Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm a Marathoner!

Where to start? It was a whirlwind weekend full of emotion...I guess I'll start at the beginning.

Friday, we arrived in Chicago around 2:30 and took the train to our hotel. I'd reserved a room at the Hard Rock Hotel through the marathon website back in February. On a whim, I printed the confirmation email before we left, just in case. Good thing. The girl at the desk first couldn't find us in the computer; then she found us but had us down for checking in on Saturday. I whipped out my handy confirmation email and showed her what was up. We got our room.

After we checked in, we walked to the expo to pick up my packet. In retrospect, I should have done a lot less walking this weekend prior to the race. But, I  couldn't stay in that tiny room bored all weekend. The lines were nonexistent, and I had my packet and goody bag in no time. We walked around and collected freebies and tried some of the free samples. I also found my name on the Nike Wall (okay, B. found it):

 While we were waiting for the bus back from the expo, I heard someone make the comment about the high temp for Sunday being in the high 80s. Last I'd heard, it was going to be in the 70s, which was going to be hard enough. I'm just not a good runner in very warm weather...I tried not to think about it too hard and just hydrate.

Skip ahead to Sunday. I actually slept pretty well the night before, but of course, I shot out of bed when my alarm went off. The night before, I'd bought a mini wheats individual serving at the Walgreens next door and crammed the milk for it into the mini bar. I was dressed and had a full tummy by like 5:45.

When I walked out the front door, there were hoards of runners streaming toward Grant Park. Since there was plenty of time, I stopped off at Starbucks for a coffee. I kind of wished I'd gotten iced coffee because it was warm and a little muggy already. Once at the park, I stretched a little and used the portapotty (my favorite). I stood around in the start corral chatting with other runners. It was surprising how many people around me were doing their first race as well. The gun went off at 7:30, and around 8:02, I finally stepped across the start line. As soon as I started, I realized all the hydrating meant it was already time for a bathroom break. Can I wait...another few hours? Probably not. Stopping was definitely not part of the plan, but I stopped at mile 3 and wasted 5 or 6 minutes in line for a portapotty. The first few miles up to Lincoln Park went well. It was getting hot, but at least there was a breeze and quite a bit of shade.

 I got a great boost around mile 9 when I saw B. and one of his college friends on my way out of Lincoln Park on the way back to the city. I was surprised to see them b/c I'd told B. not to worry about trying to find me on the course. I figured that with all the spectators I wouldn't even see him. But, there he was filming me on his new Flip and waving. Gave me a little rush of energy!

Even though it was rapidly getting hotter, I was staying hydrated and made it to mile 10 in under 2 hours, which was on pace for me. Then thing started going down hill. By the time I made it to the half marathon point, we were leaving the downtown area, where there was lots of shade b/c of the buildings, to areas farther south where it was all concrete and blazing sun. By the time I hit the aid stations around mile 16, the event alert level had been raised to high. The announcer at that station was telling people to slow their pace and advising "novice runners" to consider dropping out of the race due to the conditions. My first thought was "Crap, I'm a novice runner, I think" followed by "There's no way in hell I'm quitting unless they physically drag me off the course." I kept going. The next few miles were increasingly harder, and I found myself doing a combination of running and fast walking. I passed a bank sign that showed the temperature as 96. 96! How late in the fall does one need to schedule a race in the Midwest to avoid the heat?!

I was running through Chinatown when I saw B. for the second time. He asked how I was doing. I answered that honestly I was doing pretty terrible, that my time goal was shot to hell but I was going to finish. I was doing a combination of walking and running when around mile 22 my left quad started cramping. I'm not sure why--I felt like I was staying hydrated--but I've never had a cramp there before. Given the choice of running dragging that leg behind me and walking stiffly, I chose walking stiffly. Up until this point, I'd done pretty well controlling my emotions, but now, the prospect of walking 4.2 miles in pain was too much. I was walking as fast as my leg would allow trying not to ugly cry. Happily, I held it down to a few quickly swiped away tear drops. I took solace in the fact that I was far from the only one having a hard time. I saw people from the seeded corrals walking hours off their expected finish times, runners sitting on the curb, and others heading to the medical tents to throw in the towel. At least I was still moving.

After a couple of miles, I started walk/running again. There was no way I'd be finishing in even the high end of my time range goal. Then I saw the mile 25 sign. Screw it, I thought, I'm going to finish running hard. Then, I saw the 1 mile left sign, followed by 800, 400, and 200 meters. I flew up the last hill and turned down the straightaway to the finish. I ran across the finish line triumphantly. I'd just done something that a year and a half ago, I'd never even dreamed of.

I collected my finisher's medal and made my way to the reunion area to find B. When he hugged m and told me how proud he was, I immediately burst into tears. No one tells you how emotional marathons are. I felt like I'd put every bit of myself into the endeavor, and I felt drained! On one hand, I was fiercely disappointed in my performance. Even though all the training plans said that first time marathoners shouldn't go into it with time goals, I'd trained super hard and just knew I could do it within this range I had in my head. Not achieving my goal time, even in the face of brutal weather conditions coupled with the fact that I'd had to walk some made me feel like I'd failed (at least partially). On the other hand, I knew I'd just completed a quest that I've been preparing for and thinking about for many many months. I'd finished what I started even in less than ideal circumstances. Yes, my time was about 10-12 minutes slower than the slowest time I'd hoped to have, but I'd given it my all. At no time did I walk when I could have been running. Given the circumstances, I did the very best I could do, and for that I'm unbelievably proud of myself.

I have to say--I'm incredibly grateful for the support I had from B. throughout training and during the race (He's 1 in a million)! You guys too--thanks for reading my journey and giving me advice and support. There will be another post soon with more about my feelings about the accomplishment of  marathon running and where I'm going from here (as soon as I wrap my own head around it).


  1. I knew you only took today off to blog ;)

  2. Personally, I think you did awesome. I've read a few reports from runners in this race and from all accounts it was brutal and no one hit anywhere near their goals. Finishing it was a massive accomplishment. Be VERY proud of yourself. That was some tough conditions. 96° would do me in BIG time.

  3. You're amazing! I'm so proud of you! You're an inspiration to me! Michelle