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Chicago Marathon race report – part 2 November 5, 2010

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
Tags: , , ,

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, I woke up at 4 AM and got ready to run the Chicago Marathon.  Well, “woke up” isn’t really accurate, as it implies that I slept (which I really didn’t).  I was reeeeeeally nervous, not only about the race itself, but also about all of the little pre-race rituals and tasks that needed to be completed.  First on the list was getting my nutrition started.

Prior to all of my long runs in Atlanta, I ate a couple of Jimmy Dean light breakfast sandwiches.  Since I am VERY familiar with the “nothing new on race day” mantra, I had my cousin pick up a box and deliver them to me at dinner on Thursday night.  There was no fridge/freezer in our hotel room, so I put the wrapped sandwiches in a trash can and covered them with ice (and changed said ice at least twice a day).  There was also no microwave available, so at 4 AM I called a very confused room service attendant to heat up my food.  Ha!  They must have had the request before, since they had a waiver all ready for me to sign (stating that I wouldn’t sue the hotel if I got sick from my own food).  I wanted to eat both sandwiches, especially since it was so long before the race start, but my nervous tummy said “Enough!” after one.  I suited up, grabbed some additional snacks and water, and headed over to the TNT hotel to meet my teammates.

I was early, so I munched on some pretzels (yay, salt) and a banana, and I chugged as much water as my nerves would allow.  We took some photos, and then we marched down to Charity Village to drop off our gear bags.  Finally, it was time to head toward the start line – again, the pit of my stomach started turning and churning, and I felt VERY anxious.  Thankfully, our team stuck together and we couldn’t really even see the start from where we were standing in the corral, so I was distracted temporarily.  As we inched forward, though, I couldn’t believe what I was about to do.  About 30 minutes after the official race start, I crossed the start line and was on my way.  I actually started tearing up – I was so emotional about the feat that I was attempting, and I hoped that all of the hard work and training would pay off.

Due to the excitement and adrenaline, I decided to run (instead of my usual run-walk) until I saw my family at mile 3.  My Garmin was all kinds of mucked up – I must have pushed the wrong button in my compromised mental state – so I tried to pace by the digital clocks that were posted at every mile marker.  I felt really good – it was still relatively cool and dry, and the crowds were absolutely amazing.  I was so excited to see my family at mile 3, and as I looked at my 5K time (35:51, 11:32 minutes/mile), I was reassured that I was right on pace.  I decided to get into my run-walk mode (7 minutes of run, then 2 minutes of walk) so that I could try to keep my legs as fresh as possible and not burn out too fast.

As we ran into Lincoln Park, I noticed that it was getting really warm really fast.  I wasn’t too terribly concerned about myself – after all, I had been training in far worse all summer long – but I did notice people starting to show signs of trouble, even as early as the 10K marker (1:18:10, 13:37 minutes/mile).  I tried to focus on myself and my intervals, and to take in all of the sights and sounds of the race.  I passed a nursing home whose residents were either out on the sidewalk cheering (if they were able) or pressed up against the windows, holding signs and waving – that really touched me, and I had to work hard to keep from crying.

I wasn’t expecting to see my family again until mile 9-ish, so imagine my surprise when my cousin starts running beside me around mile 7!  That must have been somewhere near Wrigley, since I believe that’s where my peeps were sightseeing in between miles.  I was still feeling good at that point, so it was easy to flash my cheering section a big smile and give my cuz a high-five as he rejoined the crowds.  Right around that point, we ran through “gaytown,” as I affectionately dubbed the neighborhood, with drag queens cheering and dancing as far as the eye could see.  At the 15K marker (1:55:19, 11:58 minutes/mile), I was still feeling really strong and seemed to be on pace for a 5:30 marathon.

As much as I would love to remember all of the little neighborhoods we ran through, I just can’t – it was total sensory overload.  I do remember thinking many times that Chicago was really unique and lovely, and that without the blisteringly cold, blustery winters, I’d probably enjoy living there.  There were so many folks out supporting us – I especially appreciated the people who rolled out their garden hoses and sprayed eager runners with cold water (originally, I declined to be sprayed, since I was worried about wet shoes/socks and blisters, but as the temperatures rose, I just couldn’t help myself).  As we passed the 20K marker (2:34:40, 12:40 minutes/mile) and came back into the crowded city, I couldn’t believe how good I was still feeling.  I hit the halfway point at 2:43:01, a 13.1 PR for me (only by a matter of seconds, but hey, it still counts)!!!  As I rounded a turn, I saw my family and shouted happily, “Halfway there, bitches!!!”  I don’t think they understood my words, but they definitely understood my attitude.  🙂

Right after I saw my family, I saw one of my coaches, who ran with me for a minute or two and advised me to take some salt (since the upcoming miles were a lot less shaded).  As he sent me on my way, it really sunk in that I was halfway finished.  I knew that my hardest miles were yet to come, though.  Based on what happened during my long training runs, I anticipated “hitting the wall” around mile 16, so as I saw the 25K marker (3:13:33, 12:36 minutes/mile), I jogged up to a couple of TNT dudes from the Illinois chapter and started chatting them up.  I didn’t stay with them for long, since my run-walk intervals didn’t quite mesh with their paces, but it was a nice distraction and it helped me get through my usual “10 miles to go” temper tantrum.  Going through Greektown also helped – what a neat little neighborhood!

I enjoyed running through Little Italy, and I was still hangin’ fairly tough at the 30K marker (3:54:56, 13:19 minutes/mile).  Unfortunately, right around mile 19 or 20, even though we were passing through the very festive “Mexico-town,” I started to feel kind of bleh.  The legs were hurting, the back was hurting, the brain was hurting – you get the drift.  I started talking to another TNTer, this time from North Carolina, but we were both feeling pretty rough.  Then, out of nowhere, we came to the top of a slight hill and BAM!  There was my family, waiting for me at mile 21!  I was so happy to see them, I even ran the few extra yards to give them hugs and kisses.  As I passed through Chinatown and approached the 35K marker (4:39:23, 14:19 minutes/mile), I saw another coach, and I couldn’t have been happier.  He filled me in on how all of my teammates were doing, and he reassured me that I was SO CLOSE to being a marathoner.  He gave me a salt packet, hugged me, and left me to finish my race.

Getting to 40K (5:26:29, 15:10 minutes/mile) was really tough.  I chatted with a couple of folks, hoping that it would make the miles go faster, but nothing seemed to light that final fire under my rear end.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of my coaches along the sidewalk.  I called out his name, and he ran over to me and confessed that he was trying to duck behind a building and relieve himself.  Between the giggle I got from that and the lift I got from hearing him say, “You’re doing so well, you’re almost there, and I’m so proud of you,” I decided that it was time to end this journey and be a marathoner.

As I approached the finish, I remembered that someone had mentioned an incline.  Well, when the last stretch came into view, I had to chuckle – THAT was supposed to be a HILL???  Silly Midwesterners!  As I watched other runners slow down and walk, I cranked up my engine for one last push and ran as hard and as fast as I could.  I crossed the finish line with a final time of 5:44:14, and I immediately started crying.  I cried as they placed the medal over my head, I cried as I grabbed a bottle of water, and I cried as I headed back toward the charity village.  I simply couldn’t believe what I had just accomplished, and I was overcome with emotion.  Every early morning, every ache, every pain, and every doubt flashed before me, and I realized…it was all worth it.  I was a marathoner!

I found my family and my teammates, and we celebrated for a bit before I decided that it was time to return to the hotel for an ice bath.  That may have been the most painful ice bath of my life, but I still smiled the whole time because I WAS A MARATHONER!  I was in a fair amount of pain as we got on the commuter train to meet my family for dinner in the ‘burbs, but I still smiled the whole time because I WAS A MARATHONER!  I slept great that night, and I enjoyed some great meals and a killer massage the next day, but nothing really mattered more than the fact that I WAS A MARATHONER!  You’re probably noticing a theme here.

Since the race, a lot of people have asked me if I’m planning on doing another marathon.  It’s a hard question to answer.  On the one hand, I’m not a running addict like some of my teammates, and the thought of recommitting to an event of that magnitude remains overwhelming.  On the other hand, if I did it once, I can do it again – AND, the competitor in me would like to do it again, but BETTER.

So, stay tuned for my 2010-2011 race calendar, which will definitely include races and events of all sorts and all distances.  Thank you to everyone who supported me – financially, emotionally, whatever – as I made my way to Chicago for 10/10/10.  Oh…and GO TEAM!!!



1. jimmy - November 8, 2010

Congratulations! A marathon is hard work, and it seems you had the full experience of a marathon’s physical and emotional distress. But that’s why it’s such an achievement.

Great work!


bettyjoan - November 13, 2010

Thanks, Jimmy! Maybe one day I’ll add Ironman to the list, just like you. 🙂

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