Because Chicago is such a monstrous race, I think I’ll leave out the crazy detailed reporting and just talk about my own experience. I feel like you’ll either want to run it or not. It’s a race of 45,000 people.
This was my 5th Chicago Marathon (and my friend Patty’s 14th). Yet, I have never attended the Expo with a friend. EVER. And I’m not sure Patty has either. So we did all the cheesy things that we would never do otherwise, like take a picture under the welcome sign. It really changed my experience at the Expo being with someone else. It was super-fun and I would definitely recommend going next time with a friend and not being all business about it. We have been joking and calling Patty “Radar.” She, along with many others in my group, have been stalking the weather like crazy. She’s also the friend I was roommates with at the Champaign Marathon. After lights out the night before the race, I had to yell at her to turn her phone off because I could see the glow of her screen as she continued to track the weather.
We got to the Expo right after 9 am the first day when they opened. It was super-easy and lightly busy. Perfect time to go, as it started to get more densely populated when we were ready to leave later. I saw a booth with a spinning wheel for prizes. I don’t usually do them because it’s usually not great prizes. However, since there was no line and I’m a sucker for free stuff (former classroom teacher and grad student in me) we took a spin. Patty won a free hotel stay at a boutique hotel downtown!! I was super jealous because I’ve stayed at that hotel and it’s nice.
I cross my fingers. And got a McDonald’s gift card. Better than the pen my friend Jen got the next day. Ha. Giddy with our luck at the booth, we did a very systematic sweep of all the booths at the expo, hoping to recreate our good luck. Alas, no. However, we did get to see Sara, one of the cofounders of Another Mother Runner.
Patty actually got me this shirt, and I can’t wait to wear it. My kids can’t read it so it’s ok. 🙂We were also super-cheesy and took pictures with the Mariano’s cup (?) guy. All in all, it was a great expo and totally fun! I realize now how much I’ve been missing out all these years going solo
The night before, I started putting my outfit together. I was running/fundraising for Team in Training, but I was concerned the t-shirt would be too hot for me. I decided to go with my regular tank and make a little purple TNT ribbon to go along with my “in honor” ribbons with folks’ names. And to remind myself that I was supposed to be running this race for fun, I decided to make myself a spectacle and wear my sparkly skirt as well. I also made a Girls on the Run foam tiara that I ran with. I’m not sure why it didn’t make its way into the picture. Because my GI did so much better last marathon not taking the Gatorade, I decided to run with my water belt. My friend Swati was going to be at around the halfway point and I dropped a refueling bottle with her. This, I think, had a huge impact on me staying hydrated. A number of my friends were dehydrated and cramping up this marathon even though they felt like they were drinking enough. I drank four 10 oz bottles of fluid plus water from probably at least 5-6 aid stations. If I had relied on just the fluids from the aid stations, I think it wouldn’t have been enough.
The morning of the race, Patty’s amazing husband, Bob, drove us (me, Jen, Emily, and Patty) to the start. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. I was proud of Chicago for putting out her best weather behavior (minus the warmth obviously). We got there about an hour beforehand, which of course is spent hopping in and out of portapotty lines. I was super-excited to see Michele from the blog NYCRunningMama washing her hands. She was there representing the 26 Saucony Strong program as a coach for a first-time marathoner. She was super-energetic and friendly, and TINY. You can see in the picture that I look like a hulking beast next to her. It was funny seeing her because I saw her and she looked familiar but I couldn’t place her right away. Then it clicked, and like a fool, I shouted, “Hey, aren’t you NYCRunningMama?” I was behind on my blog-reading so I had forgotten she was running AND she just ran an awesome PR (like 3:12 or something) the previous week at the Wineglass Marathon in NY. Amazing.
Emily, Jen, and I were in the same corral, C. Patty was in corral E (still first-wave) so we parted ways. We actually ended up running into 3 of our other friends before the race too, which was nice. I think there were so many professional photographers taking pictures that I forgot to actually take any. So I have no pre-race photos of our little group 😦We ended up wedging ourselves somewhere around the 3:40 pacers and got out the gate about 7 minutes past 7:30.
Emily scooted forward chasing the 3:35 pace group (she was gunning to BQ). Jen and I settled in at the 3:40’ish pace. My Garmin kept crapping out, though, and would eventually just stop around mile 13, which was annoying. I let Jen be the almighty timekeeper. As typical, we started out faster than the pace we should have. Most of our first 5 miles were 8’s. By mile 7, I had decided that I wasn’t going to be able to (nor wanted to) hold that pace. I was tired and realized that I would really be hurting later if I kept it up. So I let Jen drift ahead a bit and then lost sight of her.
Marathons, in many ways, are singular endeavors of individual battle. It’s so mental. Beyond the physical preparation, it’s your ability to will yourself forward and talk yourself through not giving up. By mile 10, my left ankle was starting to bother me. Seeing Swati and her refueling station right past the halfway point helped alot. She had put my bottle on ice and having that cold drink really helped. Plus seeing a smiling face. She is awesome. She had bought a bunch of bananas and was passing them out. Just for fun. Because that’s how she is.
At mile 16, the thought that I had 10 miles left was alot. Even the record number of spectators was irritating me. They were going to witness my humiliation. My ankle was starting to really bother me, and I was nervous about whether I was doing any real damage to it. I debated DNF’ing (did not finish). I’ve NEVER done that. Even my first marathon where I was doing an Elaine-like dance move and throwing my leg weirdly because I was in so much pain and took 5.5 hours to complete…I finished. But this is when I started thinking about Lauren and the names I was literally carrying on my back. And I thought about how Lauren wouldn’t be able to run anymore. And it helped keep me going. Don’t get me wrong, I think if I really thought my ankle was messed up, I would stop. I’ve learned enough now that I need to listen to my body. But I also knew I could keep going.
Sadly, I was so delusional that I totally missed my girls volunteering at the aid station around mile 18. I was bummed.
Right after mile 20, I think, I saw Jen. She told me her leg was really bothering her and she had actually stopped to wait for me because she wasn’t sure she’d be able to go on. That was all I needed to help me keep going. We ran a pace we were ok with, took a couple walk breaks, and helped push each other to finish. And because the theme of this marathon was cheese, I made her hold my hand when we crossed the finish line. It hasn’t come up in the race photos, but I will definitely be buying that!
Here’s me in my full ridiculous outfit after the race. I was actually so warm post-race that I didn’t even take a foil blanket.
The dynamic duo with our matching crowns! I can’t believe we kept them on the whole time. We ran into my friend Anna afterwards too. Emily didn’t make it into this picture, but she BQ’ed! Can’t believe she was able to hold that pace in that heat. Just under 3:37
Gotta love the Chicago skyline. See that completely cloudless sky (I did shudder in horror for the back of the packers scorching under that sun).
We did alot of recovering, drinking, and catching our breaths afterwards, then set home on the el. My friend Regina is awesome (seriously, I am undeserving of these amazing friends) and brought over a 20 pound bag of ice and a Portillo’s chocolate cake shake. When I was training solo last year for my trifecta of marathons, that was my go-to training recovery regimen. Usually I got a smaller bag of ice. I have to say that the 20 pound bag was INTENSE. Note: I did eventually open the bag. But I was afraid…
My ankles are swollen and stiff. I think they were just overloaded with all that pounding on the concrete. But we’ll see how they feel the rest of the week.
Overall time, 3:47 and some change. My lofty goal was to qualify again, but my happy/ok goal was to get under 4. It was a tough race, and I definitely felt tired. I realized that it was my 6th marathon since last September. I need a break and a rest so I can be recharged for Boston. It was one of my most fun Chicago marathons as well. I saw a bunch of friends along the course. I got to actually finish with a friend, and I’m really looking forward to the official race photos (I’ve seen some and there are some horrible ones, but some good group ones too).
Chicago is always a great marathon with an awesome course (in terms of route. There were still a few potholes along the route), amazing spectators in great neighborhoods, and a well-supported course. The one thing that bothered me this year was what they offered at the aid stations. I like regular Gatorade ok if I can dilute it heavily, but Gatorade Endurance is too much for my stomach and tastes. The blocks they were offering were also by Gatorade, which was totally new to me. I actually didn’t bother even taking any (and I love free stuff!). I wish they would pick stuff that people actually regularly trained with.
I hope everyone who raced had a good experience. Chime in with your own thoughts and experiences!
P.S. My most hated cheer sign was “I don’t know, but I’m feeling 26.2” What does that even mean?! I spent alot of negative energy thinking about that sign. HA