On the one year anniversary of my first marathon, I figured I would finally share about my race experience.
My alarm went off at 4:45am on race day. I surprisingly slept pretty well but I woke up anxious that the day had finally arrived. I met the girls downstairs at 5:15am and we were off. We were on a tight schedule to pick up Jamie at her hotel, then head over to the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) tent in Grant Park. I was super amped up at this point. I was jittery because of the nerves and the chilly air at 5:30am. The walk didn’t seem too bad at the time, but looking back, it was a long walk before having a run a marathon.
We arrived at the tent to find a full breakfast spread, the DJ pumping up the runners, and an area to stretch and foam roll. I had breakfast, used the potty, stretched, and finally checked my bag at the tent. We took a large RMHC team photo then waited until it was time to head over to the corral. Majority of the RMHC team was in corral H since that was the charity corral, but the tent cleared out a little bit from runners in the faster corrals.
The volunteers led us to the corral around 7:20am. We headed in through the security check points and continued to walk until we found corral H. There was a lot of walking before the race ever started! We waited in the corral until about 8:10am when we finally started moving up to the start line. The nerves were really setting in at this point.
I started the race with Heather and Julianna and we made our way across the start line. The start of the race was pretty congested and we were in the city surrounded by the tall buildings. The weather was amazing since we were in the shade of the buildings and the crowds were insane. My adrenaline was pumping hard. Right away, my watch lost signal and my first “mile” clocked at the 7 minute mark. I expected this to happen due to my last Chicago race, but I was hoping my new watch would be a little better. I shouldn’t have been worrying about my pace at all, but I immediately wish I had a pace band since I knew my watch was going to be completely inaccurate.
I will say this several more times, but the crowds were unbelievable. I was so happy during the first miles of the race, I was running with a huge smile on my face the whole time. The city was so loud and I was taking it all in. Greg texted me the first time around the 5k mark to tell me where they were set up. It was a whirlwind and I was so happy to see them so early in the race. Unfortunately, I did not give proper hugs or hang out as long as the kids would have liked and they were sobbing after I ran off.
I was cruising for the first nine miles and feeling good. Greg texted me again around the 15k mark to tell me where to look for them. Just knowing which side of the street they were on was so helpful. The streets were absolutely packed for the entire race! Greg said that the spectators were so amazing and would let them get to the front when they knew I was close. I lingered a little bit longer this time. Greg rubbed my calf and I was texting with Amanda to see where she was in the race.
Amanda and I texted for a little while. She offered to hang back so I could catch up, but I felt like that was a lot of pressure for me to get up to her quickly. My calf was starting to ache pretty bad. Around the half marathon mark, I stopped at the medical tent for Biofreeze. I stopped at a second tent a little bit later for Tylenol. My half marathon split was 2:23:21.
I kept an eye on my pace, but I knew that I just wanted to finish. I kept calculating in my head what my finish time would be if I kept my current pace. However, the likelihood of me keeping that current pace was slim. Towards the end of the race, I was running slower and walking more.
I saw Mary Beth and Mandy (who flew in from Kansas City to surprise me!) in Chinatown, which was such a great motivator. They were so positive and it was so good to see their smiling faces! Just down the road, I saw Greg, Michael, and Rachel again. My parents had taken the kids back to the hotel by this point. I thought it would be the last time I saw them and we discussed how and where we would meet up after the race.
I was down to the last five miles or so which seemed to last forever. I knew some of the other girls would be finishing the race soon since they were ahead of me. As it was reaching the middle of the day, it was insanely hot. Unseasonably hot for Chicago actually. I thought it would be fine since I had trained in the humidity and heat all summer, but we never ran at noon in the middle of the day, so this was all new territory. As I made my way into the last couple of miles, I spotted Greg, Michael, and Rachel again. I almost started sobbing. They had gotten ice water from Starbucks and refilled my Camelbak. I gave them my headphones and prepared for the last couple of miles. After they saw me in Chinatown, they decided to go ahead and find me again. Bless their hearts. I so needed it.
I probably walked more than I should have in those last couple of miles, but I made my way back to the city and the finish line. I crossed the finish line at 5:23:14. I was emotional, but also so hot and so happy to be done. My finish time was slower than I anticipated or hoped it would be. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed with how the race went, especially the second half. I was bummed about the weather and aggravated that my calf started bothering me so early in the race.
On the other hand, I was extremely proud just to have finished the race! I joined the 1% of the population that has completed a marathon and that was something to be proud of!
After crossing the finish line, I grabbed a banana and a beer. Like before the race, there was an obnoxious amount of walking after the race to get back to the RMHC tent. My feet hurt and all I wanted was to sit down. I was so happy to see some of my cheer squad waiting for me at the tent.
I will say again how amazing the entire race was. The crowds, the city, the support. So many spectators looked me in the eye, called me by my first name, and said such encouraging words to me. I was overwhelmed with emotion throughout the race. I will never forget how the city rallied around every single one of the runners out there for the entire race. I will definitely be back Chicago. I am coming for a redemption run.
I also cannot express the gratitude that I had for my own cheer squad that day. They conquered that city for me showing up at the most needed spots during the race and wearing the most appropriate shirt of the day. Each time seeing them gave me that boost of courage and energy that I needed to keep going.
Finally, I trained with the best runner friends that anyone could ask for. These girls made the 16 weeks of training not only bearable, but fun! We spent countless hours together before the sun came up. They were there for me in the good times and the bad times. I was so grateful to have run this race with them.
Cheers to 26.2 miles!
Chicago, you did not disappoint. See you in 2020.