I have no clue what Chicago looks like.
You would think that a 26.2 mile tour of the city of Chicago would take you through every district that the city offers. You’d also be correct in that assumption. Running the Chicago Marathon gives you a unique vantage point of such a great city that not many get a chance to experience….. I think.
Friday afternoon, my Dad and I began our long trip to the Windy City. 847 miles later and a really impressive stay at a Super 8 hotel, we pulled into the parking lot of the Health Expo at 11:56am on Saturday. Those who have ran marathons before know and for those who haven’t, the health expo before a race is really really exciting. Everyone is ready. Everyone is trained. Everyone has their wallets/purses out. I was no different. I picked up my packet with my bib and d-tag, received my swag bag and proceeded to check out what the expo had. I went to “Nike Town” where I bought an awesome shirt and that’s also where I found my name on the wall. Next stop, creep on Alex Morgan, the USWNT soccer player. I’m not sure what love is, but I think I found it…. while being roped off, 30ft away. I found my dad finally and that guy did work. He had more stuff than I did and he wasn’t even running. I don’t think anyone working a booth had the heart to tell him, “no, you can’t have this free stuff because clearly, you aren’t running.” Good for him.
We arrived at the hotel close to 4pm. This is when I started to become really really nervous. My dad wanted to try and find pizza for dinner and honestly I was fine with that even though I knew it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Whatevs. After eating the delicious, delicious pizza, I immediately felt regret and knew I should have gone with some other carb to load up on. Too late now. Just hope for the best. After the really early dinner, I went driving around and found a Panera Bread and grabbed a bagel for the morning. 8:30pm – Lights were out (Thank you, Rangers for scoring 2 before I actually had to go to bed).
4am came rolling around and I woke up from a great night’s sleep. This is now two marathons in a row where I have had an amazing night the night before where most find it incredibly difficult to sleep. I got to the train station at 5am where I waited for 30 minutes and ate my bagel. Other runners joined me and you could just feel the excitement on the train. People were ready to get going. I, too, was ready and excited and nervous… wait, nope… I just needed to find a restroom. I got to Grant Park at 6am with
everyone no one else. It was pretty desolate at that time, completely different than the NYC Marathon. The bathroom lines were non-existent. Water cups were just now being poured. It was a different feeling for sure and definitely not what I was expecting. I waited around until 7am and found my way to Corral D. I talked to a few guys around me and got the email from one of the writers for the Chicago Sun-Times. [I emailed him after the race and found out how he did. He is now sending me a copy of Monday’s paper that has all the finishers’ names printed in it. It was his first marathon and he finished in 4:04 which is amazing! Congratulations to Andy!] 11 months of mental preparation since my last marathon, 18 weeks of serious training, 847 miles of traveling to get to this point…. 7:15am. I’m ready. Let’s do this! OWN IT.
This is how I experienced the running of the 2011 Chicago Marathon.
- 7:15am – National Anthem. I got chills. 40,000+ people all here at the starting line to accomplish the same feat.
- 7:30:04 – The horn goes off, Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run blares over the speakers and every single person cheers as the 2011 Chicago Marathon is officially under way.
- 7:34:41am – I cross the starting line. I have a huge smile on my face. I start my RunKeeper Live and my watch and I’m off!
- Mile .3 (yep, point three) – Uh oh. I thought those were nerves… nope, I needed to find a bathroom. “Hey look, there’s a wall under a bridge. Bingo.”
- Mile .4 – Let’s do this!
- Mile .4 to Mile 7 – I have no clue what just happened. I’m nearly an hour into my run and my watch was already messed up. That happened because I spent too much time under the bridge and my watch lost signal. I know we ran through a bunch of tall buildings and there were tons and tons of people lining the streets. I read all the signs. I remembered none of them. I took a Clif Shot.
- Mile 8 – Hey, there is Emily… I girl I met in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at a wedding reception of the family I met while in Turks and Caicos for a wedding that I was actually attending. Yeah, good luck with that one. I was already too far beyond her to stop and get her attention. I had no idea that I would randomly see someone I knew at that point in the race. I checked my phone and had a few texts from people following me on RunKeeper and getting text updates from the Chicago Marathon website. A few were to tell me to slow down and a few were to tell me where people would be to look for them. You know how hard it is to text during a jam packed marathon? Really hard.
- Mile 8 to 13 – Seriously?!? Halfway?! What is going on?!? I don’t remember anything. I felt great. I wasn’t really paying attention to my splits on my messed up watch (that was .6 miles ahead) but knew that I was keeping within myself. I was calm, relaxed, hot and just kept going. THERE’S POPS! It was great seeing him even though I have no idea how I saw him. We were headed west now.
- Mile 13.1 to 17 – OH MY GOSH! I think I keep blacking out. It’s really hot by this point in time. I have taken a gatorade, water and dumped a cup of water on my head at every station since the 4th one. I still feel good. I just keep chugging along. Nothing is hurting. I’ve taken 3 Clif Shots by this point but that is what I was planning to do.
- Mile 17.5 – THERE IS MARISA AND KYLIE! They came down from Milwaukee to watch me (for the 4 seconds I saw them). I gave them both hugs and was on my way. Those who have ran this far know that if you stop, you aren’t starting again. I had to keep my legs moving. I’m so glad I saw them because I needed a little boost and seeing people you know gives you such great feeling. It helps more than most would think.
- Mile 17.6 to 21 – I stepped in puddle and hoped that it was water and not gray water or something else that I am 85 percent sure it was.
- Mile 21 to 23 – I keep passing people. I see people dropping left and right. Whoa! There’s my right calf. Just a little cramp. Knotted up for a second but decided to calm itself. Thank goodness.
- Mile 24 – SIDE STITCH!!!!!! I had never experienced one of these during any of my previous marathons or training runs. I’m not sure if it was because I had taken in so much gatorade and water or not enough. I didn’t know what caused it but it made me slow down in a heart beat. Wow. That was incredible.
- Mile 24.5 – CRAMP. My right calf reared its ugly head yet again. This time, it decided to stick around. Three steps in a row, it knotted up on me. I had to walk for about 20 seconds. I was getting upset. No way do I go this far only to be stopped by a ridiculous cramp in my calf. I pushed ahead and picked up running again.
- Mile 26 – Andy, the guy for the Chicago Sun-Times told me there was a hill at the end of the race. He WAS NOT lying. 400 meters before the finish line, a huge hill. “What in the world?! Who puts that there?! Why is it so steep!? Really?! This?! Now!?” That is what I was thinking as I “ran” up this hill. Once I topped that hill, there it was, the finish line.
- Mile 26.2 – The ended wasn’t nearly as excruciating as the end of the NYC marathon even with the hill. I’m not sure if it was the training or what, but I did it. I DID IT. I broke the 3:30 mark after never breaking the 4 hour mark in a marathon before. 3:27:39 was my final time, beating my previous PR by more than 32 minutes. The feeling that overwhelmed me was incredible. I had pushed myself so much during the previous 18 weeks, I did it. I don’t remember anything, but I know I did it.
This marathon is the first that I had taken serious. My training runs were crucial and I HAD to do them all summer long. I made myself do them. I got made fun of by my friends and I missed out on a few things, but I am so glad that everything I had gone through for 4 1/2 months finally paid off. My dad and friends were there to see it all happen and so many others were there with me following me on twitter, RunKeeper and getting texts through the website. One of the things that honestly kept me going was knowing that people knew my goal time. I told a few that I was pushing for 3:30. I didn’t want to disappoint them. It really helped me knowing that other people knew what I was shooting for.
Few things I didn’t know before this weekend:
- Snoop Dogg will be playing at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, OK on October 27th. Chance he misread that contract before signing it?
- Super 8 hotels, give me all $45 worth of that!
- Gatorade Recover, the one with the protein in it… absolutely terrible.
- “HTFU.” I’ll be making this sign at the next marathon I cheer for. That was the best sign I saw. Runner up: “Don’t Shit Yourself.”
I will never forget the Chicago Marathon… what little I remember from it.