26.2 miles. But who’s counting?

I had nothing better to do this weekend, so I took a quick little 26.2 miler around the city.  After months of pain and training (and guilt and lack of training), I finished the Chicago Marathon :)  It was an absolute breeze.  Easy-peasy.  Didn’t even break a sweat.  In fact, after the 26.2, I decided to keep going and just run the 19.6 miles home.

Just kidding.  It was hard as hell.  Here’s how it all went down:

Saturday:

In the morning, I headed to the expo:

Found my name on their banner and enjoyed the general excitement of the event :)

Picked up my cool pacing tattoo and bought some marathon gear to commemorate my first :)

This was supposed to be carb loading day.  And carb load I did… kind of.  I was good for the majority of the day, but I had a wedding party to attend that evening, so I ended up just eating whatever I was served for dinner.  Not the ideal situation, but the food was delicious and I have no complaints here.  Didn’t get to bed until about 11:30pm.

Sunday:

Woke up around 6am.  Ate a bagel with some cream cheese, had some of my morning tea and my non-morning gatorade.  Headed out around 6:45am, with a starting time of 8am, I thought this would give me plenty of time.  I was wrong.  The streets were blocked off, so I wasn’t dropped off as close as I would have liked.  On the bright side, I did get a little warm up run in as I ran anxiously to the race, hoping not to miss my start :)  I also got to see these guys, the wheelchair part of the race, who started at 7:20am, which was really cool :)

By the time I got to Grant Park, there was no time to stretch properly or use the bathroom.  I just dropped off my bag at gear check and got into my corral (the last one!) and did some half stretched in the crowd.  Using the bathroom was not a priority, since I kind of have a bladder of steel.  No big deal.  I may have put the bathroom thing off until mile 18 since the lines to the bathrooms were intense, and I didn’t want to lose the group I was running with…  At one point, I wished I was a gentleman, since they didn’t seem to have as much of a problem using the trees in the park as I would have had.  (Also, this was gross guys, you should have used the bathrooms.)

Shuffled along with my fellow runners until we got to the start line.  Stepped over the hundreds of articles of clothing all over  :)  I believe the clothing was gathered up post race and donated to charity which was a great idea.  Also, side note, who were these insane people running the marathon barefoot?!

Now, my original plan was to run with the 5:25 pace group (see tattoo), but because I was so late, I ended up being behind the 5:45 group.  So my first mile or two was spent catching up to the 5:25ers.

They had a nice run/walk thing going on, but I still felt like it was below what I could do.  Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.  But I didn’t know this yet.  So, I ran ahead, and caught up with the 5:10 people.  This was harder to do than I had thought and probably contributed to my later pain more than I anticipated.  But at this point, I was around mile 5, feeling good, slight pain in my right hip, but other than that, cruising.

 So I cruised with these fine folks until a little before mile 20.  A combination of the adrenaline rush of running in a race, the cheers of strangers, the guidance of the pace team (joining them was the best decision I had made all day.  My time would have been 6:30 had I not joined a pace team… thanks!) carried me through the first 18/19 or so miles.  The inspirational posters reminding me that I only had so many miles left to my free beer were really helpful.  I also found out that Chuck Norris never ran a marathon and that I should hurry up becuase there’s a Bears game at 3.  At this point, I really felt like I should use the bathroom, stretch my legs out and just take a break from running :)  My legs started threatening to fall off at this point and while until that point I had used some motivational chanting (in my head, per suggestion of my training book) of ‘I can, I can, I can.  I am a marathoner.  I love running.  This is easy.  I am strong.  This is fun.’, it quickly turned into ‘I can… just walk this mile and still meet my goal time.  I can… just take it easy, I am a first time marathoner and this is hard as hell’ :)  The 5:25ers, running ahead of schedule ended up catching up to me, so I ran with them until mile 24.  Looking back, I would be so happy to re-run the first 20 miles if I never again had to do those last 6.2!  It felt like the first half of the race was the first 20 and the second half was the 6.2…

Then I fell back again, choosing to take it easier on myself.  Since I started the race a little bit behind them, my time did not match up to theirs.  I decided I could take the last two miles on my own and still finish under 5:30, my flexible goal :)  So I ended up walking painfully through mile 25.  Somewhere around here, I got a text telling me that my friend Joe had finished.  Since our times were so close, I made it my sole mission to beat or match his time.  I really don’t know what the reasoning behind this was, other than I love competition and also the idea of matching him got me motivated to keep going.  So, I somehow sprinted that last .5 mile, proudly crossing that finish line within 10 seconds of Joe :)  Thanks Joe!

My sole goal was to finish the marathon, but I also had a secret sub-goal of finishing under 5:30, and I am so proud to say that I did :)

As a seasoned runner (I’ve already done two races, no big deal), I have a little post race ritual going on, which involves a lot of this for the rest of the day:

And, just because this is fun to look through. As you can see, after the 30k mark is really when it all went downhill. I was doing so well until then! I’m slightly dissappointed that my body gave out at that point, but I also knew that I did what I had to do. Despite my promise to myself to never do this again (my chant throughout mile 24, ‘I will never do this again, this is stupid, I hate this, I just want to lay down’, as you can imagine, this was very inspirational), I may be back next year and try to keep my splits more consistent.  Oh, and maybe try for first place ;)

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