The Chicago Marathon was my kickoff race in an attempt to run fifty sub 4:00 marathons in fifty states, and it was an awesome way to get things started. Jim and I trained for eighteen weeks– most of which happened to be during summer in Saint Louis. This resulted in more 4:30 AM long runs than I ever want to experience again. Therefore, my plan is to try and remain ‘marathon ready’ and crank these races out every month or two for the next several years. (It sounds like a great plan with only one state under my belt!)
The Race: The incredible crowd support and huge field of athletes makes Chicago an exceptional race. Jim and I were two of over forty thousand marathoners to take to the streets of the Windy City, and it felt like every resident in town was up to cheer on the runners. There was no place along the course devoid of spectators, and I ran all twenty six miles pretty tightly packed in with my pace group. I kept thinking that the course would thin out as we progressed, but nope– the streets were congested clear up to the finish line. This actually did wonders for my motivation. Had I been on a lonely, rural course, my desire to stop and walk most likely would have gotten the better of me. The three lovely gentlemen who served as our pacers were fantastic. I literally clung to these guys for dear life and didn’t let them out of my sight until I was a hundred meters from the finish. I have no idea how they were able to navigate the crowded Chicago streets for three and a half hours and get to the finish line with a clean twenty seconds to spare. Those guys do excellent work.
The course is also pancake flat. I think the total change in elevation from start to finish was 30 feet. I can see how, on a perfect race day, records can be broken here. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite a perfect day for a run: The one problem with this marathon is the unpredictable weather. Had we run this race in 2014, we would have had ideal conditions. As it was, it was about ten degrees too hot on our race day. (57 when we started and about 65 when we finished.) Luckily, being a large marathon, there were tons of very well- organized aid stations. Definite bonus points for the abundance of water, Gatorade, and cold sponges.
My Race: The entire run was far more pleasant than my first marathon last fall; this was largely in part to knowing what to expect this time around. I did a much better job of pacing myself conservatively at the start of the race and making sure that I ate and drank enough on the course. The first eight or so miles literally flew by. Every time that I looked down at my watch I was shocked to see how much distance I had covered. Again, thank goodness for those pacers because while my Garmin was giving me accurate distance splits, it couldn’t read my speed for shit on this course. The only disconcerting thing about the middle of the race was that the course was marked very long. By about mile eighteen, I was showing it to be a half mile longer than what the signage was reporting. I actually had to reset my GPS so I wouldn’t be discouraged. Things didn’t really get tough until around mile twenty- one, and the last five miles were pretty darn hard (though nothing compared to the end of last year’s marathon). They were doable because by this time I realized that I was still on pace for a sub 3:30 marathon, and that even if I slowed down by a minute or two, my time would still be an improvement. Overall, it was a great run, and one that I am very, very proud of. The worst part of the experience was finishing and having to walk a half mile from the finishers area to meet up with our family… And then having to walk back to the hotel…
The other highlight of this race was, of course, that our family got to come along and watch. I was so happy that Jim’s dad was there to see him run his first marathon, and it was wonderful having help with our little guys while we prepared and recovered from our run. Staying at the Hilton across the street from the start and finish line was 100% worth it as it eliminated the logistical nightmare of getting around the city on race day. Jim and I also got to see a number of our Chicago friends on Saturday and Sunday night, which is always an added bonus. I am very appreciative to Rob and Sam for getting me rather drunk after the race… it was far better than ibuprofen for the muscles…. One month until state #2!
** Race Highlights: This was a pancake flat course with very wide streets to accommodate all of the athletes. Aid stations were roughly a mile apart with a city block for Gatorade and another for water. Plenty of places to use the restroom if needed. The crowd support was fantastic as well.
** The Downside: It was a little warm for a marathon. Also, there was only one place to get a GU- like substance on the course, so I had to schlep my own along with me.
Sub 4:00 State #1, BQ State #1, Sub 3:30 State #1
Finish Time: 3:29:25
Overall Place Within My Gender: 774th/ 17,199
Favorite Race Day Song: Roar by Katy Perry
Total Training Miles: 828
Shoe Total: 4