musings on running, life, and everything in between

Illinois Marathon Race Recap and what I learned


Ok, so here’s my first recap recap of the blog. And what a recap it is…

But before we get to the race, which is a sad story, here are some bright spots that happened along the way.

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How adorable are my shoes (Saucony Kinvara 5’s) with my shoe bling from Julianne

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I am truly a nerd and busted out my at-home thermal laminator to laminate my pace band.

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I have ridiculously wide duck feet (curse my Korean heritage). Boston colors in the hopes of speed. I also redid my thumb with a sun/flower instead of the lightening bolt I originally had.

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This is me, Patty, and Kelly at our hotel, the Drury Inn. It was a nice hotel with crazy free food for breakfast (though not early enough for us) and a happy hour. I realized that we are a nerdy lot–a PhD, an infectious disease specialist and a chemical engineer/manufacturing supervisor.

Admittedly, it was strange being back on my college campus after almost a decade since my last visit. Alot has changed. The packet pick-up was at the student athletic/rec center. It’s been totally updated I guess since I graduated. I wouldn’t know since I never worked out there (I was afraid of fitness equipment so I just ran outside). My friends made fun of me because I couldn’t remember where anything was, couldn’t give directions, and was completely useless. There were multiple accusations of “Did you even go to school here?!” I did. 5 years. Yeah, I was extra smart…

Anyhow, the expo was nice. It was well-managed and a decent size. I missed some of the crazy discount merchandise vendors bigger races pull in, but they had folks covering the basics and the usual athletic stuff, hospital/medical industry folks, and reps from other races. They had some fun themed props for photos, which was entertaining. I’m usually not one to do those photos, but I forced myself for the blog (the sacrifices I am making for you all).

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After the expo, it was already 4:30 by the time we got back to the hotel. We had planned on doing a shake out run that day, but it was so late in the day and we had reservations at 5:45 for dinner so we decided to nix it.

Dinner was a pretty easy affair. I ate a crazy amount of breadsticks and then ordered the salmon with angel hair. Most folks ordered the spaghetti with marinara, except Michelle who got the lasagna. I didn’t feel like plain pasta. A mistake. I am still in denial of my inability to eat everything I want with no GI issues on long runs. I’m an idiot obviously in my tempting of fate. Main topic of conversation was about the weather (see previous post) and ranking worst case scenarios.

After dinner, we made the brilliant/ill-conceived idea of dropping off my car at the start of the race. 3 of us had booked the shuttle service leaving from our hotel to the starting line. However, someone pointed out that it was a one-way shuttle. I guess because there were multiple races (full, half, relay, and 10k), they thought it would be too messy?? Trying to hail a cab in the middle of all that (especially since this wasn’t Chicago) seemed like it would be a mess. I came up with the brilliant idea to leave one of our cars, take the shuttle, and then all pile back in to my car. The problem was that there was a 5k that night and a ton of the streets were closed off. It took us over an hour to maneuver everything, during which time Jen had to run into a bathroom to pee and I may have had to pee in an open parking lot (although there were no known witnesses, so that could all be conjecture). Again, all this should have been portentous.

We eventually got settled and back to the hotel by 8. We all putzed around, got our outfits ready, and then lights were out by 10.

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This is the outfit I thought I was going to wear…

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But I got nervous about the cold, so opted for a short sleeve instead of the tank. I look scared, don’t I?

I had my usual breakfast of brown rice cakes with PB & nutella with sliced bananas. I had a cup of hotel coffee, but I felt like it wasn’t enough so I would get more later downstairs in the hotel (mistake). Even though I woke up with a full hour before the shuttle departure, I felt a bit harried and frazzled.

On the shuttle bus, there was a guy talking about some of the different marathons he did. One of his favorites was Grandma’s, which is mostly on a slight decline. I kicked myself for not choosing that one.

Because we had a full 1.5 hours before the race, someone suggested we go hide out in the I Hotel to stay warm. A not insignificant number of others had the same idea. The temperature was in the upper 40’s, but the wind and slight mist made it feel colder. Our little band of BFF runners (plus Nicole’s aunt) got to take a great, happy and hopeful picture before the race. Notice my lovely child-sized windbreaker I was wearing as my throwaway.

2015-04-25 20.58.50Evetually, after multiple bathroom attempts, we headed out into the world. Jen and I were in Corral B and most of the others were in D or thereabouts, so we split forces and got ready.

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The start line

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Jen thinks she looks tired, and I think I look like the biggest cheesiest Asian tourist.

Jen and I had debated doing some warm up or strides, but there just didn’t seem to be time (or desire).

One of the things I’ve realized I really dislike, confirmed by this race, is marathons that have other distances that run with them. So this race had both a half marathon and marathon relay that ran the same course. It crowds the field and messes with one’s pacing. In the future, I think I’m going to try and avoid those. I get they’re trying to maximize their street closings and financial profit, but it’s demoralizing and difficult as a marathoner to not know who’s passing you and why.

One weird thing that happened right at the start was that my GPS never synced right, so I had to restart my watch during the first mile so my timing was never correct. I ran the whole race knowing only my general real-time pace.

The first half of the race was hard. I never really felt like I settled in, Jen was freaking out about all the rain water squelching around in her shoe, we were trying to stay ahead of the 3:40 pace group, and we braced ourselves for every rainy gust of wind. It didn’t rain the whole time, but it did rain on and off, and our feet did get wet, and it was mother f*g cold because of it. I also started feeling a slow growing burn in my stomach, the kind of tightness that probably was going to get worse with distance and not go away on its own. I had flashbacks to my race in Manitowoc last summer where I pulled off at mile 17 (and I learned poutine is not good pre-race nutrition).

Right past the half marathon split, I happened to catch two men without legs in wheelchairs on the corner with another spectator holding some supportive sign (I couldn’t catch the message or I’ve already forgotten it). I pathetically tried to will myself to not have to stop and run through it, to run for the men with no legs. I know. Pathetic.

I couldn’t. So, right past mile 14, I gestured to Jen that I was going to stop. She was so in her own world that she didn’t realize I had stopped or gestured until like a mile later, and by then I was way behind. I probably lost at least a full minute. I’m not sure and I forgot to turn off the auto-pause on my watch so my time got even screwier. So I ended up running the race mostly blind.

The rest of the race was bad. I was alone, I realized Champaign-Urbana is not really pretty, and it was continuously raining on and off. There were ridiculous people alongside the race getting drunk, which was vaguely pissing me off (although generally, the spectator/crowd support was great). I also began to feel like I had to pee. Like really bad. And now, I am about to publicly admit that I tried to pee on myself. Because I didn’t know my time, but I knew I was losing speed and had lost time with the portapotty stop, I knew I couldn’t stop again. I did not have the seconds to lose. So I focused and tried really hard to pee on myself. (On a side note, Jenny was actually trying to train herself to do this. We are really sick in the head). I just couldn’t, though, especially since it had stopped raining during this part of the course and it felt like it was going to be an obvious gush and not a trickle. I stopped and dashed into a portapotty to almost no result. There were droplets, and I still felt like I had to go. I almost cried/screamed in frustration and just headed back to the road.

The rest of those miles until 24 were kind of a blur. I tried to use everyone who had wished me luck but couldn’t be out there running as inspiration. I tried chanting the, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” that was on my shoe bling. I tried counting to 10 (a la “The Unstoppable Kimmy Schmidt”). I tried regulating my breath. I tried negotiating with God. I even considered stopping and deciding to just have a third child and give up running (this all made sense to me at the time). I tried to channel the strength of Desi Linden from Boston. With all this ridiculousness, I actually started hitting a rhythm. And then I passed mile 24.

I could hear a cop car ahead of me blaring something through the speakers. Finally it got close enough for me to understand that he was saying the race was canceled and that we needed to get off the course and seek shelter because of severe weather. I stopped (big mistake as I wrote last time, as my legs got stiff), trying to get my head around what he was saying. I blindly asked, “What are we supposed to do?” Someone ran by the other way, yelling, “Keep running! Forget what he says!” No one stopped. I walked for a bit and debated trying to get a ride the last 2 miles. I blubbered to myself a bit, though no real tears came. And I secretly felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to try and run sub 8 minute miles in a blind attempt to finish under time. And then I got pissed because no one was stopping running, and the only way I was getting back to Assembly Hall was on my own two feet. So I started shuffling/running/walking back the last two miles. It began to all out rain the last quarter mile, but not before some relay runners got together in front of me looking cute and taking selfies as they ran (I cursed them silently). I was excited to get out of the downpour when I entered the stadium. But the bright lights and dryness were confusing. And there was a photographer at the finish line of this awful ending.

And I just wanted to lay down for a moment in a stupor. But we were shuffled up the stairs (um, yeah, great idea) and inside to get our gear, food (pizza, bread and pasta–including gluten free!, bananas, cookies, and pretzels), and get out of the rain. Inside was a cacophany of noise as people were looking for others. The stench of bad breath and body odor was initially pretty strong, and it was crowded. I just wanted to stop and stretch and maybe collapse pathetic heap, but I couldn’t find room. I texted Jen to see if she finished and where she was. She took forever responding so I continued to wander in a daze, even as I started getting congratulatory texts from friends back home who’d been tracking me. I saw more than one runner crying.

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Eventually all of us finished and found each other. None of us knew how to respond to what just happened, and we were all soaked and freezing. So after collecting our belongings, we headed back out into the rain to find my car. Aggravatingly, I had wanted Muscle Milk, to help me recover from that hideousness. I saw a truck OUTSIDE down the block a ways and cursed its futility. We also discussed the ridiculousness of all of us walking outside in a thunderstorm, completely wrapped in foil. Brilliant.

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Us in all of our foil-wrapped glory, trying to figure out if we had searchable finishing times.

We got back to the hotel, took gloriously hot showers, and then headed back on the road home. I silently kicked myself for deciding to drive as I just wanted to veg and stare out the window. But it kept my mind occupied enough, which was probably better.

So….at the end of it all, is this a race I would do over again? I think all in all, it was well-organized, staffed, and such. The commemorative fleece blankets they gave to finishers was a nice touch, and the medal is a big honkin piece of metal.


The scenery, enhanced by the awfulness of the rain, was not anything to rave about (although we did run a tiny part through a park, which was a nice break), and it was weird for me to run by all the frat houses and open bars. I think the half marathon runners liked it alot, though, and the marathon runners were about 50/50 on it.

Oh, and another lovely side effect from this was what I think was a haematuria. I noticed that right after the marathon, when I was peeing in the hotel bathroom, it was kind of red. I chalked it up to dehydration. But it also was kind of weird that it seemed more red than orangey (I know, TMI). I drank a ton to try to rehydrate myself, but it didn’t resolve itself until the next day. When i googled it, I found that it probably was blood in my urine. It can happen from a UTI (which I’ve never had), but one runner’s forum suggested it happens after long runs sometimes if you have a completely empty bladder. The walls of your bladder effectively bump one another, causing some bleeding. Whatever it was, it’s cleared up, but there’s your pseudo-medical, 5 second googling, factoid of the day.

At the end of it all, I think I’m trying to figure out what I’m taking away from all of it: 1) I really need to figure out my GI/nutrition thing better, 2) I need to do better strength/cross training, and 3) I have some pretty amazing friends.

Now to find another BQ race…oh, and plan for Ragnar! Feel free to comment with suggestions, comments, etc.

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

4 thoughts on “Illinois Marathon Race Recap and what I learned

  1. Hi Jung, I’m doing Chicagoland Spring Marathon in Schaumburg in 3 weeks. If I don’t qualify, I’m considering Last Chance BQ in Fox Valley in September.


  2. Hi, I also ran the Illinois Marathon this past weekend, although a lot slower than you did. Was at mile 19 when they called it. Chose to run the rest of the way anyways. Loved your recap. It was an epic race. Good luck on your BQ quest!


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