Chicago Marathon Weekend Part 2

Check out part 1 of my Chicago Marathon weekend here!

Race day (Sunday) came early. And while I definitely got some sleep, I never seem to get a good amount before a big race. I always fear I’m going to sleep through my alarm. I was up by 5:30am and ready to go by 6:15am that morning. I had about a 20-minute walk over to the Grant Park area where the starting line was. By the time I was leaving, Rachel was already up as well. She was meeting up with Devin so they could cheer us (Justin and me) on during the race.

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The weather that morning was about 55 degrees, which is just about perfect temperature for a race start. By the time I got over to Grant Park and the starting corrals, I was actually a little chilly. Fortunately, I brought a old long-sleeve shirt to throw off when I got going.

I was in the second wave, which meant I was in one of the last corrals. Unfortunately, I messed up when submitting my time and I ended up further back than I probably should have been. But honestly, I knew my pace was going to be much slower than usual, so I wasn’t too worried about being back in the slower corrals. I was actually seeded about where I would finish.

While waiting for the start, I made some new friends in the corrals. Runners are usually very friendly and willing to talk. I think we all just needed to stay distracted while waiting to start.

Finally, just a little before 8:30am, our corral was off and running. My number one goal for the race was to finish injury free. With this summer in Atlanta being so hot and humid, my pace has slowed significantly. So even with almost perfect running conditions in Chicago, I knew I couldn’t bust out at the beginning. I would need to keep some energy in the reserve tank for the last 6-8 miles.

I began my journey at a nice and easy pace through downtown Chicago. I loved the energy of the city and the crowds. Easily one of the best parts of this race was the crowd support. So many people cheering you on as you make your way through the 26.2 gauntlet.

As I got up to mile 5, I knew Rachel and Devin would be somewhere around there. I found them and stopped for a minute to say hello. It was so good to see them. By that point, my left knee had decided it wanted to act up a little bit. Nothing major, just a small nagging pain. I knew it wasn’t anything major, but it was still very annoying.

Just a little after mile 9, I came back across Rachel and Devin again. Rachel got a couple of pictures of me running up to them. After a brief hello, I said goodbye and continued on my way. I knew I wouldn’t see Rachel again until mile 23, so at this point, it was me and the road!

One of the interesting things about running for such a long time and distance, is the mind games you play with yourself. For me, I use multiple ways to keep myself motivated. Whether it’s listening to a certain song on repeat or breaking up the distance into certain segments, my mind is my biggest strength and weakness.

One of the things I decided to do as I was running this time was jump on my phone (i.e., social media) a few different times. I posted on Twitter several times during the race and on Instagram right at the 13.1 (halfway) mark. Seeing people respond to me with words of encouragement really helped keep me going. It’s not something I would normally do, but since my pace was slower and I knew I wasn’t going for any kind of PR (personal record), it was a different kind of strategy and really seemed to work.

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As I got towards mile 20, I wasn’t noticing the pain in my left knee as much anymore. However, my right calf started tightening up. I stopped 1-2 times along the way to stretch it out over the last 6 miles and that seemed to help.

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As I got up to mile 23, I was ready to see Rachel for a minute or two. By this point, Devin had left to go meet up with Justin, who started in wave one and finished much earlier than me. It was so good to see Rachel and reset myself for the last 3 miles.

Honestly, by this point, my body was exhausted, but my brain was still very strong. That’s why I always say, the mental game is just as important as the physical game during a long distance run.

As I came towards the end, a flood of emotions begin to take over. What a journey the past 4-5 months have been. Between the early long runs and the loss of my grandmother just a week before, I found myself very choked up. As I crossed the finish line, I said a quick prayer and blew a kiss up to my grandmother, who I dedicated the race to. I was so happy to get the finisher medal. It was easily one of the best moments of my life.

As I made my way through the finisher’s area and picked up water, Gatorade and food, all I wanted to do was see Rachel and give her a big hug. Once we finally met up (finding each other through the craziness of all the people was not fun), we grabbed several pictures in the Grant Park area, including one in front of The Bean!

Finally, we made the trek back to the hotel so I could get a shower and lie down for several hours. Later that evening, we met up with Justin and Devin for a celebratory dinner and to share war (race) stories. I knew I wanted a steak and friends…and I definitely got myself a steak. It was a great dinner celebrating with our new friends, who we are so grateful to know. I told Rachel later that I really wish we lived closer to them. They are some great people!

We called it an early night as I was flat-out exhausted. The next morning, we packed up, grabbed some breakfast and made our way to Chicago Midway Airport for our flight back to Atlanta.

Couple of things I want to highlight about the Chicago Marathon…

  • Best crowd support of any race I’ve ever run. That includes the Disney races and the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, which are also great races for crowd support.
  • The course was very flat and fast. I was pleasantly surprised at how flat the course really was.
  • The water/Gatorade/aid stations were terrific. There were plenty of stations and water/Gatorade even for those of us in the later corrals. That’s always a win.
  • The scenery (course) is excellent. You run through 29 different neighborhoods from the North Side all the way down to the South Side of Chicago. There is so much to see.
  • There is a definite difference in running one of the World Marathon Majors versus running a Disney race. People were way more serious and there were fewer run/walkers. Not that there is anything wrong with run/walkers…it was just a noticeable difference.

So now that Chicago has officially been conquered…the NYC Marathon is next on the bucket list!

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