Well, it’s officially over. 18 weeks of grueling training, and I have officially finished my second marathon. It was a great race to run, but it was tough, both mentally and physically. Needless to say, I am so happy to be done, and overjoyed that I even finished.
We had an early wakeup call – up and at ‘em at 4 AM – in order to catch the Metra from the ‘burbs into Union Station downtown. Unfortunately, I suffered from pre-race jitters and tossed and turned, waking up several times from nightmares of not waking up on time or forgetting to put on my Body Glide. Luckily, neither of those happened, and the morning routine went flawlessly. We made it to the train on time and rested until we were in Union Station. [I was also checking for Twitter updates from #CM10 to see what other runners were up to.]
Union Station is actually about a mile from the start of the race, so we hitched a cab to get to Grant Park. I am so happy we did! Not only did it save my legs, but we were also passing herds of runners walking to the start. Once at the start, I kissed Matt goodbye and headed toward the start line.
I was fortunate enough to qualify for a seeded corral with my half marathon time this past April. A seeded start just means you run fast enough to be closer to the starting line (i.e. the Elite runners were at the very front and then the times slowly dropped as you made your way back). It was still 45 minutes before the race started, so I found a spot near the 3:30 marathoners (lofty goal as I would soon find out) and sat down to rest.
I met a wonderful marathoner, Mark, who was running his 10th consecutive Chicago Marathon, and his 31st (I think) overall. He gave me some tips about what side to run on to see certain things (like the dancing dragon in Chinatown around mile 21) and let me know that the last part of the race is not shaded. With a predicted high of 85 degrees, I knew it was going to make the last part of the race tough, but I figured I had run through pretty brutal weather this summer so it was nothing I couldn’t handle.
Soon enough, the gun went off and I was at the starting line. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome the spectators are at this race! All along the sides of pretty much the entire 26.2 miles and on the overpasses cheering down on you. It helped so much… but I also learned to put your name either on your shirt or on your racing bib. Almost every spectator was shouting out names of the runners they didn’t even know. I think it would’ve totally boosted my mood and helped me along.
[No, I’m not in this picture, but if you look in the middle, you can see the Eiffel Tower running. Luckily, I beat him… he finished in 6 hours.]
I followed my fueling + hydration plan almost perfectly. Water at every station, Gatorade every 4 miles, and 2 dates at the start, 10K, 13.1 miles, and the 30K. But, I think I drank a bit too much, as it began to slosh a bit in my tummy as the race went on. But, with the heat that was going on, I’m glad I was a tad bit over hydrated, than underhydrated.
I felt pretty awesome for the first 8 miles. I was holding 8 minute per mile pace, which would put me at a finishing time of 3:30. Then, I realized I was going to have to make a pit stop. Luckily, around mile 10, there were no lines for the portapotties so I quickly went and was back on the course in under a minute.
Although the first half felt pretty long, I was still feeling OK as I passed 13.1. That’s when things started to go downhill a bit. My legs started getting really sore, specifically my hips and IT band. And when my ITB gets tight, it pulls on my knee, causing me to shorted my stride to avoid limping. I slowed down quite a bit, walking through almost every aid station.
At mile 18, I was miserable. My body felt find, but my legs just didn’t have it in them to go. I started walking a bit more between the aid stations. It’s just so frustrating when you have such great training runs of 20 miles without any soreness or walking, and then race day not even being able to make it to 20 miles without walking. I’m not proud of how much I had to walk, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to finish if I hadn’t.
Thank goodness the last 6 miles seemed to fly by. I was in tears a few times, but pushed through, walking almost every 8 minutes and through aid stations.
Finally, with a mile left, I found it in me to finish the race running. Or should I say shuffling. For being such a flat course, they don’t really mention that the one hill you do run is 400m of the last mile. Yeah, not fun. But, I pushed through it, knowing that although 3:30 and 3:40 finishing times had already passed, I probably could make it in around 3:50.
The yells from Matt and the Harrers’ really helped push me through those last 100m. I gave 2 thumbs up and eeked out a smile as I crossed the finish line in 3:51:47.
Like I said, I am so happy I finished, because there was a time where I really, really wanted to quit I was in so much pain. I do have to admit, though, that I am still a little disappointed in how the race turned out. Don’t get me wrong, I am so very pleased with a 3:51 finishing time, but after having such a great training season and seeing that Boston Qualifying time go out the window, I was a little heart broken. But, given the weather conditions (it was about 80 degrees around 10:30 AM and Event Alert System level at yellow (warning level) as I finished), I can’t be disappointed in a 9 minute PR.
Today, I am tired (we didn’t get back home in STL until 10:45 last night, but you’ll find out more about that tomorrow as I recap the trip as a whole) and sore, but happy. Not a lot of people can say they can run a sub-4 hour marathon, or even a marathon in general. Yes, sometimes the pain overshadows the euphoric feeling, but I’m not going to lie… I will probably be back to run another one someday.
For now, I am taking advantage of some time off running for a few days, before I start thinking about my next race…