Chicago Marathon 2016 Recap

Since the Chicago Marathon was on October 9th, I wrote this post more than a month ago.
Life got in the way (our Siamese cat, Louie, went missing around October 13 and I dropped everything to search for him. The good news - he showed back at home 8 days later).
So, better late than never....

“I have put many miles between who I am and where I came from.” - Raine Cooper
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” - Haruki Murakami

When posed the question of “what are your goals for the Chicago Marathon?”, I took the seemingly easy way out by stating “eh, I don’t have a specific time goal, I just want to get through the entire 26.2 miles without cramping”. Truthfully, I was looking forward to sharing this race – the city, its diversity, the spectators - with my running friends on a nice fall day, without the presence of rain, thunderstorms and oppressive humidity (elements we had become way too familiar with).

Sunday marked my 5th marathon and 2nd Chicago Marathon. I first ran Chicago in 2014, in similar conditions – a lovely fall day with light breezes, low humidity and ample sunshine – perfect conditions, yet cloyingly deceptive for the prone-to-cramp folks (like me). In 2014 I cramped terribly and vowed I would learn from my fueling mistakes, so this would be the test. I experienced the race much like two years ago, but this time armed with the support of running friends who ran parts of the race with me. Their support, along with virtual support from all over made the experience amazing.

Picture Perfect Day #shirleyruns #chicago
Picture Perfect Marathon Day

Chicago Marathon
Walking to The Start Corrals with my Running Friends

Highlights? There are too many to list – For a day, the city is transformed into a sea of people instead of cars, giving everyone involved a new perspective. There’s the start line rush of running into the middle of the street, finally freed of the congestion in the start corrals. I am always impressed how much room the runners have, with the looming buildings of the Loop above. Traversing five of the famed Moveable Loop Bridges is a highlight of the course. I took in the serene beauty of the brownstones in Old Town, its streets flanked by yellow tinged trees, then grooved to the fun vibe of Boystown.

Chicago Marathon
Running through Old Town

The miles continued and my mind started to wander - I wondered if the asphalt just past the Gel station was poured with some special concrete mix, or if the prominent squish-squish-squish sound from my shoes was a result of gel remnants on the ground (I think the latter). I gratefully took pretzels from a girl in Pilsen as I had tired of super sweet Gatorade. I cheered on the two blind runners I passed and the double amputee running through Lincoln Park. I noticed ribbons fluttering on runners’ shirts and wondered who they represented.

As I passed mile 19, I remembered “this is where I started to cramp two years ago, maybe it won’t happen this time”. Two miles later my hamstrings knotted up twice, forcing me to walk some short distances, but luckily the cramps didn’t return. After mile 24, I knew if I could maintain my current pace, I might get a PR. Those last two miles ended up being my fastest miles of the day, PR accomplished!

A Great Reward #shirleyruns #chimarathon
4:20:18, I'll Take It

In the end though, the marathon is about doing what you think you can’t do, supporting those who run and those who cannot and (hopefully) enjoying the run. Getting a faster time or achieving your “A” Goal is just icing on the cake.

After this race, I decided that my next running adventure would be a little different, one that scares me. So I signed up for an Ultra Marathon! I will be running the Clinton Lake Ultra, a 30 miler close to home. I've run the 10 mile loop once and know it will be a great challenge. With that race in late March, I am considering the NYC Marathon for the fall, assuming I make it through the lottery process.



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