As reported before I was dreading this race for so many reasons. Of the few good things I was looking forward to was the fact that we had a friendly, comfort of home place to stay the night before the race. I have nothing against hotels, but when it comes to an already costly race, adding the additional expense of lodging is not what we find ideal. Plus, with our busy lives and schedules, when we can work in a visit with a friend while traveling to a race then it's nice to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. So, on Saturday night after I was done coaching my team we headed to the suburbs to stay with a good friend. We didn't do much besides visit, prep for the next morning and get a good nights sleep.
Sunday morning we were up and on the road heading into the city by 6 a.m. We didn't want to make multiple trips to and from so even the kids were dragged up and out the door with us. Only 3 of our kids were able to make the trip, which actually made things easier. After having many years of traveling with 6 kids, it always seems easier when we have less kids with us. And as the kids are getting older, it's just a reality we face. This was, however, the first time we've ever traveled as a family to one of my races. In the past it's always been just my husband Jim & I going to a race. Sometimes he'd race, other times he'd be there to support me. I don't know if we'll continue to do the family thing or not, but since this was Chicago and so close to home it seemed like a good chance to do this as a family, Plus, it's about time I show my kids the fun and excitement that these big races bring. I never had such exposure to anything like this growing up and I don't want to completely shut my kids out of this process either.
Heading into the city
Traffic going is was pretty light and fast. We were planning on it taking 50-60 minutes to get me to my race spot, but I was there and dropped off in 40 minutes flat after leaving my friends house. Getting into the city as no problem. Once in, it was a little more tricky trying to get me as close as possible to the start. We had to take a few U turns and long ways around, but eventually we were in an area that I knew was somewhat close to the start and I saw many other runners so I hopped out and started following the crowd. Since this was the first time I was doing this race there was a big internal sense of "I have no clue where I'm going or what I'm doing", but I'm a believer of fake it till you make it and I eventually found my way to where I needed to go.
Gear drop off was no problem, easy to find, easy to handle. I was expecting the temps to be a little cooler than what it was and had packed plenty into my bag. I was planning on meeting up with my family right after, but I'm definitely guilty of being a "what if" worrier. So, what if it was pretty chilly when I finish? What if I can't find my family? I'm going to be wet (from sweat) and cold. In hindsight it was likely a little left over worry from when it was SO COLD at Boston and how I had under dressed and was under prepared for that finish. I also had worn throw away sweats to the start, but even though there was a little chill in the air, it wasn't that cold and I ended up putting my throw away stuff into my gear drop bag. Chicago definitely gives you a really big bag to put plenty in to and the bag is very functional and easy to handle before and after the race.
Right as I was dropping my gear I could hear them announcing that the first wave or corrals was going to be closing in 5 minutes and they were urging us to get into our corral. I really had to pee, but the lines to the porta potties were sooooo long. I was ready to just hold it, but then saw a hedge of bushes. I'm a firm believer when you gotta go you gotta go. And living in a house with 6 kids, do you think I'm used to a ton of privacy? No. So problem solved and my bladder was feeling so much better. I was ready to get to the start.
In my corral, waiting to start.
I was in corral D and in the first wave to start the race. Since I waited until the last minute before they shut that gates, I didn't have to stand around too much. We waited through the formality of them announcing all the elite runners and the national anthem and before we knew it the race was off. Except in a race this big and being in the back half of the wave, it took about 10 minutes of slowing walking forward for us to actually get to the start line. It was certainly crowded, but not overly crowded. The weather was also near perfect. The temps were in the low 60's, which after warmer than usual temps the week right before, felt perfect!! The sun was shining bright and I felt extremely comfortable in just capris, a tank top and arm warmers. I actually didn't need the arm warmers, but it wasn't bothering me to keep them on so I left them.
Once I was past the start line & officially running I just moved as my body allowed. I was definitely very slow and hesitant, waiting and worried for that deep intense pain that I had experienced in previous weeks. One very good thing about this race course is that it is packed with people. That meant a lot of cheering, screaming supporters and a lot of funny good signs along the way. I served as a very good distraction. Not to mention with the streets cleared of traffic it provided a different view to be running down the middle of the streets and take in the sights and sounds of Chicago. It was an experience and a view of the city that I've never had before. This helped pass the time, kept me distracted and before I realized it I was enjoying myself and having a really good time.
At some points it was too much to take in, which allowed me to focus in on the actually running. By mile 6 I realized that I wasn't having any of the bad awful pain I was expecting. In fact, I felt really REALLY good. Between it all I almost felt like it was too good to be true. Upon further thought though it made me realize that deep down inside I am truly made for this kind of running. I've been so focused on many injuries and pain that I haven't been able to actually enjoy my running for almost a year now. Since I felt so good I decided to speed up and continue to enjoy this race to the fullest.
As previously mentioned there were many great spectators and signs along the way. I was snapping some pictures along the way, but couldn't possibly get every good sign I saw. Most of them made me laugh. If you have no idea what I mean, just google marathon signs and plenty will pop up. I was also fortunate to see my family twice along the way. Both times I ran right past them, but they had seen me & yelled out. It was fun and very nice to have them there to cheer me on!
I was also able to find another young lady whom we are good friends with her parents. She had mentioned that she would be at mile 11 so when I passed that spot I looked for her. Except I didn't see her. I was really looking! It's kind of a gamble finding someone in such a crowd. The entire street is filled with runners and there are hundreds of thousand of spectators on EACH side. For some reason my gut was telling me to stick to the left and after I passed mile 11 I decided I'd still keep looking for her. It paid off and I ran practically right up to her!!
I'm sure you can tell from the big smiles on my face that I was in fact having a really good time. My running was much better than I expected. Again I realized that I was just defaulting to natural basic instinct. Take away all the details and elements and man I can run. God put this love, passion and ability to run into every fiber of my body. I was BORN to run!! The miles ticked off one by one, I was having fun and really enjoying every aspect of this race. I was even on pace at one point to finish sub 4 hours. I had no solid goal for where I wanted to finish. I had mentally prepared myself for 5-6 hour finish. But, I'll be honest, finishing sub 4 hours was a very nice thought, especially with my lack of training.
I had a solid group of friends and family who I know were specifically lifting me up in prayer, which I have no doubt helped carry me through this race. Although I should also mention that I was popping extra strength Tylenol & Alleve like candy. I did a lot of other common sense things to keep me going. This race lacked nothing when it comes to support so I had plenty of water, Gatorade, energy gels & bananas to keep me running strong. Eventually though at mile 20 everything began to catch up with me. I was beginning to feel like slowing down. I kept pushing though. I knew if I slowed down or stopped that I would have a hard time getting going again. I could see my sub 4 slipping away from me, it was going to be close though. At mile 24 I completely hit the wall. I slowed to a shuffle and no matter how hard I tried I just felt like I was sloshing through mud. When I had reach mile 24 I had actually been thinking of my cross country team & since they race 2 miles I wanted those last 2 miles to be for them. Our team motto is KEEP MOVING FORWARD! So it seemed fitting that when I struggled the most I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and get to the finish line.
Those last 2 miles seemed the longest, but I finally rounded the corner to the finish line. My finish time was 4:09:46. I was so happy to be done I burst into happy tears. I've teared up before when finishing a marathon, but this time I actually cried and let a few big crocodile tears roll down my cheeks.
Shortly after I finished.
I threw on my shirt after picking up my bag. I'm a little particular when it comes to wearing a race shirt. I very rarely will wear it until AFTER I've finished. It's an honor to be able to wear it. The lead up to the race wasn't ideal, but the race itself was a big success. All things considered this was a great & memorable race. It may still be a long time before I decide to run this race again, but it has a special place in my heart!!!!