After the race and mini vacation, it took me a few days to fully process everything. What an amazing weekend! Back at the beginning of the summer I said running Chicago was a bucket list item. It was, but now I may just change that to yearly event. That is how great I thought the race was.
After meticulously checking the weather for 15 days (yes, I realize the forecast only goes out 10 days), agonizing over packing, and one really long Friday morning of work, we arrived in Chicago. We stayed at a hotel close to the start, but not the host hotel. After a quick shake out run along the water Saturday morning, we headed to the race expo.
It was mind blowing. I have been to a lot of race expos, but this was probably the biggest and most well run. (Bad pun intended)
The organization was incredible for 45,000 runners. Best of all, I got to meet one of the best ultramarathoners in the world, Scott Jurek. That alone would have made my weekend, but it was just the beginning. My assigned corral was G, which had a start time at 8:15. The weather was supposed to be in the high 40’s/low 50’s for the start of the race. I ditched my long sleeve before the start and ended up checking all my warm clothes, except the gloves.
The first two miles were super crowded and it was tough to get into a rhythm. With the crazy, cheering crowd, the those first miles flew by. I knew I was a little over goal pace, but really couldn’t tell because my Garmin lost reception after the first underground road. I took down my first Shot Bloks and a little salt around mile 6 right after I ditched my gloves.
The temperature warmed up a little, but was still comfortable after all of our summer training. We caught up to a few friends around mile 9 and took a few action shots.
(Seriously, what was I thinking with that face…)
I was feeling strong at that point, and took a little more salt and Gatorade. Unfortunately by the halfway point, I was already hurting. Not tired, but achy knees and hips. The pain was worse than on my long runs and I had no idea where it came from. I didn’t expect to feel that bad until after 20. It threw me off but I really think this is where some of my training really paid off. I pushed hard, knowing there was still a long way to go. Hard miles passed and I put in my music around mile 16.
The most incredible part of the whole experience was the spectators. I could never imagine that many people stretched across so many miles. I highly doubt I could have run through miles 13-20 without them. So happy, so encouraging, so many high fives, and so much fun. No matter how bad I hurt, seeing them was worth it all.
I felt better as more miles passed, but still not great. I took an energy gel around mile 18 and realized I had not been fueling as planned, but instead tried to just stay hydrated with Gatorade. Mile 22 was really when it got hard. I started walking the water stations and took down a banana, which helped tremendously. I knew by my Garmin that I was behind my goal pace, but still on course to blow my previous PR out of the water. Miles 23-25 drug on and on, but closing in on 26 was incredible, no matter how thrashed my legs felt. The slight incline at mile 26 was a fun surprise, but the finish was right there. I crossed the line with a smile and a little prayer of thanks.
I won’t lie; I was not as excited as I should have been with a 16 minute PR. I wanted more (and still want more – and faster). No marathon is easy, but I did not expect my run to be as hard as it was. I put my heart into running this summer but sometimes no matter how hard you work, you fall a little short. I met amazing people and had a blast throughout the whole process. I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. A PR is still a PR. I have made some tremendous improvements over the past year of running, of which I am very proud. Every race is a learning experience, and I came away with so much. I felt stronger and much better post-race than I ever have before, but I know that there is still quite a bit of room for improvement.
With that said, who is in for a winter/spring marathon (or two)?!?
By: Lianne Martin