Chicago Marathon: The Sequel

No this isn’t a duplicate post. Not an error. I loved Chicago so much, I just had to do it again! 🙂

I’ve always loved trying out new races, and when it comes to marathons I had never imagined I’d be revisiting the same race, but Chicago, oh Chicago. It has a special place in my heart. After running the marathon in 2015, I could do nothing by rave about how fantastic the race is! The energy, the sights, ok, let’s be honest the lack of hills, it just makes the marathon all the sweeter. After a few friends ran their first marathon in 2016, their hearts were set on Chicago. I was so excited for them! My sister was going to be running too, and it would be her third marathon after completing Philadelphia twice before this.

It only made it all the more tempting when I realized NYC had set me up to be a time qualifier for Chicago in 2017. It was fate!

I think you learn something new about yourself every time you take on the challenge of the marathon. I am certainly somebody who always likes to keep busy, but this time around, I found myself up at all hours of the morning (even sometimes at 3:30 am) in order to get all my workouts completed. As much as I love fall marathons, this also means the bulk of the training takes place in the business of summer. Trying to work my way around work travel and vacations, I found myself adjusting the schedule with long runs on Wednesday some weeks and Saturdays on others!

The race itself is a huge challenge, but I often find it a time of reflection of all the challenging workouts that came before it. There was one week I traveled to Seattle for work and had a friend visiting me there that weekend. Fun, right?!?! Of course, but this also meant getting a 15 mile in before work. So there I was, up at 4am, groggy, cranky, and not prepared to spend a long run on the “dreadmill”. As much as I wanted to run outside, the sun wasn’t even up yet and there were some sketchy areas that I wasn’t about to run on my own before the sun was up. So there I was. It was 5am and it was me, the small hotel gym in the basement, an old school treadmill, and the temperature in the room was already too hot before I started. But that’s marathon training for you. You do what you need to do in order to get to that starting line.

While this was not the longest run of the training (22 miles was max!), it was by far the hardest. I cranked through 10 miles on the treadmill and time could not have possibly gone slower. After those miles, I excitedly hopped off and ran straight through the hotel lobby outside to finish out the final 5 miles. The sun was up and the cool crisp fall air gave me a sense of euphoria. I was so excited to get off the treadmill, and just like that the marathon was in sight.

I remembered this training run among many others as I waited anxiously at the start line. I was proud. I was determined. I was ready. I pushed through each mile and as the pain set in, I looked ahead to the 3:40 pacers. Okay, I’ll hang with them. I got this!

It started off fine and I felt a sense of pride as we passed the crowds and the announcer would give a shout out to the 3:40 group! I felt like I was a part of a team. It was excellent. I was inspired as I looked ahead to the main pacer. He looked like he ran 100s of marathons prior to this one and he smiled as he chatted with others in the group. If I could hold on to this group it may not seem so bad. However, there came a moment where I felt my legs, I heard my breath beginning to quicken and I 100% hit the dreaded wall. I usually don’t get the racing tears until the last mile, when tears of joy overwhelm me at the end, but those tears came way too early this time. It was about at mile 17 or 18 that doubt crept into my mind. What business did I have with the 3:40ers? What was I thinking? I saw them slip away. I would find a second wind and try to catch up, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me that day. I saw the chance at a PR slipping away. I started doing what I like to call “marathon brain math” that I always seem to do towards the end of the race. (The first marathon I ran I was at mile 16 and said to myself, “okay 6 miles to go.” Somehow at mile 16 during a marathon 16 + 6 = 26.2…Oops!) I couldn’t think straight needless to say and felt the tears welling up and the anxiety coming over me.

My worst enemy. My toughest competitor. The voice in my head. There I was after over 4 months of training, on the Chicago Marathon course feeling sorry for myself. It was all about me.

Then I looked up and pulled my headphones out and looked around me as I ran. This wasn’t about me. As runners we do get caught up in our own struggles, but it’s a shame that we don’t always take the time to look around and say, look, we’re all in this struggle together. Just keep pushing and enjoy the hard weeks of training paying off. I thought about my sister who was out on the course who had caught a cold and was probably blowing her nose and anxiously chugging water along the way. I thought of my two friends also fighting for PRs that day. If you find yourself having a similar “woah is me” moment along the course, just remember a marathon is one giant celebration for all the runners that put in the hard work during training to celebrate that day.

The finish line was incredible. The tears were back, but it was back to tears of joy. Sure, I didn’t stick with the 3:40 group, but 3:41:27 was my new PR! I sipped on a celebratory Goose Island IPA and couldn’t believe what had just happened out there. That night, we all celebrated at a local piano bar, and all of the marathon finishers were welcomed to the stage. We linked arms swaying as we sang “We Are the Champions”. We. All of us who conquered the course that day. Chicago, thanks for another fantastic memory that I will hold with me for the rest of my life. Until next time.


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