I have a new favorite marathon.
Words can not describe how amazing running the Chicago Marathon was. It’s definitely an event that needs to be on the top of everyone’s life lists. From the amazing course, to the wall-to-wall spectators at every mile, it has to be one of the most emotional, encouraging marathons I have ever ran.
Thank you to the City of Chicago for making my day, my week, my month, my year. This marathon rocked!
Oh, except for the extreme heat and sun, but we’ll get to that.
Want to know what made it even more special? I was able to start AND finish with my sister by my side!
Surprise! We had actually been planning this a while, but didn’t want to jinx it in case things didn’t work out. It was a roller coaster of emotion the entire race, but nothing can’t beat finishing the Chicago Marathon with my sister’s hand in mine. I get teary eyed just thinking about it.
But, please read my full recap to get the whole story. It’s a good one!
I slept like a baby last night. Usually the night before big races I’m up tossing and turning all night, but that was not the case last night. There were no nightmares of sleeping in and missing the start or of having to drop out for one reason or another. Instead I was out like a rock until the alarm went off at 5:00am.
Once we were all up, the nerves definitely began to kick in.
All training season I’ve had a bagel or toast with almond butter before any long run. I have to be honest, after so much bread and nut butter over the last few months, the thought of anymore makes me gag. I had to literally choke down this bagel, almond butter, and peach this morning.
I’m sooo over bagels and nut butter, if it wasn’t for the fact that I knew this was the best way to fuel my runs I would be happy never to have the combination for breakfast again. Ever. But, it is good for my runs, so even though it was tough to get down, my body was happy for the optimal fuel.
Having Bobbi, Kelly, and Theodora to get read for the marathon was amazing. We were all able to give each other great running advice, we were able to bounce good ideas off of each, and basically our room was just overflowing with pre-marathon energy. It was simply the best.
Kelly and I had picked up 4:00 pace tats from the expo. These ended up being great reference points during the marathon. The numbers were big and easy to read. Wayyyy better than the pace bracelets I had on for DIsney last January.
This may be TMI, but I think it’s important from a marathoner perspective to get it out there that I was having a bit of stomach issues this morning. I just couldn’t, ummm, ‘go.’ I tried like 5 times before we left. I chugged some gatorade (which Bobbi told me later isn’t a good idea BEFORE the race – oops) and I tried a few sips of coffee (I don’t even drink coffee.) Nothing worked!
I was beginning to feel discouraged, but besides not being able to ‘go’ my stomach felt great. We began the 1 mile walk to the start line (yeah, that sucked) and luckily I was able to let it out at a porta potty at the starting line. I definitely let out a huge sigh of relief over that one.
Speaking of porta potties, the ones at the starts were great! There have to be at least a thousand and the lines were not bad all, we literally walked right into them. Way to go Chicago!
Since, Bobbi and I were in Open corrals (only the first 4 are seeded in Chicago) we tried to arrive early to make our way as bar to the front as possible. I kept hearing horror stories of people saying how CROWDED the open corrals get since you’re basically squished with 30,000 other runners. I was scared, but getting their early worked out great. We were able to walk to the front and had plenty of time to sit, relax, and chill before the start.
The people next to us were doing squats and lunges. I did NOT think that looked like a good idea. No thank you.
The time went by too quickly and before we knew it they gates to the corral were closed and they were singing the national anthem.
As soon as the race started Sara turned to me and goes “Where are the fireworks?” Umm… it’s a 7:30 start in broad daylight – sorry, no fireworks.
I think it took us about 7 minutes to make it to the start line, not bad considering there were 45,000 people running the race.
It’s GO time!!
As soon as I crossed the finish line there was this huge RUSH of emotion. Spectators as far as the eyes could see and they were all cheering with so much enthusiasm and love. They were every too. Above us on the bridge, three rows deep on each side of the course, and just about anywhere else a spectator could possibly be. It was awesome and right then and there I fell in love with the Chicago Marathon.
The spectators continued like that the ENTIRE course. Love.
The first 6 miles I felt like I was on a total high. The adrenaline of the race was pushing me through and Kelly, Bobbi, and myself were all pacing right on track for a sub- 4 hour marathon. In fact, we were almost right on spot with our splits!
The first miles of the race involves going into a tunnel for a good half of a mile and that had really funked up my Garmin. From then on the Garmin was pretty useless the rest of the race. The mileage was off and it kept giving me funky paces. One minute it said I was running 15 min/mile and the next 6:38 min/mile. Both too extreme and both were just plain not right.
Luckily, the time was always right. I used the Garmin as a stop watch and compared the time on my Garmin at each mile marker to the suggested goal time on my pace tat. It worked out perfectly.
At mile 7 I had some Sports Beans. I wasn’t hungry, but have learned you need to take your fuel before you feel hungry, or weak because by then it’s too late.
The first 10k was rockin’ and even the first 15k! It was the Half where things started to go down hill. Instead of improving our pace was dropping. At first we were 10 seconds off from our goal pace…then 30 seconds… then a full minute… etc.
Mentally, I kept telling myself we could make this time up at the end, but in the back of my mind I knew this wasn’t possible. Not only were we getting slower, but now it was getting hotter. Like really hot. And sunny! Lots and lots of run! The race had started with 65 degree temps and I could slowly feel that rising higher and higher.
Around mile 16, Bobbi had begun pulling ahead and Kelly was falling behind. We had all made a pact at the beginning: if oner person tells you to go ahead you listen, don’t feel like you have to stick it out the entire time. I stayed with Kelly for a little bit, but when she told me to go ahead and I felt my legs wanting to, I decided to take the chance and push through it.
I told Kelly she had this and pushed ahead.
Leaving Kelly was tough, but I also knew we both probably needed some alone time to concentrate and not feel like we were being pushed one way or another. I picked it up for a little bit, but the heat began to take it’s toll on me and I felt week.
For the first half of the marathon I held onto a water bottle that was filled with half gatorade and half water. As soon as I finished it, I ditched it and grabbed another water bottle from a spectator in the stands. After that I began alternating gatorade and water at each station, then I would take both gatorade AND water form each station. As the temps rose I began to drink more and more.
I also took orange slices from various spectators along the course. I was getting worried that bananas were the official snack of the Chicago Marathon and even the smell of bananas makes me nauseous. Thank goodness for spectators and their orange slices!
When I was beginning to feel my lowest at mile 18 a reader named Marina grabbed me and introduced herself to me. She had been running the race with the 4:00 pace group and couldn’t believe out of all the people running the race that she had been able to spot my shirt. She asked if she could run a couple of miles with me and I said sure.
I was beginning to feel like crap, but Marina looked great. She was so peppy and still full of energy, it was a great distraction to the task at hand. I actually felt bad because I wasn’t my usual peppy self and she really was a sweet girl that I would LOVE to have had a long conversation with under normal circumstances, but instead it turned into a one sided conversation where she spoke and I grunted.
After a couple of miles I began to feel like I was really holding Marina back, so I encouraged her to go on (by the way Marina, how did you do?!?!? and for the first time during the race I walked.
I walked for 20 seconds and began to pick it up again.
I was alone, I was hurting, and I was reaching deep inside for inspiration to go on. All I can say is thank goodness I had ironed my name on the front of my shirt! Everyone along the way was SOOOO encouraging, it was amazing. They all told me I had this race and that I could do it. I could have run over and hugged some of those spectators for cheering me on. They really were a blessing the entire race to keep my motivated and moving.
Also, the random signs along the course kept me entertained as well. I believe my favorites were “Why are you reading this? You should be running!” or the small yellow sign on top of a long stick that said “Tony, I’m here” with an arrow pointing down. I kept getting ideas for what Derek should hold next race. I decided right then and there I will not be relying on him for signage and instead will make my own and instruct him to hold it up so I know where he is along the way.
The best part was seeing the runners spot their family along the course. I know it’s only for for 2 or 3 seconds every hour or 2 hours in the marathon, but those 2 or 3 seconds are the best of any race. One guy I saw was shouting ‘Mom, Mom, Mom, MOTHER!’ at a lady in the crowd who was oblivious to the fact her son was passing her. It was actually pretty hilarious when she finally realized he was running by and had just about passed. All that waiting just to miss him in the last second. We all made sure to cheer though.
By mile 22 I had adopted a run/walk/run/walk philosophy into my marathon running. The weather alert level yellow at the point and I was just plain hot.
I was running under the platform photographers snapping photos when I ran into this lovely lady.
Turns out Bobbi wasn’t having the greatest race either. When I found her she was on the phone with her husband instructing him to talk to her and keep her mind off of running. She was hot and in pain too. We decided to be hot and in pain together for the rest of the race.
We began to slow and decided to run 5 minutes and walk 30 seconds. Our first go I told her that was the longest 5 minutes of my life!
At that point I was on the look out for Kelly. She couldn’t be too far behind us and the original plan of finishing together seemed within reach.
Finally I heard a familiar voice from behind shout “MEGHANN!!” It was Kelly and she was ready to run to the finish line.
She kept shouting out random Running Mantras and was almost in tears she was so happy to see us. She was the burst of energy that Bobbi and I needed. She shouted ‘There’s no walking in marathons’ and forced us to kick it in high gear. This was it. We were going to finish just as we started – in a group, holding hands.
I will give Chicago some credit – they know to finish a race with a BANG. The last mile and a half was jam packed with enthusiastic spectators. It was amazing! Just what we needed to keep us motivated to push it through to the end.
All of a sudden I saw mile 25, then sign informing us we had a mile left. A speaker on the loud system was shouting “This race is almost over. You are about to finish the 31st Chicago Marathon. There is no turning back now, you are going to finish.” It hit me right then and there – hell yeah I’m going to finish! I’m going to finish with my sister by my side!
The marathon throws you off on the end by giving you two or three turns before the finish line. I saw one turn and thought it was the end. Nope. Another turn. Still no. THEN, the final turn had me looking at mile 26 and just beyond that the finish line.
Just one problem – why didn’t anyone warn me mile 26 was on a hill?!?!?! I think the three of us all had the same WTF looks on our faces when we saw that hill. There was nothing we could do, but push through it. After this one piece of torture we were home free!
I grabbed Kelly’s hand and together we crossed the finish line holding our hands up high.
We were about 15 minutes short of our 4:00 hour goal when we crossed that finish line, but with the awful heat, I’ll take it! Sometimes races aren’t about the times, sometimes they are about the experience and this race was definitely an experience!
Official Finish Time: 04:15:43
The pain started immediately as in all marathon finishes and unfortunately the pain was only the beginning, we still had to walk through the exit shoot and the 1 mile back to our hotel!
First things first though, there was a medal I had earned after all.
We went down the shoot grabbing waters, gatorades, cookies, and what ever else people would hand us to carry. We also spotted the 312 Beer Truck.
It seemed like a good idea at the time?
Unfortunately not so much. We had a photo opt, a couple of sips and into the trash they went. A large beer minutes after finishing a marathon isn’t such a good idea after all.
However, sitting with bags of ice and stretching is a FANTASTIC idea.
Right before we changed, the race official changed the weather alert level to red. Thank goodness we finished when we did! I couldn’t believe people were still running in that heat!
On our 1 mile walk back to the hotel, we decided to stop at Jamba Juice to fill our empty tanks.
I had a medium Pumpkin Smash with some added Peanut Butter. it tasted liked a candy milkshake. It had to have been the best thing that has ever passed through my lips in my lifetime.
We made it (slowly) back to our hotel and immediately spread out on the beds. It. was. glorious.
From the comfort of our hotel we were able to catch up with all the other ladies we knew were running (Sara, Leslie, Theodora, and Brie totally rocked it! ) and showered the stink away. We all smelled. We smelled bad. Like really, really bad. :/
For some reason when we were booking our trip to Chicago a few months ago we all thought it would be a brilliant idea to fly back to Orlando the night of the marathon. Today? Not so much. Having to pack as soon as the marathon was over and not really getting a good rest before heading to the airport was a nightmare. Luckily, Theodora was staying another night, otherwise who knows what we would have done!
Kelly and I only had enough time for a quick lunch before our flight, so we went to the Corner Bakery down the street for some grub.
I ordered the Chicken Chille Panini and devoured every bite.
I was craving meat like WHOA! My body was CRAVING protein to repair the muscles!
Instead of messing with our luggage on the L train, Kelly and I took a cab to the airport. Best $35 we’ve ever spent if you ask me. We got there in plenty of time for our flight – even more so when we discovered our flight was delayed 45 minutes… ughhh…
Luckily, our friend Sara and her boyfriend, Adam, were on the flight so we were able to tell horror stories from the race. It was fun to relive the moments when all the memories were so fresh in my mind.
The airport was limited on food choices, but I did manage to grab a custom salad to eat on the flight.
I had a big bowl of mixed greens, smoked turkey, corn, blue cheese, tomato, olives, mushrooms, and a side of balsamic vinaigrette.
They went heavy on the turkey to make it a little substantial. I know a salad seems like an odd dinner choice after a marathon, but the options really were limited and it’s what sounded good in the airport.
I paired it with an Oatmeal Raisin cookie the size of my head to balance it out a little.
I also had large handfuls of cereal straight from the box when I got home + LOTS & LOTS of water!
Marathon appetites are usually stronger the next day. I fully plan to take advantage of that in the morning.
Speaking of morning, it’s probably time I get to bed. It’s been a long day and I haven’t even had as much as a nap today. Not cool.
Must. Sleep. Now.