TBT! This week I’m taking it back to October 13th, 2013 when I ran my first and only (so far) marathon – The Chicago Marathon. It has been over 2 years since this race, but I remember it vividly. My brother’s fiancé, Jessa, also ran. We were at the start line together, then we didn’t see each other the whole race, but ended up finishing within 2 minutes of each other! She grew up in Chicago and her parents still live there. Her parents, my parents, brothers and Walter took the L all around the city to cheer us on at multiple spots along the way 🙂
(6am Pre-Race Photo – notice my favorite Mizunos 🙂 )
I actually slept a lot better than I thought I would the night before the marathon. When I got up I ate a 1/2 a bagel with jam and a banana prior to the race. I almost always run in the morning and almost never eat prior because it usually upsets my stomach. But I knew I would need the energy, so I ate it about 1.5 hours before the race start and it worked well for me.
We got dropped off and had a while to wait before the race started. It was very well organized and we were able to sit on the grass right near our corral. It was great running weather, in the low 40s at the start with little wind. I wore an old sweatshirt, which kept me warm enough until right before the start. They had donation bins lining the corrals so you could donate your sweatshirt or sweatpants rather than throwing them away.
The race started at 8am, it didn’t take us too long to cross the start line. I had so much adrenaline during the first mile, I felt like I was flying. I didn’t feel that I was exerting much energy at all. At the 1 mile mark my Garmin vibrated, I looked down and it said 6:01, I had a minor freak out that I was going to die by mile 3 because that was WAY too fast. I pulled back a little bit and averaged around 7:48 for the first 18 miles. At mile 12 I saw my family and Walter, I gave them a thumbs up and remember thinking I cannot believe how good I feel right now. I still didn’t feel tired and I was just cruising along… I drank water or gatorade at each aid station, which definitely helped me out a lot. But after mile 18 it started to really hit me, I slowed to an 8:13 average pace for miles 18-22. And then to an 8:46 average for miles 22-25. Miles 22-24 were by far the worst, I saw my cheer team again around mile 23 and I’m pretty sure I mumbled something about wanting to quit/die. I had lots of thoughts about quitting for those 3 terrible miles, everything was hurting – which I guess is to be expected when you have run more consecutive miles than ever before. Once I hit mile marker 25 I knew I could make it and my last bit of energy kicked in. I finished in 3:29:30, which qualified me for the Boston Marathon so I was ecstatic!
(here I am dying at mile 22/23 – look at that horrific form)
Crossing the finish line of a marathon is one of the most rewarding feelings. You immediately forget all the pain you were just feeling and your endorphins run wild. As soon as I finished people were handing me things left and right! A warming blanket, water, chocolate milk, banana, granola bar, bags of ice – they really made you feel special and well taken care of when you crossed the finish line. I think that is so important since it is sometimes a long while before you find your family/friends. I had quite a long way to walk to find everyone once I finished. I was also walking very slowly and a little out of it. I had to go down a small flight of stairs to get to the field where the friends and family area was, my thighs were so sore already I hobbled down them. That’s when I knew it was going to be a long recovery…
(he was my crutch for the 3 days after the race)
(hanging out on the grass after the race)
The marathon distance is tough. For the 24 hours after the race I had no appetite. I wasn’t feeling nauseous, but it was as if my body did not have the energy to eat. I needed help walking up and down stairs for the 3 days following the race. I can bounce back from a 1/2 marathon in 3 days, it took me 3 weeks to recover from the marathon. When I run my next marathon I plan to follow a better training plan to try to minimize this post-race pain 🙂
Overall the Chicago Marathon is one of the best for 1st timers. The course is very flat, there are no real hills, which makes a huge difference because hills are killer. It is a loop not an out and back course, for me this is a must, who wants to turn around at the half way point and do it all again? And it is a big, well supported race, about 45,000 runners, but you don’t have to qualify for it. I definitely recommend it!