I woke up at 4:00 am yesterday with only a few things to finalize before I was all packed up and ready to head out the door to the Chicago Marathon. I drove over to a friend’s house to carpool. I was determined to commute to the city with friends since driving alone or trying to take public transportation would cause me too much anxiety on a day already filled with so many emotions. When we arrived in the city we walked to the hotel where our running club had a hospitality suite, which was located a few blocks from the start/finish lines. I met up with the rest of my pack, took some pictures and finalized all my marathon needs. It was awesome that we had our own conference room with gear check, clean bathrooms and food.
We headed off to the starting corrals. We were in the last corral of the first wave. Previously we all submitted our finish times from other races so that we would end up in the same starting place. Again it was nice to be with friends while passing the time waiting to start. I had envisioned being in very close quarters, but there was plenty of room to stretch and move around while we were waiting. It wasn’t until the gun went off that we all became packed together. Our turn to cross the starting line happened quickly. I started my watch and off we went. It was very quiet at the start only the pitter-patter of feet because spectators were not allowed near the starting line. I only saw media up on the bridge. But soon enough that changed and the support was out in full force for the remainder of the marathon.
My friend Nina’s goal was to run a 4:20 marathon. She asked another friend of ours who is a running coach and pacer to help us with a plan. We received an awesome pace plan that was not only tailored our goal time but specifically with the Chicago course in mind. I decided to stick with Nina first because she’s great company and second because the plan seemed doable. Nina made custom pace bracelets for us to use too.
According to our plan we slowed down our pace after the first 2 miles. We knew we’d be caught up in the excitement at the beginning. We drifted back from the rest of our pack and didn’t come across them on the course again. There was one bathroom break we needed at about mile 5, which was no big deal since there were no lines. We kept a nice even pace until after the half way mark when we started to kick it up a notch. We spent some time scoping the crowds looking for family members, but we were not successful.
The support along the way was absolutely amazing. Tons of great signs, people playing music and various instruments. I loved when people called out our names and cheered us on. I was able take it all in and enjoy the views of this beautiful city. Some of my favorite spots were running under the streets, the garden in Lincoln Park, running under the El and China town. It was also amazing to be surrounded by thousands of other runners of all kinds sharing in our accomplishments.
At mile 19 my family was waiting in the most perfect spot to cheer me on. They had signs and fuel for me. I stopped to give two huge kisses to my beautiful daughters, grabbed my grub and headed off to run my last 7.2 miles. I was still feeling really great at this point, like I was king of the world. Off I ran with my Kind bar, Ziplock of pretzels and a can of Pringles. I really hope Marathon Foto got a nice shot of me running with a can of Pringles. People in the crowd were cracking up and pointing when they spotted me holding the red canister. I was starving at this point and it was lunchtime after all. I downed the Kind bar and ate about a quarter of the can of potato chips. I kept offering people chips and can you believe no one took me up on my offer? Eventually I had to throw the can off to the side of road and run on.
I know I’m not suppose to change things race day, but I found that eating real food in the later miles of the race was super necessary for me. I ate a few pretzels, pieces of banana, and the snacks from my family. I gave up on my Honey Stinger Energy Chews at about mile 14. I’m lucky the fuel changes worked out and didn’t cause me any major GI issues. I was taking cues from my body and it was telling me to shove food down my hatch.
After mile 20-ish my quads got super sore. I wasn’t going to let the pain hold me back. I just listened closely to my music and thought about the bass lines and vocals to distract me. About mile 24 I put my head down and watched the street and a tuned out the rest of the world. Keep running, keeping running, you’re almost there I kept telling myself. At one point I looked up and saw the mass of people cheering me on. I smiled, raised my arms and waved my hands and the crowd roared for me. It carried me on. I did the same thing about a quarter of a mile later. I really needed the boost and they lifted me up.
At mile 25 ish my friend Nina cranked it up about a million notches and shot out towards the finish line. I could not stay side by side with her any longer, but I could see her orange shirt several yards ahead. I wanted to catch up, but my legs did only what they could and I just kept pushing as fast as I could. I killed the final hill up Roosevelt, turned the corner and saw the beautiful FINISH line. I crossed a few seconds after Nina where we reunited and basked in the glory of our accomplishment. Hugs, pictures, water and our medals were there to finish out the most perfect race. It was at his point when I asked Nina, “Is it okay if I cry now? I’ve been holding it back all day.” And I so I cried and it felt wonderful to finally release those emotions.
We headed back to the hotel and let me just say there were too many stairs between me and the hospitality suite. After I hobbled back we met up with our families and the rest of our pack. I loved seeing all those smiling faces and hearing stories about everyone’s marathon adventures. We took some celebratory pictures; I changed into dry clothes and shoved some baked goods in my mouth. My kids had had enough of the shenanigans so we headed out. I held on to my husband as I stepped down one stair at a time. Then I walked back with the family to the car about a mile away. And let me add that I had to hold my 30 pound 3-year-old some of the way.
I finished with a 4:22:58. Not too far from our 4:20:00 goal. This was my first official marathon and I am thrilled with my time. For me it was am amazing experience with the bonus of a time I can be proud of. Now I need to start resting and recharging for the NYC Marathon; 20 days and counting.