I finally finished my post race recap for Chicago! It’s a bit lengthy, but definitely an experience of a lifetime!
I was lucky enough to be hosted by my cousin Whitney during our stay in Chicago, but thought it would be a good idea to stay downtown the night before the race. I am so glad that I did! I didn’t wake up until close to 6am on race morning, and felt very well rested and ready to go! I had my pre race meal of a bagel and peanut butter, and then headed down to the start! My cousin hooked me up with some perfect throwaway gear, so I was bundled up quite nicely for the 37 degree temps that awaited me outside.
The hotel was only 4 blocks from the start, so I just followed everyone as I made my way to the corral. This was the first year that Chicago incorporated a 2 wave start for the race, and I am so glad that they did. Everything was incredibly well-marked, and I had no problem at all finding where I needed to be going. I chose not to check a bag, so it was a pretty easy race morning for me. I got into Corral B about 10 minutes before it closed. Perfect timing!
Back in 2008, I ran my first marathon with my former teammate, Annie. We both signed up for Chicago and I was so happy that we found each other as soon as we got into our corrals. Annie had her eye on BQ’ing, so I knew we were not going to be running together. I swore to myself that I was going to be smart at the beginning of the race, and not getting stuck in the hole of darting through the first few miles. I did that back in April in Nashville, and knew those first 3 miles would indicate the rest of the race if I went out to fast. We heard the national anthem, and then we were off!
Annie and I split around mile 2. I felt great, but knew better than to veer from my plan. I didn’t have a goal time in mind since I hadn’t been working with any speed due to my hamstring and hips issues, but I knew I would like to go sub 3:45. My goal was to take it easy for the first 10 miles, and then reassess from there. Right around mile 3, my Garmin flashed low battery. I looked down, and couldn’t believe it! I had charged it the night before, but unfortunately, the watch is just on its way out. I realized I was going to have to do the rest of the race solely by feel. Luckily, I looked at the clock as i crossed the start line, and notice it took a little over 2 minutes to actually start in my corral. At least I would be able to somewhat figure out my time by looking at the mile marker clocks.
Before the race started, my amazing family that came along as my support crew, decided on 4 spots that they would stand to see me. The first one was mile 5.5, so I was so excited when I came up on them! They were cheering like crazy, and I loved seeing them! They were the best! This is also where I took my first 2 Gu Chomps. My plan was to take them in 5 mile increments, which is what I practiced in my training runs.
I couldn’t believe how quickly those first few miles passed, and the same went for the next 4 miles! The course was beautiful, and ran through some of the prettiest neighborhoods in the city. The fall colors were in full force, along with the amazing cool temperatures! I came up on my family again around mile 9.5, gave them a wave, and then headed on out. I wouldn’t see them again until mile 21, so I knew this would be the most mentally tough part of the course for me.
My cousins were volunteering at the 10 mile mark, so I was able to see them in action as well! I gave them a quick shout, grabbed a couple more chomps, and just trucked along. This was the point that I was going to decided how to approach the rest of my race. Without the Garmin, I was at a bit of a loss. I wasn’t able to see my pace every mile, so I wasn’t really sure where I was. I looked at the clock as I crept closer to the half way point, and I noticed I was on track for a 1:47 ish half marathon. I decided the keep the pace I was running, and reassess again around mile 22, which was the longest distance I reached in training.
I don’t really know what happened between the half way point and mile 20. I zoned out. It is crazy how that happens in such a long race. I couldn’t tell you what I saw in that hour. It is completely a blur. Mile 21.5 was just after China town, and was the next spot that my family was at. I saw them with no problem at all, and Marcus mentioned how strong I looked. The best part… I actually felt strong! I wasn’t hitting a wall, and couldn’t believe it. I have never run a marathon yet without approaching that dreaded wall, and this time, I was going to run straight through it!
Miles 22 and 23 came and went. I started to do some (not so fast) math in my head. I had 3.2 miles to go, and was crazy close to hitting a 3:35 finish time. This is where I decided to pick it up. For the first time ever, I was passing runner after runner in the last 5k of a marathon. I felt amazing, and knew I had to leave everything on this course. My last check point with my support crew was at mile 25. I saw them as I was running up, and my emotions completely took over. I looked over at my husband, and totally ugly cried “I’m going to PR!”
He didn’t realize it until I said it either, and was unbelievably excited for me. That last mile of the race, I felt like I was sprinting. I had no clue what my pace was, but I gave it absolutely every last bit I could possibly push. I had been warned about the dreaded last 800 meters of the race by my cousin, as it provides the only course hill. She wasn’t kidding. That hill felt like a mountain to this Florida girl, and hurt so bad. I got to the top, and saw the finish line in sight. I tried to sprint as hard as I could, although at that point, i’m pretty sure it was a glorified pickup. I crossed the finish line, and didn’t actually know what my finish time was. All I knew is that I just ran a kick ass race. I was smart, I listened to my body, and I achieved a big goal – having fun for an entire marathon.
There was not one single moment in that race where I thought it sucked, or I hated the course, or that I regretted the pace I was holding. I loved every second of that race. I was mentally stronger than I had ever been before. Never once did I get down at myself, or start thinking negatively. I looked at my phone for my finish time, as I had signed up for updates to be sent to me via text. The text came through as I looked at my phone.
It said I had finished in 3:35:14.
Yep, I was 14 seconds off of a Boston Qualifying time, and I was thrilled. I had just PR’d by 2 minutes and 43 seconds. I negative split a marathon!!! I trained in the most brutal summer conditions I had ever encountered, and ran the best race of my life. All of the early morning runs and 85 degree days were worth it. The aches and pains that I felt on my runs didn’t matter anymore. I did something I hadn’t done in almost 3 years. I reached a solid personal record in a race distance that my life revolves around – the marathon. I don’t have a single regret in the race. Oh, and I’ve never been so excited to earn one of these…
As for my friend Annie that I started with… I actually saw her cross the finish line, only 32 seconds ahead of me. She earned her BQ. I am so proud of her for reaching this milestone. This was her fastest time by almost 7 minutes. Congrats Annie! You ran a dream race!
The city of Chicago did a great job hosting such a phenomenal race. The volunteers were fantastic and I appreciate every person that was cheering all of us on. There was no shortage of smiling faces along the whole course, and some pretty funny signs. If you are ever deciding whether or not to bring a sign to a race, do it! The runners like it more than you know.
The floods of texts, tweets, and Facebook posts I received before, during and after the race was unreal. I felt such a huge amount of support from so many of you, and I am incredibly thankful. Most of all, thank you to my amazing support crew, Marcus, Emily, Morgan, and Steve. They made it to 4 separate spots on the course, and cheered me on like pros! It was so much fun to share in such a huge accomplishment with my biggest fans. You all are rock stars!