The Chicago Marathon is truly one of a kind. To sum it up in a few words- I LOVED this race! The crowds, the course, the atmosphere- it is the full package! I would definitely recommend it as a must run marathon.
Marathon race reports are always the hardest to write because one small recap doesn’t seem to do it justice. Months of training lead up to one race (unlike the majority of race reports I write) so it’s hard to summarize it in a few short paragraphs. I’ll do my best!
John and I left for Chicago late Friday morning. I had briefly looked into plane tickets but we decided we might as well drive it. It’s a 9 hour drive and it really wasn’t bad at all. I should confess that John did all of the driving (to and from). He is pretty awesome! The kids stayed with my in-laws.
We spent the night about an hour outside of Chicago. Saturday morning we went by my aunts house who lives outside the city. After that we headed to the expo. I love big race expos and could spend hours there!
I really tried to be mindful of not walking around too much the day before the race. I did not want to accidentally walk/ run 13 miles like I did the day before the RnR NOLA Half this past January! We ate a nice lunch right next to the expo and then drove and parked at our hotel. That night we took a taxi to dinner and a few shops. Of course we had to go by Athleta and Nike Town! Saturday night I was in bed by 9. I was really worried that I would wake up and not be able to go back to sleep but I actually got over 7 hours of sleep that night. Sunday morning I woke up rested and ready to race!
Sunday morning my oldest daughter sent me these two pictures she’d made using Bible verses. What would I do without my Abi?
One of the best things about Chicago is that for being a big marathon (45,000 runners) getting to the starting line is much easier and simple than the other big marathons. We had booked a hotel within a mile of the start so John and I walked out of our room around 6:30 am and just followed the crowd towards the start. (Race had a start time of 7:30.) Eventually we reached a checkpoint in which they were only letting in runners with racing bibs through so I had to say goodbye to John. I was not quite ready for this and wished he could keep going with me but I knew it was time. I gave him my jacket and a quick kiss goodbye and that was it.
From that first checkpoint there were a few others and all runners were herded into different lines based on their corral. I was in the American Development corral which starts behind the elites and in front of Corral A. We had our own tent and plenty of port-a-potties so fortunately finding a bathroom wasn’t a problem. At one of the checkpoints I met a very nice runner who was running her first Chicago. She was also in the American Development program and she had recently won the Air Force Marathon. We waited for what seemed like forever (I’m sure it was probably like 5 minutes) and then we were able to move right up to the front behind the elites. There were so many runners. I looked around to see if I could see one of my former college teammates, Scott Wietecha, who was running in the elite field but he was several rows ahead of me and must have been right on the starting line. Then they announced some of the elites (including Deena Kastor) which was very cool!
My overall pace plan was to aim for 6:35-6:40. My coach had advised me to settle in and find my rhythm and go with it. During the first mile of Chicago runners go under a big tunnel and my watch satellites were way off. I tried to keep it easy but I had no idea what I was running until my watched beeped and I saw mile 1- 6:21. Yikes! A bit fast! I don’t even start that fast in a half marathon! I quickly settled into a 6:30 rhythm. It was a little faster than my original goal pace but it felt so easy and effortless. So many times in marathons I feel like the pace requires a little effort but this was honestly the easiest first 20 miles of a marathon I’ve ever run. I was on autopilot and the miles were rolling by. I knew I was on track for a huge PR so long as I could hold on.
I saw John at mile 10 and gave him a quick wave. When I passed the 20k mark I smiled because I knew I just set my 20k PR by over a minute. I crossed the half marathon in 1:26:47 and I knew I was running a faster pace than the half marathon I ran two weeks ago. I saw John again right after the half and I was still feeling strong. Mile 14 was actually my fastest in the race with a 6:14. (Another yikes moment but again, it felt so easy… What is wrong with me?!) When I crossed the 25k I thought about the Full Moon 25k I did in July and how hard that was. Up until mile 16 my watch average was still 6:30 and I thought surely I could make it 10 more miles. I saw John at mile 17 and I knew that would be the last time I’d see him until after the race. Around mile 18 it was starting to require more effort and attention to stay on pace. I stayed on target all the way through mile 21 and then I saw my first 7. My watch beeped and I saw a 7:21! I knew staying under a 7 minute pace was going to be very tough if not nearly impossible. From that point on the miles could not pass quickly enough. Runners started passing me and it was extremely frustrating knowing I had run so strong and was on pace for a truly huge breakthrough time but I couldn’t hold it together. Mile 24-26 were actually a little better than miles 21-23 but not much. I watched my watch slowly move from a 6:32 average at mile 20 move to a 6:43 average when I finished. Also, apparently I had run the tangents horribly so I knew my watch distance and actual race distance would be off. When my watch beeped at mile 26 I still had over a half mile to go! I knew it was going to be cutting it close but I really wanted at least a sub 2:58. I started counting down minutes and I just couldn’t wait to STOP RUNNING. I crossed the line in 2:58:25. A PR by over 30 seconds. Not quite the race finish I was hoping for but it is progress and I’m moving in the right direction!
Mile 1- 6:21
Mile 2- 6:27
Mile 3- 6:40
Mile 4- 6:30
Mile 5- 6:27
Mile 6- 6:30
Mile 7- 6:30
Mile 8- 6:41
Mile 9- 6:32
Mile 10- 6:28
Mile 11- 6:33
Mile 12- 6:27
Mile 13- 6:30
HALF MARATHON- 1:26:47
Mile 14- 6:17
Mile 15- 6:38
Mile 16- 6:38
Mile 17- 6:37
Mile 18- 6:51
Mile 19- 6:57
Mile 20- 6:53
Mile 21- 7:21
Mile 22- 7:00
Mile 23- 7:14
Mile 24- 7:14
Mile 25- 7:07
Mile 26- 7:08
Mile 26.53- 3:33 (6:45 average pace)
OFFICIAL FINISH TIME- 2:58:25 (100th female) 6:49 official average.
My marathon PR streak is still going strong although I barely squeaked this one in!
Once I finally made it out of the marathon finisher area it took me over an hour to find John! We definitely should have worked out a better system for meeting up after the race! I borrowed two different strangers phones to call him. With the last one I finally just gave him the street names of the intersection I was at and said I’d be there waiting. When I finally saw John we hugged and of course I started crying. I cry after every marathon. I can’t help it. It is such a physically and emotionally draining race. Poor John had run/ walked over 12 miles himself just making it to different places to cheer for me during the race.
We made it back to our hotel with about 20 minutes until we had to check-out. So we basically had to book it as fast as we could. In case you were wondering, it’s very hard to rush when you’ve just run a marathon. I loved the location of where we stayed but wish the Sheraton Hotel & Towers offered an extended check-out time! I had asked them about it at check-in but they were pretty strict about sticking to 12 pm. I knew I’d be done running by 10:30 but never envisioned it taking almost an hour and a half to get out of the race finish area and back to the hotel!
After we loaded up our stuff in John’s truck we decided to take a taxi to lunch so we didn’t have to deal with parking. Forget walking anywhere! Several friends had recommended we go to Gino’s East for pizza so that was our big post race lunch. I’d never had real Chicago style pizza before and it was amazing! The crust is so good!
We had tentatively planned to visit the Skydeck at the Willis Tower but we were both way too tired to do any more sightseeing. We decided we’d be back and bring the kids next time and we’d do it then. We took a taxi back to the hotel and then started the drive back home. We were home and in bed by a little after midnight!
I really loved Chicago. I just wish I hadn’t been a total zombie the final 6 miles. I had felt so good before then. It’s times like that when it is really hard to imagine even hitting the wall. Then it sneaks up and a perfectly good race turns into a battle of pure survival!
Even though my finish time was not as fast I was going for I know that I’m making progress. To be faster than where I was before my injury is a good sign and I can appreciate that. This is my third marathon to run sub 3 hours and it has not been getting any easier! My first one was in Dec. 2013 (The 3 Bridges Marathon) and my average (watch) pace was 6:48 with an official finish time of 2:59:19. Much more even splits for that race. My second one was in May of 2014 (The Poconos Marathon) my average (watch) was 6:49 with an official finish time of 2:58:56. Now, seventeen months later and my average (watch) is 6:43. I think if I pace it a little better next time and run closer to the 6:35-6:40 I will have a little more energy in the final 10k. At least I would like to think so!
Two Very Notable Finishes
I mentioned my former teammate Scott earlier. He actually finished 13th overall with a new personal best time of 2:17:02! If you ever want to follow a very humble and incredibly fast runner he records most of his training on his blog at Running, Rants, and Randomness.
One of my own coaching clients, Lucinda Bishop also ran Chicago and set a 2 minute PR! She finished in 3:55:16!
I’m actually running in another marathon three weeks from Saturday. It’s the Midsouth Championship Marathon in Wynne. I have run the half marathon there twice before but we needed a complete team for the Arkansas Grand Prix so I’ll be running the full this year! This will give me 27 days between marathons. I have done this once before in the fall of 2012. Right now I’m really trying to focus on recovery from Chicago. Then I can start to think about Wynne.
Thank you for the congrats and comments on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I appreciate every one of you and hope you know how much you mean to me.