|Wow. Just wow.|
THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE
Adam and I met up for a carb-loading lunch with an amazing crowd of folks:
|From L to R: me, Lauren, Maggie, Kayla, Luiz, Xaarlin, Erin, and Amanda.|
Adam was the photographer and therefore not pictured.
I had a blast talking about running with other marathoners who were as focused on the race as I was. It was awesome getting to finally meet the amazing Xaarlin in person, among others!
The rest of the day was spent laying out my gear, stretching, foam-rolling, hydrating, and trying to relax and prepare myself mentally. I was in bed by 9:15 PM.
I had my alarm set for 5:40 AM but I woke up around 5:15 and couldn't fall back asleep. I finally just got up and got dressed. I was a bundle of nerves and I had no appetite for any food, but forced myself to eat a bowl of cereal and a hard-boiled egg for breakfast.
Adam had very graciously offered to drop me off at a CTA green line stop so I didn't have to walk. I was midway up the escalator to the platform before I realized I was missing one of my knee straps. I immediately tried to run back down the escalator (which, incidentally, is much harder to do than it looks). Thankfully I was the only person there, otherwise mass hysteria would have ensued.
|I was lucky I didn't trip and fall and break my skull while running down the up escalator.|
Adam was already pulling away from the intersection. I sprinted down the street and tried unsuccessfully to catch his attention. My running life started flashing before my eyes that I'd have to do the marathon with only one knee strap. But then I called Adam's cell phone and very thankfully he answered. Two minutes later, he was back with my other knee strap. Crisis averted!
I was planning to meet up with Xaarlin and Luiz pre-race at the Bank of America hospitality tent. I took the walkway closest to where the tent was located, only to be turned away by gruff security. They directed me to go several blocks south and then come back through another gate. But when I got to the other gate, I was once again turned away because I wasn't in a starting corral corresponding to that gate. I tried to figure out a way to sneak through, but security was militant.
|"NO entry for you."|
Xaarlin and I exchanged a couple of texts and barely-audible phone calls. Finally I gave up and went to my own corral. Complete chaos all around. I was hoping this was the last of any issues that I'd have for the day.
I wasn't expecting to be at my own corral so early, but I spent a really long time waiting in line for the portapotties so it worked out. The temperature was in the upper 30s and I was cold. I tried to stretch and I chatted with some of the other runners in my corral. Suddenly, we started moving. There were already dozens of spectators trying to climb the fence to get a glimpse of us. Lots of runners, myself included, began throwing their extra sweatshirts and blankets onto the curb. All of a sudden, I saw Ginger Foxx, who was walking literally right next to me. In a race of 45,000 participants, what are the odds! It was great to chat with her for a little bit.
Before we knew it, we were at the starting line and off we went.
I had been warned so many times not to go out too fast at the start. Since I was still nervously nursing my groin injury, it wasn't too difficult for me to withstand the crowds flying past me. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was unpleasantly surprised at how slow my splits were for the first few miles. I thought I was going much faster than I was. But I kept reminding myself that I had 26.2 miles to cover today, and it was important to preserve my energy early on.
For the first few miles, the crowds were actually thinner than I had been anticipating. But once we started getting into the heart of downtown, it felt very reminiscent of the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon. RnR Chicago's course starts out exactly the same as the Chicago Marathon course and draws large crowds also. The familiarity helped me start to relax a little bit.
I focused on running the tangents of the course, reading all the spectator signs, trying to high-five people, trying to observe the neighborhoods I was passing, trying to take in the familiarity of my city's streets and people. I saw Adam at about mile 3.5 and gave him my hat and gloves, as it was starting to warm up. Around mile 4.5, some of the spectators were blasting the theme music from Rocky.
Hearing this made me smile. It was at that moment that I finally started to really, truly enjoy myself. It was a mental turning point for me.
The crowd was amazing. In particular, I really enjoyed the many signs I read that said things like this:
It made me so grateful for the unbridled crowd support towards everyone's single, united goal of completing the marathon.
The miles went by quickly. Someone was blasting the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls theme songs and that pumped me up. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheerleaders and crowd support in the Boystown neighborhood.
Unfortunately, I was feeling almost from the start like I needed to make a bathroom stop. I kept seeing that every aid station's portapotties had huge lines, and I didn't want to wait. I knew that I wouldn't be able to run the entire marathon without making a stop. But I figured that maybe once the runners started spreading out more that the lines would decrease.
The dreaded groin pain started coming. It was minimal at first, but gradually started getting stronger and stronger. I took walking breaks to alleviate the aching. By about mile 8 I knew that my hope of running a sub-5:00 marathon would not be in the books for the day. At that point, I changed the day's focus to just get to the finish line in one piece without having to do too much walking. More immediately, I knew that I was going to see Adam again at about mile 9.5. I wanted to be running when I saw him instead of walking, which I was successful in doing.
I was still waiting to see portapotties without massive lines, and near mile 12 I finally did. While I was in line, I tried to stretch my adductors and I was so stiff and sore that I nearly lost my balance. Wow, did it hurt.
The course passed just a few blocks south of my home building, through the streets of my neighborhood where I've run countless times. During the marathon it was so packed with spectators that it was barely recognizable. Runners all around me were starting to slow down and a lot of people were walking, so I started weaving a little bit.
I saw Adam again at about miles 13.5 and 16.5. He asked me if I was doing okay. I was hurting but I told him that I was okay, more for myself than for him. I told myself that I had less than 10 miles to go, and surprisingly it didn't scare me.
As I approached mile 18, I started looking around frantically for Erin, who I knew was working the mile 18 aid station. After not seeing any other friends at the points that they indicated they were stationed along the course, it was such a welcome surprise when I did see her. She jumped in and ran with me for a minute or so and asked how I was doing. Almost before she finished asking, I blurted out, "My groin hurts." It was the first time that I'd verbally acknowledged the pain. But she told me that I looked strong and that made me feel a little better.
Mile 19, through the Pilsen neighborhood (a traditionally Mexican neighborhood), was incredible. There was so much crowd support and so many people offering us fruit and candy and drinks. A lot of people were waving Mexican flags and they were cheering especially loudly for any Mexican runners.
Then, as I approached mile 20, I kept thinking about all the comments of the 20-mile marker being the proverbial halfway point in the marathon, the last 6.2 miles being a death march, and that there was a reason that Hal Higdon's training program doesn't go above 20 miles. I also started thinking that I only had 10K to go, which was just two loops around a 5K route that I do in training. I was still taking walk breaks to try to relieve my groin pain, but it began to hurt more to walk than it did to run. Plus, when I did walk it was getting tougher and tougher to resume running afterwards. At that point I tried to minimalize my walking as much as possible.
I saw Adam at mile 22 and felt better. The course was moving through Chinatown and also through the adjacent neighborhoods, including the neighborhood in which I used to live, prior to where I now live. Once again the familiarity was nice. I had two coworkers who had said they'd be near mile 24. As I approached I was wanting to take a walk break, but I didn't want them to see me walking. So I forced myself to keep running. As it turned out, I didn't see either of them. As soon as I was far enough away to be certain that I wasn't going to see them, I dropped down to a walk.
(This also reminded me of one of the emcees at the start of the race, who had jovially announced to us, "Remember, everyone. It doesn't matter how long it takes you to run the marathon. What matters is how good you look doing it!")
The last two miles were pretty blurry. The final stretch of the course includes a straight shot from 35th Street to Roosevelt Road (12th Street), and having once lived at 31st Street I knew the roads very well. I knew that I would see Adam again around 14th Street and I kept trying to challenge myself to go as long as possible without walking. It was around there that he took this picture of me. I look much more energetic than I was feeling at the time (it's a good thing that pictures only require a moment to take).
|The guy in the grey shirt to the right of me looks like he is pumping his fist for me. |
Up the hill at Roosevelt and around the corner, and there was the finish line. Wow. All along I thought that I would start crying as soon as I saw the finish line. But I actually smiled for my finish line picture. It wasn't until I got my space blanket and medal that I started crying, to the point where some of the volunteers asked if I was okay. Even though I was in so much pain, I smiled through my tears and told them that I was doing great.
|Beyond finishing my first marathon, I also look happy here because this was the first time I got to sit down afterwards!|
My official time was 5:27:33, which was much, much slower than I had hoped. But given how much I was hurting for most of the race, I am simply happy to have finished.
I am already looking forward to running the marathon again when I'm not battling injury. Or at least when I'm battling less-prevalent injury. (Is it bad to already be contemplating a "revenge" marathon within just a few hours of crossing the finish line of your first marathon?!?)
I am also more thankful than ever for the incredible crowd support at the Chicago Marathon, which made much more of a difference than I had ever imagined possible. A heartfelt thank you, once again, to everyone that has supported me during this journey to complete my first marathon. And very, very, VERY special thanks go out to Adam for transporting me in the early morning, then strategically following me all over the city for half of the day (and also for dealing with my raging sobs of pain immediately after the race).
For years, and even as recently as a few weeks ago, I thought that running 26.2 miles was insurmountable. Yet, despite the injuries, there was never a point during the marathon yesterday where I thought that I couldn't finish it. I had been warned about thinking too much too early about the miles ahead of you during the race. But even when I did, it truly never fazed me. I am realizing now, more than ever, that THAT - the mental capacity for running very long distances - is truly what marathon training is all about.
Through this point, the overview of my blog has been "My journey to become a marathoner." Completing a marathon, particularly the Chicago Marathon, has been a goal of mine for well over a decade. So it wasn't until very recently that I started allowing myself to contemplate what my new blog overview would be after actually completing the journey.
Now that I have achieved this goal, I still don't know for sure what the new blog overview will be. But it sure will be fun to figure it out. =)