Read part 1 of my Chicago Marathon recap here.
As the gun went off, my heart rate soared with excitement. I was doing this. I was running this damn marathon even if I had to walk the last 6 miles. I knew I followed my plan religiously and had to trust “the training.” I wasn’t nervous or anxious. I was ready.
I was in a corral that was projected to finish around 4 hours. I knew this was wishful thinking weeks ago, so I tried not to get caught up in their pace but go at my own. I was told I would have to walk the first few miles but since I was in the first corral of wave 2, I really didn’t. I was running around a 9:07 minute mile pace from the beginning according to my watch but the pace didn’t feel that fast. I chose to listen to my body rather than care what my wrist said.
Since I had to pee on the starting line, I dashed into to the first porta-potty I saw around mile 2. I hate running when I feel like I have to pee so I knew this had to happen early. Up to that point, I felt great. Fantastic even. The crowds were excited to see us and I was excited looking for my own cheering squad.
About 200 yards down from the porta potties, I saw roomie along the sidewalk cheering me on taking a video. Despite knowing at least 5 other runners, I had yet to see a familiar face so I immediately perked up. I found it easy to stay on pace around a 9:30 minute/mile but my watch was a little off. It said I had run farther than I actually had so my average speed was wrong. I was still able to monitor my current pace but didn’t obsess over it.
I grabbed water at almost every station. I never drink Gatorade so I figured now was not the time to experiment. I planned to walk at most of them but didn’t feel like it in the beginning, I felt too good! At mile 6, I noticed a familiar head of hair walking in front of me. It was fellow Warrior in Pink Model of Courage Tracie! Tracie finished her last round of chemo one year ago and is only 31! She looked nervous and in need of a little pep talk so I walked for a couple minutes by her side. We laughed about how this sounded like a great idea back in May and I apologized for getting her into this mess. I then said goodbye and continued on my race.
As I ate my first Clif Mocha Gel, I realized I could count down by how many snacks I had on me. I opted to space them out at 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24 miles. Around mile 13, I started walking when I got to a water station for about 10 seconds before picking up my pace. I saw roomie again around mile 10 and then again at 16.5 miles. Both times, I was so excited to see him! I felt great and tried to show him with a huge smile and wave!
I might look unhappy above… but don’t worry! I enjoyed Chinatown, too! At the start, I was getting passed but by the end, I was the one passing people. As runners slowed down to walk, I stuck with my plan to only walk at the water stations for a few seconds.
The signs along the route were motivational, funny and just plain awkward. The first one read, “She may not have her cherry anymore, but she still has the box it came in.” I probably thought about that sign for 16 miles. Others that I kept seeing (that I didn’t think were funny) said, “Run faster! I just farted.” I liked one that read, “If running a marathon was easy it would be called your mother.” Stupid jokes, I know (sorry mom and dad, I know you read my blog) but when you are running for 4+ hours, a little humor goes a long way.
My favorite stretch was running through Boystown. There were drag queens performing along the route, lively and loud people cheering, and other performers on stage entertaining the runners. I did not like the people with hoses that sprayed everyone. Not every runner wants to run with soggy sneakers for 10 miles…
I felt really good the entire time I was running. I stopped to pee one last time around mile 21. After that, I knew I was finishing with a time I could be proud of. I started to get choked up and emotional thinking about it and then I started to hyperventilate… WHAT WAS I DOING!?
“Stop this. Stop it. Think of anything sad. This is stupid. This is boring. Stop crying. Really. Can we stop?” I had to say over and over in my head. I finally got a handle of my lady emotions and spotted a pace guide for a 4:10 minute marathon. I tried to keep up for the last 4 miles with them, but didn’t care enough to leave my comfort zone for fear of hitting that “wall”. When I realized I had just one mile left, I did pick up my pace. I saw that home stretch and I booked it.
I crossed the finish line without a blister nor a chaffed area with a time of 4:17:52. I had zero cramps and I felt great. I could not have asked for a better course or weather for my first marathon. I am lucky that I had such a positive experience for my first full marathon. Had I run faster, I may have felt a little more miserable…
My first post race selfie seen above to my pretty skyline shot below, I could not stop grinning ear to ear.
Afterwards, I grabbed a water and banana with my space blanket and medal. I was not starving. During my training runs, I looked forward to every gel but during the race I never was hungry. I still stuck with my nutrition/hydration plan but even after the race I felt fine. I had my free massage at the after party and iced the only part of my body that wanted some attention, my hips.
I decided to go back to my hotel and shower up to watch the Patriots and eat some good food – not just crap bars handed out for free. I’m not a food snob but Chicago has some great restaurants. I wanted my post meal to be delicious.
We stopped into Theory, a Patriots bar, and ordered a little more than we probably needed to. Roomie ordered the salad, I swear! I read somewhere that Shalane Flanagan eats a burger and fries after her marathon races, so I ordered sliders, nacho bites and he ordered mexican salads. I decided to split it with him which was stupid because I barely ate any of it!
I was obviously sore after the race but forced myself to walk around a bit. It hurt more to sit in a booth than walk around so we went shopping for a little bit on Michigan Ave after the game. Finally, we headed back home to watch more football in our hotel and ended up ordering Lou Malnatti’s pizza around 8pm to the hotel, canceling our dinner reservations because we ate too much at Theory and were exhausted.
I went to sleep feeling proud, accomplished and elated that I accomplished my goal of becoming a marathon runner. I guess I need to try my training more often when it comes to race day nerves!
My only tip for first timers would be to hire a run coach. Running a marathon is expensive and while this just adds an expense, I think being prepared makes the experience worth it. I worked with Jess at Race Pace Wellness who helped me finish strong.
I would also like to thank every single person who donated to my fundraising goal which I met just last Tuesday! Without your support training would not have been as positive an experience as it was for me. Knowing each mile was helping raise breast health awareness and fund further research kept me going, especially during my first two 20-milers. Those were terrible.
Did you have a positive experience running your first marathon? I didn’t think it was as bad as I thought it was going to be but I think that is because I trained well. I kept reminding myself, the hard part is over, this is my victory lap.
PS – I’m planning to buy some of my photos from MarathonFoto but was advised to wait for a coupon code… I didn’t want to wait to put this up, so apologies for the awkward proof in the middle!