30 am. We got to the expo at 10:30, and spent about an hour and a half there. The expo was incredible. Packet pick-up was very efficient, despite the huge crowds. Of course, you had to go to the back of the Expo center to get your t-shirt, but that’s expected since they want you to get a chance to see all of the booths. My favorite was the Brooks booth–they had mannequins running on the top of the booth and it looked so realistic! I also met up with the Nice Pace Group at the Expo, got my tattoo with desired paces, and got to meet one of the 4:30 pacers.
After the Expo, we went to check into the hotel (we weren’t able to because it was so busy, but we did leave our bags there), and then drove to our old neighborhood to park the car (it was $75 to park at the hotel and I am just too cheap to do that, ha). We ended up going back to the hotel because I had forgotten something in my bag, and then walked down Michigan Avenue towards the river. Both of my parents have the same birthday (I know, that is strange haha), and they got married on that day, AND it happened to be the same day as the marathon. 🙂 Since we were going to be in Chicago for the weekend, I bought them tickets to go on an Architectural Boat Tour along the river. Dustin and I had done the tour when we lived in Chicago back in 2012, and we loved it, so we hoped my parents would love it too. The tour was at 4:00, so by the time we walked down Michigan Avenue and popped in a few stores, it was about time to board. The tour was pretty great. It’s really interesting how you see these buildings all the time, but hearing about them from a different perspective really makes you notice things you’ve never seen before. Very neat!
After the boat tour, we planned to walk back to the hotel, grab dinner, and then think about going to bed for the evening. As we walked back, we stopped at the Nike Store where I bought a Chicago Marathon jacket. It was a little expensive, but I figured it was a great keepsake, and I really like it. 🙂 When we got back to the hotel, we were finally able to check in and go up to the room. After searching for dinner spots for a few minutes, we decided to keep it easy/cheap, and just grab Potbelly’s which was only a block away. While we were there, my dad bought some homemade granola bars and extra loaves of bread in case I wanted something more to eat than what I had brought.
I woke up at 5:30, with a plan to leave the hotel around 6:30. I had brought oatmeal to eat, along with peanut butter, and I had gotten a banana the day before. However, I realized that the oatmeal that I brought was classic oatmeal, not instant, so I wouldn’t be able to cook it just by adding hot water (my plan was to just add hot water from the coffee maker). Luckily, my dad had bought those small loaves of Potbelly’s bread the night before, so I just had bread with peanut butter and banana, another common breakfast for me. Whew, nice job Dad! 🙂 I took my sweet time getting ready, and we left the hotel around 6:45. The start line was about 1.5 miles from the hotel, so we decided to take an Uber–it actually got us a lot closer than we expected, and we were at the gate by 7. My parents and Dustin left me so they could see the start of the wheelchairs and the elite, and I headed to my corral, Corral G. Our start time wasn’t until 8, so I decided to use the bathroom even though I didn’t really feel like I had to go. The line was pretty long, but it moved quickly.
I brought an old hoodie from high school that I wasn’t sad to ditch at the start line, so I felt pretty warm while I was waiting in line. The weather was absolutely perfect for running, but a little cool to be standing around. I was texting several people, and just chatting with other runners waiting in line.
After I finally got through the bathroom line, I went to my corral to find the 4:30 pace group. They were fairly easy to find, and I talked to several people in that group. One girl had gone to Purdue and lived in West Lafayette for several years–her husband was even the same major as me, just one year younger! What a coincidence. 🙂 We waited for quite a while before we finally got going, but around 8:15, we finally crossed the start line.
The start of the race was super crowded, but we seemed to be keeping a decent pace. As soon as the race started I felt like I had to pee, but I thought maybe it was just nerves and it would go away. The first two miles flew right by–I talked to several people, and just generally watched the crowds who were out there supporting all of the runners. Just before mile 3, when we cross the bridge over the river, I saw my dad. I called his name, but he didn’t see me. Later he told me that he heard me, but he couldn’t find me in the crowd. ha. It was still nice to see him! The first 5k finished in 31:45 with me feeling strong.
5k-10k: Lasalle St. and Lincoln Park
A little after the 5k mark, I realized that I would definitely have to stop to pee, or I would be thinking about it the entire race. I saw a cluster of port-a-pottys at some point, and jumped off the course. I had to wait for a minute (probably less, but it felt like forever while watching everyone run right by), but overall it didn’t take long. My goal for the next mile or so was to catch back to the pace group. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best idea because I was running much faster than I should have been to try to catch up. Sometime after mile 4 I caught back up to them, and was feeling good. I’m familiar with this part of the city, so running here was a lot of fun. The 10k mark is in Lincoln Park, and I was still just excited to be running a marathon. 31:50.
10k-15k: North Side
There were so many spectators in this part of the course (well, in all parts of the course, but this section was very loud). Running through Boystown was entertaining, with lots of music and people dancing. Wrigleyville was full of Cubs signs and flags. One of the sweetest things I saw was just after the 10k mark we passed a Senior Living Facility, and many of the residents were at the windows watching us–they had signs and were cheering from inside. One older lady was standing outside with a sign that said, “You have what it takes”. So sweet. Along this part of the course we also passed the area my friend Beth lives in, so I felt like I knew exactly where we were. We hit 15k and I was still feeling good. 31:50.
15k-20k: Heading South
This part of the course is basically the same neighborhood we ran North through, just a few blocks over. I started to feel pretty warm in this section, and noticed that my heart rate was much higher than it should have been. Because I didn’t have any goals that I was super attached to, I decided it’d be better for me to slow down at this point, rather than try to push now and suffer later. I told myself that I’d like to finish under 5 hours, but getting closer to 4:30 wasn’t a huge deal. Leaving the pace group was a little sad because it felt like I was falling behind, but there were still plenty of runners around me at all times, so it turned out just fine. I realized maybe I wasn’t drinking enough water (I think I had gotten water once at this point), and that I should eat a few more Shot Bloks. Mostly I was ok here, just starting to feel a little tired, which I wasn’t expecting to happen yet. 34:26, a significant slow down from my pace for the first 15k, but still feeling alright.
20k-25k: West Loop
Around mile 12.5 I saw my parents and Dustin, which was nice. Our friend Dustin who ran Ragnar with us had also come to cheer me on, and he was with my parents which was an unexpected surprise! It was great to see them, and it gave me a little burst of energy to carry me through the halfway point, which I hit in 2:17:36. I thought this was a great pace, but I had a feeling I’d be significantly slower during the second half. I don’t remember too much about this stretch of the race, but I was still just moving along. I finished this 5k in 36:29, which was I disappointed in because I didn’t feel like I was slowing down that much. 😐
25k-30k: West Side
I have no recollection from this portion of the race. I know that I didn’t walk at all, but I was definitely going slower than I had been. There isn’t much shade in this part of the race, and even though it wasn’t too hot, the sun was beating down and I was feeling rather warm. I kept drinking water, and tried to eat part of a Clif Bar, but couldn’t get it down. Completed in 35:34, so at least I had sped up slightly from the previous 5k.
30k-35k: Pilsen and Chinatown
This section of the course was amazing. There were SO many people out cheering in Pilsen-bands were playing, people were banging drums, the energy was insane. Chinatown had a dragon running around, again tons of people out cheering and having a good time. Unfortunately, this was probably the hardest section of the course for me. Around mile 19 I started struggling, and it continued until about mile 23. The mile from 19 to 20 was the longest of my life. I felt really sick and had no energy. I am not sure if I was crashing because I hadn’t had enough food, or if I needed more water, or if it was just mental, but it really was a struggle. Several people texted me and said I was doing great, which was so sweet and helpful. 🙂 Also thank goodness for the amazing energy from the spectators or I’m not sure how I would have made it through this section. 38:58
35k-40k: South Portion & Michigan Ave
Just after the 35k mark, around mile 22, I got some water and walked to drink it. Then I walked for a couple more minutes–about 5 minutes total. Although I didn’t want to walk during this race, I think it was a good thing to do because after that I was able to run until the end. Around mile 23 there was a lady with a sign that said, “Only a 5k left”, which I have heard many runners mention–I think this was the most influential sign of the whole race! I know I can run a 5k. I have run so many 5ks that they are second nature. Seeing this sign and realizing that I could still break 5 hours made me buck up and start running again. I wasn’t going fast by any means, but I was running and mentally I was recovering a little bit. 42:16
40k-end: Finally! 🙂
As I got closer to the end, I was getting happier and happier for three reasons: 1) since I had decided to run until the end around mile 23, I had been able to keep moving along at a steady pace, 2) I was still on track to break 5 hours, 3) I was going to finish a marathon! Dustin had texted me and told me they were around 25.7 miles on the course, so I was on the lookout for them. I spotted them before they saw me, but eventually they saw me and all looked so excited. I knew I only had about a half mile to go, so I just kept putting one foot in the front of the other. I thought the small hill on Roosevelt would kill me, but it really wasn’t too bad. I crossed the finish line and was just excited to be finished. I had completed a marathon! 🙂 My final time was 4:58:44, slower than I had expected, but I’m still happy.
I thought the race organizers were trying to kill me by making me continue to walk after we crossed the finish line. I thought I was going to puke or throw up, but there were people everywhere saying that if you sat down you’d have to go to the medic tent. I didn’t want to do that, so I did my best to just keep moving. I got my medal (w00!), and then got tons of other stuff that was being handed out: power bars, a banana, water, a beer (double woo!), pretzels, chips, popcorn, so much stuff. As soon as I got to a point where I could sit down, I did. After about 5 minutes, a lady told us (there were about 5 of us sitting here) that we had to get up and keep moving. I moved over near Buckingham Fountain and then laid down. I told Dustin they’d have to come to me, but it turned out to be pretty tough for them to get into that area. After I laid down for about 5 minutes, I felt much better, and was fine walking to find them in the Runners Meet-up Area. We found each other, exchanged hugs, and then went to catch an Uber back to the hotel.
After showering and eating some chips, I felt even better. My legs and hip flexors were a little sore, but overall I was fine: I was walking relatively normally unlike many people that I saw. 😐 We went to my favorite pizza place & microbrewery called Piece Pizza. We used to get a large pizza and a growler from this place almost every Sunday–it was such a good deal and so incredibly delicious. Now we go there almost every time we go back to our old neighborhood because we miss it so much.
After a delicious dinner, we drove (well, I didn’t drive, Dustin did) to my parents’ house. We stopped and got some donuts on the way, which was a perfect end to the day.
Woohoo, I did it, I’m officially a marathoner. Will I do another one? Definitely. Although I’m not sure when. I know that I have it in me to go much faster. I think right now my two main goals are: 1) break 2:00 in the half, 2) complete a half Ironman. I think I’ll try to tackle both of those next year, but we’ll see how winter training goes. For this year, I might do a Turkey Trot, but other than that I’ll just be in base training mode. I’m going to continue running, but add back in more swimming and biking, because I really enjoy both of those sports as well.
I appreciate all of you that have been following along with my marathon journey, and have shared your support and positive comments along the way. It really means a lot to have such a great online community of runners who support one another. 🙂