So. Last Sunday I ran a marathon. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise as I feel it’s all I’ve been able to talk about for the past few months. When I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon with a charity team, I knew I had to do something different than I did when I ran the Space Coast Marathon in 2016. Basically I knew I had to train. If you’ve followed my journey you know I started training earnestly this summer. I live in South Florida, so it basically sucked. I learned so much about myself, what I could do, what I needed to do to take care of myself, how hard marathon training is.
BUT – it definitely paid off.
Last Thursday I took a half day off work and my mom, sister, and I got ready to fly to Chicago. It was typical hot weather here on the Gulf Coast, with a few showers. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:00 and we ended up being delayed until 6:50. It was about 8:30 Chicago time when we landed and we ended up taking a shady cab to the city. I’m not going to go a lot into the city and trip because I feel like there’s so much of the race to talk about, but we had a great time. It’s been sweltering down here recently and the change of weather was nice. Even if it was rainy and cloudy, it was better than suffocating in the heat. A true testament to my taper diet was the fact that I had to try on all my jeans before I packed to make sure they fit. Don’t worry, I also packed leggings…just in case.
We did the sightseeing thing Friday and Saturday, making sure to see the good stuff. We walked the streets, rode an architectural tour boat, and ate some good food. On Friday I met Michelle at the expo so we could pick up our packets. We also picked up some t-shirts, headbands, nuun – the essentials, ha! A lot of you also know that I signed up with the American Heart Association and I finally got to meet the team leaders at the expo. It was nice to talk to them about my story and to finally put a face to their names. I reached my fundraiser goal a week before the race, so that was a huge weight off my shoulders!
Saturday night Michelle and I planned to meet at the hotel restaurant for some last minute carbs, only to find it was closed for a private event. We took the opportunity to go to a pizza place around the corner to grab a slice (okay a whole pizza) and drinks. Beer and pizza seems to be our pre-race ritual, so this was spot on. (We did not get deep dish as it would have taken an hour to cook and I was starving.)
After dinner I went back to my room to prep and make sure everything was ready to go. And to set up my Flat Ash pic, of course. I went to be early, knowing I wouldn’t sleep well. Every time I woke up it felt like I’d been asleep for hours, until my alarm finally went off at 5AM. We’d planned to meet at 6 for breakfast and a walk to Grant Park. Our hotel was full of runners doing the same thing so we hung out a little bit in the warm breakfast area before getting ready to brave the cold.
I know I said the cold was a relief, but not really when you’re running in a skirt and tank top. Michelle’s brother walked with us to the start line and we parted ways as we got ready to enter our corral. The crowd was already huge and it was only 7AM. Our start time was 8:35! We filed into gear check with everyone, sloshed through the mud, stood in line for the porta-potty, and finally shuffled into our corral. The energy just waiting to start was intense. Everyone was in sweaters and ponchos, taking pictures, and having a good time – in the rain, by the way. I met two Skirt Sport Sisters and chatted for a few minutes before we got shuffled up to the start line.
Our wave finally let out at almost 9AM. It had stopped raining by this time so I’d shed my poncho but kept my sweater for a while. We started out slow and steady, keeping a good pace with everyone around us. I chucked my sweater around Mile 1 because I was starting to warm up. About that time I – literally – ran into my Internet Friend Maura. We’ve known each other on Twitter for years and had been keeping up with each other’s training these past few months. I joked that we would “run” into each other and we did! (She also crushed Chicago, by the way.)
I’m not sure when it started raining again, but I seriously regretted throwing my sweater and poncho when it did. It got cold quick and didn’t let up for a while. Besides the rain, the course at the beginning was great! When you read that there are 1.2 million spectators you can’t really visualize that. But when you finally see all the people on the sidelines it gets a little overwhelming! The first few miles seemed to go pretty fast, even if my running wasn’t that fast. We made sure to stop for water and Gatorade and kept up with our fuel. Seeing so many different parts of the city was so much fun and the people at each turn were different in so many ways.
At Mile 8 I met another Internet Friend with her amazing sign. We hugged for like two seconds then I ran away.
By this time it had stopped raining, but I was definitely starting to slow down a little. We’d been running full (kind of ) speed and my body just wasn’t used to it. At Mile 13 my mom and sister were on the sidelines with hugs and a super fun sign for me. (Captain America is my favorite superhero so my mom had a nice Chicago resident make a sign for me.)
A little after 15 I started to slow down a lot. I told Michelle to go on without me. I was sad we were getting separated but I just couldn’t keep up with her pace. My hips were killing me and there wasn’t enough BioFreeze in the land to make it stop.
Going on by myself was tough, but I managed. I set my phone to do intervals so I could take some walk breaks. I knew I had to keep a 15:00 pace so every checkpoint I peeked at my app to make sure I was scheduled to finish on time. We had chosen not to track through any running app (I usually use Nike Running) because we were told the GPS would mess up and we didn’t want to kill our phones, knowing we’d need to find everyone at the end. I let my sister and Mer know that I was on my own (and Twitter). Everyone’s encouragement was amazing and I knew that I had to get through it, if not for me it was to not disappoint others. I hate doing that. As we continued to move through the neighborhoods some of the crowds got smaller, but they were still enthusiastic. By this point pedestrians were trying to cross the street in the middle of runners, which I didn’t really care for. I know that life must go on, but some of them were a little reckless. My legs weren’t working that well and I didn’t want an injury when I was so close!
I remember texting Mer when I was close to the end and visiting one last BioFreeze station. It was basically something like “I just BioFreezed my butt” to lather up my hip. I’m usually pretty modest, but I was dying. At some point it started to sprinkle again and I’d kind of lot track of where I was, mileage wise. There were bananas on the course and I ate a couple in the last few stretches. My friend Lily was tracking me and tweeting my progress, and Mer was texting me encouragement. Without them I probably would’ve ended up walking and not caring about my time. People around me were struggling, but there were still so many people behind us. I always makes me feel better knowing that I’m not the only one suffering!
When I hit the Mile 26 mark I almost cried. Mostly because there was a big hill at the end and I wanted to die. But also because it was over. As I rounded the hill to come into the finish a girl next to me was crying. I told her “You got this!” and she said “I know, I’m just so happy!”
That’s a marathon, y’all. It hurts and it sucks. It takes six months of your life and then suddenly none of it matters because you’re there and you’re trying not to cry or throwup or quit. It’s hard. I admire people who do more than one every couple of years. Whether you’re Sir Mo running your sub 5 or you’re me and my crew struggling to keep your 15 minute mile. You’re awesome.
So, back to the race. Coming across the finish line I felt a lot of emotions. I felt strong, tired, hungry, and delirious. Michelle was waiting for me right after medals, so we took pics and got our free beer. We sloshed our way through the mud to get our gear and WALKED DOWN THE STAIRS to get out of Grant Park. My mom and sister were waiting with the crowd outside and we grabbed and Uber with Michelle and her brother. It was fun piling into someone else’s car all gross and smelly for once.
Everything after that is kind of a blur. I took a nice Epsom salt bath while my mom went across the street to grab me food. It was still early in the day, but I stayed in my pajamas and ate a cheeseburger and fries in bed. I answered all my texts and tweets, assuring people that I was still alive in some way. After it all I managed to pack my suitcase to prepare for leaving the next day. I even walked to the Nike store the next day on my own, albeit slowly. My flight was excruciating to say the least. I got stuck with a middle seat and we were pretty much confined to our seats due to turbulence the whole flight. There were some inhuman noises from me once I was able to stand up.
Once we got home Monday afternoon I didn’t move from the couch. I elevated and binged Brooklyn 99 while my sister brought me things so I would stop moaning and groaning every time I got up.
Everyone at work this week has been amazing. They are all so congratulatory and don’t care how long it took you or if you walked any of the race. Sometimes the kids ask “Did you win?” and you just have to laugh. This past Wednesday my class talked about setting goals and it was really perfect timing! They’d known all year that this was my goal and it was something I got to share with them. As far as my race goals are concerned, I was really hoping for a sub 6. I ended up with a final time of 6:26 and some change. While I didn’t reach my goal, it was still a 33 minute PR! I’m pretty proud of that.
If anyone is thinking about running a marathon, I’d definitely look into Chicago. The course was amazing, the people were great, and the city is beautiful. Even if the runners totally destroyed it.
Thanks to all of you for following this journey and all of your kind words!
Don’t ask me if I’m ready for another one.