Monday, October 15, 2012

The Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon was the most awesome race experience I've had so far.  All the stars aligned creating nearly perfect racing conditions.  I was feeling the best I had felt in months physically.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect - overcast, 30's to start the race and never over mid 50's.  Of course, I did whine about it being chilly at the start (to answer your question, yes I always whine about some facet of the weather).  Even with an ideal race morning, I still had a few doubts and my less confident self tried to talk me out of doing the race...I'm so glad I won the argument over her!

Nicole, Jeanie, Gail and I were all doing the race.  I practically begged Nicole to run with a way that made it sound like I wanted to run with her.  Really, I knew it would be a better experience with someone than by myself.  Nicole and I had matching outfits for the race before we left home.  But with the chillier temps we bought very loud, nearly obnoxious capri pants to wear instead of shorts.  Thus breaking the first rule we ever learned from our coaches at Fleet Feet about racing - nothing new on race day! 

Wearing a matching outfit with the person I ran with was a great idea, making it a bright orange and purple outfit that you can't miss was a stroke of genius. Why?  Because for 26.2 miles, people commented on our outfits constantly.  Other runners, spectators, and volunteers all said something to us.  It was extremely encouraging.  And when you really want to punch something at mile 23, you can't help but smile when someone tells you they love your outfit.  We may never win a race, but I think we have best dressed covered.

It's no secret that I love the city of Chicago.  It's one of my favorite places to go.  Sometimes Mark and I daydream about moving there someday (as long as I can have a winter home at a beach).  The absolute best way to see a city is by running.  We saw so many parts of the city I hadn't been to before and I loved all of it!  My favorites were Lincoln Park and Chinatown.  At one point in the race, we ran past a large nursing home.  Lots of the people there were looking out their windows and waving.  I smiled and waved.  When I looked around every runner I could see was also looking up and waving.  It was a wonderful, heart warming moment.

The race had a vibe about it that I hadn't experienced before.  I've been to some well supported races before, but nothing like this.  I wore my ipod for the first three miles but never turned it on.  At mile 3 I took it off and put it away.  There was music through most of the course and the crowd support was astounding.  They estimated 1.7 million people came out to see the race. That just amazes me. 

And the crowd wasn't just there to cheer.  They were extremely giving too.  Many had extra water out and available for runners.  Some had tylenol or ibuprofen measured out in little cups, I had brought my own but loved the gesture.  I saw several people giving out pretzels - I did have some of those.  But my favorite was the man at mile 22 who had Nutter Butters.  I wanted to kiss him and propose at the same time.  Luckily for him, I'm already married, so he got the most heartfelt thank you I could muster.

There were so many race volunteers and plenty of water and gatorade stops.  I carried my water bottle, but would have been fine without it.  The water stops were also nice and long and great for walking.  The only downside was the stickiness from gu's and gatorade made it a little hard to walk through.  It wasn't terrible but by mile 20 or so it seemed like a lot of extra effort to get my feet off the ground.

Nicole was the best person to run this race with.  She enjoyed (or faked it) every part of the race.  Well every part except for the grated bridges, where she ran straight for the carpeted side.  I'm thankful they had it carpeted or I may have had to carry her over the bridges.  She sang and danced and high fived her way through the race.  Even when I was feeling like death (about mile 21) she kept singing and dancing with a little running mixed in.  It was infectious.  And it made me stop (figuratively, not literally, thank goodness) and think if you can't enjoy the race and have a good time then there's no reason to do it.

Going into the race my only goal was to finish the race and have fun.  With a couple miles left, I started calculating what I needed to do to PR the race.  Early on we had been moving along nicely, but I knew as we got closer to the end I'd probably slow down - not crash exactly, but close.  It was very hard to keep pushing it at the end, but I tried.  I finished in 5:21:35, which was a PR over my first marathon by just over a minute!  We were also able to finish the race in front of the man dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow, which was a small personal victory.

I'm so proud of Nicole and Jeanie who both finished their first marathon.  And also super proud of Gail who PR'd by more than 20 minutes!  Also, very proud of Mark, who was registered for the race but didn't get to do it (he didn't whine about that nearly as much as I would have). He managed to see us on the course 3 times on crutches - that is love! 

I loved the race and I will do it again. Before my first marathon I had said I would do one and be done. After it, I said I would do one a year. Now after Chicago (my second), I would entertain the idea of doing two a year.