Better late than never? Here’s hoping I can remember all there is to say about the Chicago 26.2 (it’s been nearly 2 weeks)!
So Sunday morning I woke up way too early, probably around 5:15, showered, and ran downstairs to get some coffee and a bagel (we already bought a couple of bagels the day before for breakfast, but after not being able to find food post-marathon last year, I wanted to be prepared). The ‘coffee shop’ was also selling Gu & Cliff Bars: for 3 times the amount that they were going for at the expo. Crazy economics. I hadn’t even had my coffee or breakfast and people were already leaving the hotel heading to the start, which kind of freaked me out…It wasn’t even 6:00 (race started at 7:30) and the hotel was only a few blocks from the start.
I ate probably 3/4 of the bagel, nearly all of my coffee, and made what felt like a gazillion bathroom trips before finally leaving for the start ‘too early’ (according to Ryan). We caught the elevator and I said, “I think I have to go to the bathroom again!” I never said I was any better than a 4 year old…
Oh, and those balloons? Picked because they were already filled at Jewel, the grocery store, and because I needed a way to spot Ryan with all the spectators; since I knew where he was planning on being (miles 5, 10, 17, 20, 25). The way it works is I know whereabout he should be, I look for & spot the balloons, and start waving my arms and move to whatever side of the road he’s on. In a perfect world that is….
Anyways, once I entered the runner’s only area of Grant Park, I had to pee. again. I waited in one of the port-o-pottie lines, and after 15 minutes of waiting, I still wasn’t halfway through the line. I ditched the idea of one last pee thinking, “eh, it’s probably nervous energy” and tried to find my way into the 4:30 time group. (Last year I finished in 4:22 and with my leg bothering me, I thought the 4:15 pace group was a bit lofty of an idea). Best laid plans….The road that the runners were standing on, you know, to run the race was actually fenced off except for small openings, which were crowded with people. I found my way right in front of the 4:45 group, surrounded by charity runners.
I heard the anthem, but I never actually heard the start. Was it a gun? A cannon? Someone yelling RUN!? I’ll never know, but slowly everyone started moving forward and I was able to weave forward and find the 4:30 pace group, which I quickly lost. Next thing I knew, 15 minutes had passed and I was crossing the start line.
and I had to pee.
It’s all excitement. There’s energy all around. I’m usually freaking out in the first 5 miles though, thinking, “What the hell have I done?!” Running under the overpass in the first mile I saw all the men peeing and thought of 1. paris and 2. wishing I had a penis to do the same. I was looking around at all the other runners. The buildings. We ran by Nordstrom. We ran by the Chicago Theater sign. We saw Occupy Wall Street/Chicago protestors. We saw people holding signs with biblical quotes. I saw spots. WHOA, What?! And I was sweating. at mile 2 or 3. in 60* weather. Something obviously wasn’t right; granted, I had been feeling pretty run down and woke up with that icky feeling in my throat. When I told people that this would probably be my last marathon, I didn’t mean it to be a life span reference. I began to slow it down. Maybe this was all because I had to pee. At mile 4 I started looking for the balloons Ryan was supposed to have, and decided I would yell to him, “I wish I had penis”. Why were there no port-o-potties on the course? I was approaching mile 5, near or at the Lincoln Park Zoo when I hear, “RACHEL!”
Ryan found me. and all I could say was, “You lost your balloons!” the penis comment was gone. And just like that, I started to relax a bit, and just like every other long run, I found my groove 5 miles in.
Believe it or not, I spotted my friend Brian from the running club. Sprinted and dashed between runners until I was next to him. Spoke for all of 30 seconds before he sprinted off. Fine, if you’re going to be that way…
At mile 7 I saw my friend Robin on the right side of the road, but she completely missed me (and my screaming her name). We made a left hand turn and entered the Belmont area. I saw the Spirit Brigade, ROTC, heard lots of Lady Gaga, saw some great signs; It was fun. Somewhere along this portion I had a Gu.
At mile 9 someone was blasting Ke$ha (guilty pleasure). Life was good. I saw Ryan holding up a sign somewhere around mile 10 (this sign was made for marathon #1 and has a permanent home in a backpack that seems to only be used for marathons). I began to wave my arms crazily, he saw me, lifted the camera, while I tried to make a funny action with my hands saying, “take off the cap!”
Yeah, he had the lens caps on. He did get one picture of me here….
Ah, running through Old Town. Reminded me a bit of the Georgetown portion of Marine Corp Marathon (MCM). There were tons of people cheering, yelling, and handing out donut holes. Tons of people that is until you hit mile 13. With every quarter-mile the number of spectators cut in half until you just before mile 15 and there was NOBODY. Kind of like Haines Point at MCM. I was feeling good, although I really had to pee (the line for the port-o-potties at the Lincoln Zoo kept me running).
At Mile 16, the time clock said 3:00 (or something close to it). And here’s where I became delirious. In my head, doing some funny math, I came to the conclusion that I only had an hour left of the marathon, I thought, “Only 10 more miles to go! Just one hour of running! I think I just might pr!”
uh, yeah. Maybe if I was one of these guys could I do 10 miles in an hour
I spy Ryan Hall….
Anyways, thinking that I only had an hour left of running, I really started lengthening my stride and getting into a new groove. I was coasting.
At Mile 17, by the smile on Ryan’s face, I could tell that he thought I was doing well.
I was feeling really good at this point and honestly felt like I was smoking this whole marathon thing. Interestingly, from mile 14-mile 20, I truly did speed up, especially between miles 16-20. Yes, I was probably Gu-ing & drinking Gatorade more than normal for my long runs, but it was also later in the day with the sun sitting higher than normal for my long runs. By this time, I had passed every port-o-pottie known to man on the course because in all honesty, in my imagination with my ‘funny math,’ I was going to PR.
A few miles later, I began to melt. I ran through ever sprinkler or hose that was spraying water and kept hydrated, drinking gatorade or water at every chance (which was often; there were 20 aid stations on a 26.2 mile course). I never got a sponge though: on two separate points runners were able to get sponges that had been soaking in water. Eventually at mile 20, I began to realize the inevitable: I NOW had an hour left of running to do. shit shit shit. ok, focus. I can run more. it’s only an hour…. At one point I ran by a bank with flashing time/temperature sign reading 83*. I doubt it was correct, but make no doubt it was warm, there was no shade, and the sun was creeping high. and there was only an hour left anyways, right? The weather was comparable to florida, but in Florida we start so early that if it’s 83*, the sun is barely rising.
Runners left and right were hitting the wall. I still had gas in the tank, but was just tired. (duh, I’ve been traveling none stop, waking up at unearthly hours, and just ran 20 something miles.) Either way, I kept going. At Mile 20 we ran over another bridge, and I picked the wrong side to run over (the side without a carpet laid over the floor of the bridge, which was like a giant metal grate). At Mile 21 I think we were passing into Chinatown and I saw my friend Robin (and she saw me!). It was a much a needed pick me up. Mile 22 was tough; we were running along a highway, near the White Sox stadium and I had to play little mind games to keep me going….such as “imagine you’re in Crystal City for MCM and almost done!” or “it’s 2 more 2-milers!” or “if this was a Sunday morning at Timberlake it would be 2 more water stops!” Nothing worked. Just prior to mile 23 brought us the Chicago Hashers (a friend told me to look out for them) and had I not felt so tired I would have taken a beer to pour over my head. I vaguely remember passing some musical ensemble (guitars? strings? marching band? I can’t remember)-it was a pretty area with trees and grass. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I took another Gu here, so close to the end of the race. I just felt like I was losing energy and needed the calories.
Finally mile 25 came along. People were stopping and walking left and right. One man was lifting up his friend who must have fallen or nearly fallen a few moments earlier. I was still running and probably lost 10 seconds per mile, barely holding on to a 10:10 or 10:20 pace. Not my finest, but having so many leg issues that brought my training down to two runs a week, I couldn’t complain. I spotted Ryan at this point and couldn’t give him a smile, but I did manage a “I’m so tired..” Ever the cheerleader, he was grinning and saying, “you’ve got this.”
then came 25.2. the signage never ended! There were tons of people; we made a quick right turn and ever so slowly went up hill (I apparently have a knack for picking marathons with a hill at the end). The crowd here was pretty good, and I think I started smiling again (I lost my smile around mile 20 and 23). Medical personnel were EVERYWHERE, checking on people who must have looked bad finishing up. Finally we made a left turn and you were able to see the finish line. The people in the stands were pretty quiet, and while I think there was music playing, I don’t remember hearing anyone saying anything over a loudspeaker (like, “here comes so-and-so! Congratulations for finishing blahblahblah”)
And that was it. 4 months of training for 4:28:53. so anticlimactic. but it was truly a decent run. Not my best, but smartly done, with the second half of the race being faster than the first.
Kudos to Chicago Marathon planners. Prior to this run, I had 2 halves and 2 full marathons under my belt and after each of them I’ve always felt a bit nauseous and dizzy at the end of the run. You’re running for so many hours on end and they always crammed you into a tight line to get your medal, food, picture, etc.
Not here….At Chicago, you crossed the finish line and had at least two lanes of traffic and multiple blocks to walk. There was no filing into a line for anything: medal, foil, food, water, and, best of all, BEER. I never ever got a beer so close to finishing a long run like that! I had time for photos and was given some wet towels that I wore on my head and neck. Dare I say that I felt great?
Getting out of the runners area and going into the family meet up area, I figured it would be awhile before I found anyone so I got a massage (the wait wasn’t even 5 minutes), finally used a bathroom, and eventually found Ryan & Robin (and Jeff & Brian). We hung out for about an hour, eating a hot dogs & taking pictures before parting ways to get cleaned up so we could all go on a marathon food run that involved stuffing our faces with salad, 3 plates of appetizers, beer, and deep dish pizza (and later, dessert).
Don’t judge: we just ran 4 1/2 hours. Go big or go home!