“That’s the dumbest thing in the world! I don’t understand what would posses someone to do that… humans just weren’t meant to do crazy stuff like that.”
Those are the words directed at me by an executive at the company I work at! Normally not something you would like to hear from someone who has the power to fire you… but I was quite pleased. This is how he responded when he found out that I had run in the Chicago City Marathon! Boo Yah!
It was AWESOME, and an extremely fun experience that I’m very grateful I was able to do. I signed up for the race several months ago with my brother Brian, and his wife Natalie. Of course, back then it seemed like SUCH a good idea (at mile 19 I was reconsidering that line of thought… hahaha)
I started training for it seriously ever since early July. The run I actually counted as my first “training” run was with Naomi’s brother Jake when we visited Family in Utah. He totally ran circles around me that day without even breaking a sweat, which helped motivate me to train!
Brian and Natalie, I believe, were the true studs of race day, mostly for their training! Natalie is a mother of two, and had her last child just a smidge over a year ago! From giving birth to running a Marathon in a year! She’s an animal! Brian was able to get all of his training done while simultaneously working 70+ hours a week at an internship with Goldman Sachs, then while a full-time MBA student at the University of Michigan. I sometimes complained about trying to find time to fit in all the training, but he really put me to shame!
So here is the final tally for my training. Note that I only started keeping track of workouts in July. I actually was quite active in working out since I got out here to Chicago, but I hadn’t started any sort of scheduled or structured training until Jake kicked my rear in Utah.
Total Distance Run: 434.2 miles (including 1 marathon in Duluth, MN, and one Ragnar Relay Race in Wisconsin)
Total Distance Biked: 75 miles (mostly on the stationary bike at the gym during lunch…my Dad does this distance on his bike in one day!)
Total Distance Swimming: 8,500 meters (again, at the gym during lunch)
Total Distance Rowing: 24,200 meters (at the gym during lunch)
I did all my training for this race with 2 goals in mind: #1 I wanted to finish the Marathon below 3:30:00 (approx 8 min/mile pace) and #2 I wanted to run the entire thing without stopping to walk!So now it’s on to race day!
This was a SWEET idea. Nike gave out these temporary tatoos with pace split times on it. The listed split times are the splits to complete by a certain time (in the case of my arm, 3:30) At every mile, I could look down at my sweet-looking fake tatoo and compare my time with the split time. It was a sweet idea!
Thanks to Brian and his SWEET connections, we managed to get an apartment in downtown Chicago about 3 blocks from the starting line (Seriously, they don’t come any closer). What that meant for us was that we got to relax the night before the race. After getting downtown, picking up our race packets and visiting the race expo, it was back to the apt to chill for the rest of the night! Wow. (My last Marathon with Becca, Naomi and I drove 8 straight hours to get into Duluth, MN, went to bed at 2:00AM then woke up at about 5:30 to go race… you can imagine why I appreciated the setup we had!)
Race day was cold. So cold, in fact, that I had to wear a long-sleeve t-shirt over my running shirt while we all huddled like cattle at the starting line (they even call it a corral!) So we were all shaking like crazy, partly from being nervous and partly from being freezing!
The gun went off, and we waddled patiently to the starting line until the crowd thinned out and we could actually begin a gait similar to that of running!
This was the time where I was just in awe of my surroundings. It was a blur of runners packed in all around me, literally tens of thousands of spectators on the side of the street and waving signs and yelling encouragement. It was so packed with runners, that I had to slow it down several times, mostly when bottlenecks invariably developed along points where the road got skinnier or the spectators started bunching in. Somewhere in this time-frame I warmed up enough to ditch the long-sleeve t-shirt into a garbage can on the side of the road. I felt good during this portion, just mostly jittery and excited about the whole experience!
This part of the race was what I call the “super fun” part of the race! I was giving high fives to kids on the side of the street, playing the air guitar with one of the live bands, pretending I was an airplane so the crowd would cheer more. Oh, and I think I gave a high five to Elvis in there too somewhere. This part was also very scenic as we made a u-turn north of the city and run for quite a ways due south towards downtown. It was really neat to turn that corner and see the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) way off in the distance and watch as it got closer and closer then finally I was right underneath it and ran right passed it! It was gorgeous, and I probably strained my neck because I was looking up so much at all the cool buildings! I cruised along at a very comfortable pace and was quite pleased to see my split time as I came across the half-way point. I noticed that if I was able to keep the same steady pace through the end of the race, I could beat the 3:10:00 mark, which incidentally is the time I would have to beat to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon. Once upon a time (actually 3 days before the race) Naomi’s sister Becca promised me that if I qualified for Boston she would buy me a milkshake. We had a good laugh at that thought, as I’m sure we both thought she was joking (I certainly did), but when I crossed the mid-point and saw that it was possible, I saw visions of M&Ms and cookie dough chunks in a swirl of frozen dairy goodness dancing through my head and I decided to try!!
This part might be considered the “doldrums” of the race. We hooked in downtown and started running due west, and the scenery became much less spectacular. Add that to the fact that this was the portion where the amount of spectators dropped off significantly, and it was a definite quiet section of the course. I still felt great though, and continued comfortably at a pace that would earn me a milkshake.
This was the point when the pain started. At first it was just a mere twinge in my right hamstring. Getting a warning like that It’s like watching a wall of rain from a rainstorm barreling your way. You get some warning, but you’re still going to get soaked no matter what you do! The good news about this was that I had expected this to happen, and was ready to adjust my running style ever so slightly to slow the onset of the dreaded seizing of the muscles. Making this change slowed me down just slightly, but kept my muscles happy enough to keep going nicely. This was the point in the race that I new I was going to accomplish my first goal (finish by 3:30:00) and my second goal (not stopping) was firmly in my mind. I did NOT want to stop to walk or stretch muscles. That single thought and my goal was pretty close to the only thing that I thought of for the last 5 miles.
I honestly don’t think that the last 5 miles of a marathon can be adequately described to anyone… it must be experienced. This was definitely the grit-your-teeth-and-find-out-what-you’re-made-of portion of the race. It was tough. Starting at about mile 21, the torrential rainstorm of seizing muscles finally caught up to me and started sending daggers of pain all up and down my legs. It started in my hamstrings, and worked its way to my quads then finally tried attacking my calves. The only thing I can think of saying is “ouch” (repeated about a thousand times). It was in this portion where I noticed that I was really slowing down. The pain made it pretty tough to keep up my previous pace, and well, I guess running that far can make you pooped!! Now after saying that, I can also say it was my favorite stretch of the race. It seemed like there were a million people on the side of the road. And people cheering at you has a way of giving you a shot of adrenaline that gives you enough energy to go just a little bit further. It was mile 25.6, by the way, where I finally saw Naomi! She is favorite spectator by far!! It sure meant a lot to me to see her, and it was exactly what I needed at that point to propel me to finish the longest 0.6 miles of my life!
Miles 26 – 26.2
We rounded Roosevelt Rd and made the final turn into Grant Park and the chute into the finish! Normally you don’t look at 0.2 miles and think that it’s a long way. But wow. Someone said it best: “the 1st half of the marathon is 13 miles…the 2nd half of the marathon is 13 miles, and the last half is 0.2 miles”. It was crazy and I was never more pleased to cross a finish line in my life!! Here are my stats and split times:
I did a little playing around with my splits and pace times and came up with some additional info:
Now, notice 2 things: #1, I finished with a time of 3:13:26, which happens to be exactly 127 seconds too slow for the Boston Marathon qualification. DANG! I was SOOOOO close!! #2, you can see how I really slowed down there at the end. It pretty accurately shows the amount of pain I went through escalating through the end of the run. Ouch!
So I was very happy to have completed my two goals, a little bummed that I missed out on a milkshake, but content, because I literally had nothing left at the end of that race!
It was awesome, and like always…
respect the last 5 miles.