Confession time - I never intended to run the Chicago Marathon.
I had an impression of this race – running in a sea of people where you really have to pay attention to the people around you to prevent getting stomped on (or stomping on someone), and it felt stressful. Reading the course description (run along the lake, through Lincoln Park, through the ethnic communities, ending in Grant Park), sounded wonderful, but would I be able to enjoy it, or would I be fixated on the back of the person in front of me?
I was totally wrong.
With the exception of miles 19 - 23, where cramps in my right calf forced me to alternate between walking and running, I had a great run. I never felt crowded in, even at the start, and the course wound beautifully through Chicago, showcasing its eclectic architecture, waterways, parks, neighborhoods and most importantly, the infectious spirit of the people who make up the city.
The crowds exuded energy that resulted in an inexplicable electric in the air. That energy has the power to carry you through the depths of nothingness - perfect for those hard miles towards the end of a marathon.
Scott and I arrived Saturday afternoon and navigated the labyrinth of the race Expo before heading to our hotel. Of course the traffic was terrible - with 45,000 runners and their families / friend descending upon the already crowded city, we needed to be patient and plan for numerous delays.
I opted to book the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Ave, right across from Grant Park and the Start / Finish Line. Because the last thing I wanted was additional stress on race day. I made the right decision and will stay there again the next time I run this race (yes, I will come back).
As a bonus, our room overlooked Michigan Ave and the park! We could see the Chicago skyscrapers to the north and Field Museum / Soldier Field to the south.
|Outside Our Window - Grant Park and Chicago Skyline|
After dinner (room service, because I wanted to keep off my feet), we walked north along Michigan Avenue to find Starting Gate 2, my assigned gate. I timed how long it would take so I could better plan for the next morning. I planned to leave the hotel as late as possible to minimize "standing around" time and to avoid having to use a porta potty at the start (super long lines).
We watched the lights of the city turn on
|North on Michigan Ave|
The marathon gates open up at 5:30 on race day. As I watched the sun come up, the streets below buzzed with people streaming towards the start line. I was able to stay in the room until 7:20 before heading out to my start corral. The weather couldn't be more perfect - 52degF at the start, clear, with a slight wind from the south.
|A Perfect Day for Running|
|Waiting to Start|
Between miles 19 and 20, I started to experience cramps that required me to alternate between running and walking. I walked / ran miles 19-23, and connected with another runner, Jeff, who was experiencing the same plight. He implored me not to stop and stretch - doing so might tear the muscles (I was starting to cramp in my thigh, too). By walking it out and taking extra gatorade at two aid stations, I was able to start running again before mile 24.
My official time - 4:28:42. I was hoping for a PR - my left foot's plantar fasciitis was not a factor during the run - but I think my lack of activity these last two weeks set me back a little. I also underestimated the amount of sports drink / electrolytes I needed - the weather was perfect and I never outwardly got sweaty, wasn't really thirsty and didn't take gatorade at each aid station. Lessons learned for next time.
When Scott and I arrived back home, we were greeted by several congratulatory banners hung around the house:
This was such a great experience, all made possible by my friends and family.