Chicago Marathon Race Recap – Part 2

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If you are just joining the program or are just DYING to hear the ending to my Chicago Marathon Race Recap Part 1, you can find it here. Go ahead, get caught up. We’ll all meet up here in the end.

Race morning Alexis and I got up and moving around 5am. Which if you think about it, was 6am given the time change. Bonus. I think we both did our best to follow our usual race morning rituals given that we were not at home and staying in a hotel. I had picked up some bananas and some Lara bars at a market downtown to munch on as a pre-race breakfast.

I stepped through my rituals as best as I could – wake up, bathroom and take Imodium. Has to be on an empty stomach. Brush teeth, do hair (add Fellow Flower) then change. Once Imodium has had some time, grab banana, advil, and hydrate. Breathe.

This time my race morning must do’s included a Nike Pace Team temporary tattoo. Oh yeah, I am awesome.

With the chilly start around 40 degrees, I knew I would need something warm to wear in the corrals and then toss away once we started running. However, with the move, I had unloaded a lot of items from my closet and I really didn’t have anything I was willing to “throw away” on race day. So before coming to Chicago I went to Walgreens and bought an oversized sweatshirt for 5 bucks. Best decision ever.

Alexis and I headed out around 6:20ish and grabbed the L to get to Grant Park in time. There was no confusion as to where you were going. Just follow the sea of runners catching the train. The train car was so packed. I was squashed in like a pancake and some broad got all testy over my drop bag pushing into her. Relax lady, it’s marathon day.

But it was so easy. We only had to ride the train for a few short stops and we were there. Runners poured out of the subway exits and onto the streets. I have never seen so many runners in one place.

We made our way into Grant Park toward the back corrals. I had entered 5 hours as my estimated finish time, a little faster than I knew I could do, but Alexis pushed her estimated time back from a 4:15 to a 4:45 so we could be in the same corral together at the start. That’s team work.

We found the bag drop tent for our corral and then designated a meet up location for after the race before hitting the bathrooms. That’s the good thing about getting to a race early, even if there is a line for the restroom, you have time to wait in it. And we did have plenty of time. Not only did they have letter race corrals, they also had a staggered start. Wheelchairs at 7, first corrals went off at 7:30, and the second wave of corrals went at 8. We were the second to last corral to go.

For being such a large race, it was very well run. The corrals were easy to spot, we found our gear check tent with zero trouble, and after hitting the bathroom room we were able to weave the crowd and get into our corral with plenty of time.

I heard someone complaining as the second wave was preparing to take off that the start was going to slow. But Chicago Marathon race directors had been very up front in their documentation and participant guides that it could take nearly 15 minutes for each wave to make it through the starting line. I had no qualms with how the start went.

In fact, I was excited about it. The anticipation was building, the excitement was electric, it just filled your veins. Each corral even had its own music. As the corral moved forward speakers played music of different genres. It was really cool.

And before I knew it my corral was inching and inching to the start. Suddenly, there it was, we were about to take off. I saw a group of volunteers with donation bags for your throw away clothes so I took off my sweatshirt and donated it, said a little prayer and goodbye to Alexis. See you at the finish, friend.

It was time.

Mile one was a problem. As you cross the starting line the course sends runners under a tunnel. It was nice because the vents in the tunnel were pumping warm air, but my Garmin lost satellite. I was barely even a half mile in and my Garmin tried to tell me that I had run a mile in 7 minutes and 49 seconds. Fail Garmin. So I waited until I reached the real 1st mile, and at the marker I restarted the Garmin. So now, every time I looked at my pace tattoo, I was a mile behind. Math when running is no good. It just got harder as the race went on.

I started ahead of the 5:10 pace group but figured I could keep pace on my own for a while. If you remember, my goal time was a 5:15. But since there was no 5:15 pace group, just a 5:10, I figured that would work. Might not have been the smartest thing to do because my subconscious suddenly wanted a 5:10 finish.

There was so much to look at. So many people. I heard someone say, “Where are all the spectators?” I guess due to the cold weather turnout was low. But for me it was the largest spectator turnout I had ever seen at a race.

There were some pretty fun cheering sections. Churches and high schools came out, most of them wore matching T-shirts. There was even a section of the course where charity tents lines the street with their own cheering teams promoting their charities. Not big businesses, just charities. It was fun to look at all the tents and banners as you cruised by.

I tried to stay as fueled as possible. Trying to take a GU gel or Honey Stingers about every 4 miles. I ate my 2 GU packets first, the first one at mile 5, a little late, and the next just before 10. Then I switched to Honey Stingers, eating 4 at a time. I carried my water belt, just 2 bottles, to stay hydrated and avoid the early water stops that were really crowded.

I noticed around mile 10 my back was bothering me. My back usually hurts when my form breaks down and I knew my form was crappy from the start due to cold feet. Literal cold feet. I knew the second half would be hard if I were all ready getting a stiff back.

Miles 10 – 15 we’re pretty uneventful running wise. I started to chug some around mile 18 and the 5:10 Pace group caught up with me. I stayed with them for as long as I could feeling like if I just stayed with the group, I would be just fine. After a mile I had a moment of clarity and realized, “I started before the 5:10 pace group, if I finish with them I will be behind.” 

So I picked it up. This was not well received by my body. My feet were sore, my hips screamed, and my back had had enough. By mile 22 I was in a dark place.

I ping-ponged between moments of energy and sudden self-loathing. Then, I walked. There was a lot of walking. The final miles of the race are all on the same road. A straight shot to the finish. It seemed never ending. Like dead man walking. Or worse, the walk of shame. People continued to cheer, “You can do it!” “Don’t stop!”

I realized that the crowd was getting thick again and the photographers were out. I knew I had been caught by a couple members of the paparazzi walking and it was a shame I could not bare. So I mustered every last ounce of energy from deep down in my toes and began to run again.

As I turned the corner in the final 800 meters to the finish, I was faced with the only legitimate hill in the entire race. I immediately wanted to beat someone’s ass. Who puts a hill like this at the END of a marathon? Put this shit at mile 6, not mile 26.

But I pushed, I dug deep, and I got up that hill. I charged to the finish line… and when I say charged, I mean a slow and painful 13 minute mile. But in my mind, it was the fastest most amazing final meters ever.

I finished the Chicago Marathon in 5:14:15. Beating my goal time by 45 seconds and another 15 minute marathon PR. Not 5:10, but my original goal nonetheless.

I crossed the finish line and bee lined for the water. Then pushed my way to food and sports drinks. I accepted my medal graciously before throwing myself into the mix for some post race refreshments. Oh yeah, I was THAT runner. But I was afraid I might pass out. Or vomit. Both would be bad in a crowded area.

Goose Island  was there handing out 312 and I grabbed one. It was free to runners so long as they were in the finishers corral. Once you left that area all you had was your one beer ticket. So people just hung out in the finish area drinking beer. I grabbed one beer and went to find Alexis and sit down. I just needed to sit down.

This was a great race. It was flat and exciting. It was well run and in a cool city. I would definitely do it again. Alexis and I went to the post race party for a while and chatted. We enjoyed our free beer and took some pictures. Then my legs started to cramp up so we got walking again and headed to the hotel for hot showers.

It was the most amazing shower I had ever taken.

If you have any desire to run a big race this would be it. I will never qualify for NYC or Boston, so Chicago was my big chance. I would say I nailed it. 

Had an amazing PRs lately? Ever PR’d but still missed a goal? That’s the worst, been there! 

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12 Responses to Chicago Marathon Race Recap – Part 2

  1. What are yo talking about? I love recaps. 😀 And yes, I am envious of your pace tattoo! You are definitely awesome!

  2. Jameil says:

    Yay! Great recap! LOL @ your reaction to the hill. Extra evil. Math while running may as well be rocket science. It can take me an entire mile to calculate the most basic number. I read a lot of running blogs and I’ve come across a lot of people who talk about being grateful for every mile so I try to remind myself of that when I PR but don’t necessarily hit my A goal. Even if I know better pacing could’ve gotten me that goal, it’s not like I can go back and fix it. This is necessary for me as I am prone to obsessing over running. I just have to move forward to the next one. Congratulations again!

    • Julie @ Am I There Yet says:

      And move forward you will! I obsess sometimes too and have been called a PR junkie in the pass. There is nothing wrong with want to do a little bit better every single time! Thanks for reading!

  3. Cynthia says:

    Booyah for meeting your goal! I’ve done Berlin, Liverpool and Barcelona (in that order)…I’ve been insanely lucky that I’ve PRed in every marathon…so I’m trying to set myself up for the fact that it’s not going to happen in NYC in three(!) weeks as my preparation has been abysmal (thanks to a rolled ankle this summer) and my fitness levels are low. But I’m reminding myself to just do it according to feel, and see how it goes. That’s what I did in Barcelona, and ended up breaking the 5 hour mark with a 32 minute PR! I had one of those “disappointed” PRs in Liverpool–I PRed by 18 minutes and came in under 5:30 (5:29, yay!), but I was still disappointed. I had been training so well, that while my goal had been to break 5:30, I also had started to dream about something closer to 5:10. But then the 16 mile mark happened and I thought the race would never end :b

    (I’m only in NYC because I’m coming as an overseas entrant…I wouldn’t make the time qualification either!)

    • Julie @ Am I There Yet says:

      That’s awesome you’ll get to do NYC! I should just enter my name into the lottery and see, but honestly, I couldn’t win a raffle if I were the only name entered. You are right in my pace range like you said, love it!! We turtles have to stick together!

  4. What an amazing job!!!! Congrats!

  5. Sean M says:

    Wow, what an experience. I haven’t done a full yet but I’m training for the Okc Memorial next April. And I think you just might have inspired me to take a trip to Chicago next October!

    Congrats on the PR. It feels great, doesn’t it? I ran a half last Sunday and PR’d at 2:13:43. I was so excited at the end.

    Keep up the good work. Love following the blog.

    • Julie @ Am I There Yet says:

      Thanks Sean! And congrats on your PR! I 2:13 is so awesome. I would love to get to that time soon. Def think about Chicago, if you want that big city race experience, just once, Chicago is the way to go!

  6. George says:

    Nice job Julie! I love your race reports!

  7. KTOinCLE says:

    Congrats on the PR! I don’t know HOW you do it, but I’m glad you do, and that you write about it. I don’t like when you keep mention of ruling out NYC or Boston- girl, you never know.

  8. poiseinparma says:

    Math while running IS hard!!
    You rocked this race – congrats! I’m with you: I never expect to be fast enough to run Boston or NYC, but Chicago is so tempting… if I was down for the five plus hours of running. You are a stronger woman than I!!

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