It's been three days since my very first marathon, and I am ready to reflect on what an incredible experience it was! I will definitely be back for another, and knowing my addictive, competitive personality, probably several.
The excitement began as we unloaded our car and walked to our hotel in downtown Chicago; I immediately saw runners everywhere. There truly isn't anything better than to be surrounded by individuals that have the same interests in passion as you. We arrived to the hotel, checked-in, dropped off our luggage, and set out for some lunch. As we walked down "The Magnificent Mile" in search of some carbs, there were runners everywhere! My favorite thing to do when I see runners is to check out their shoes. Weird I know, but I enjoy seeing what they where when they are "off" and I also like to calculate in my head what is the most popular brand of running shoes, and how many have the same shoes as me. Of course on Saturday most of them still wore running shoes or gym shoes of some sort because no one wanted to have sore feet for the race. We finally found some lunch, football games, and beer for the boys (a great way to make my hubby happy on his birthday).
After lunch we went to Niketown because there were shuttles that took you from there to the Expo. Outside of Niketown we saw the huge "Chicago Unleashed" murals with every participants name on it-how amazing! I found mine, but it was too high up for me to take a picture. Rachel was able to find her's and take a picture. I joked with Josh that if he would have allowed me to hyphenate my name (yes, I asked once) then I would have been able to find mine AND get a picture with it. Next to the Nike store was also the Garmin store; this was truly heaven for any runner!
We got on the bus, a school bus I might add, and headed to the expo. This expo was unlike anyone I had ever been to- it was huge! We got our packets and shopped around. I bought a very nice Nike half zip, long-sleeved, dry fit shirt, and my frugal thought I was joking when I told him it was $70. I reiterated the fact that I trained for 20-weeks and it isn't just a Nike half zip, but it has Chicago Marathon 2010 on it; he then understood. We then left the expo after being there for about an hour and a half and headed back to the hotel to do a little bit of relaxing. It surely had been a long day of driving and walking around Chicago.
Later that evening we got read for dinner. Rachel and I headed down to the Big Bar (yes, that was the name) in our hotel to have one beer (yay, carbs). Then, we headed to Bucktown to have a nice Italian dinner. The place we went to was BYOB, which apparently is popular in Chicago. My dear friend, Christina met us there and we enjoyed a decent dinner, horrible service, but great conversation! After dinner Rach and I called it a night and the boys and Christina went out to celebrate Josh's birthday.
I fell asleep very quickly, which was good. I had originally thought I wouldn't be able to sleep because of the anticipation. The next morning, I woke up and ate breakfast and prepared for the race. As we were walking to the start line, I began to get very nervous, more so than I have ever been about running. I was so worried I wouldn't be able to finish despite all the training I did. We finally got to the start line, but couldn't manage to get up with our pace, so we started in the 12-minute mile pace, which made the first 3 miles miserably packed! It took us about 10-15 minutes to get the start line. When we finally reached it, I couldn't believe it... "20-weeks of training and here I go," I thought to myself.
For about the first six miles of the race my legs felt like complete jello. I am unsure why they felt like that, but finally about at mile 6 or 6 1/2 I felt normally and ready to go. Good thing, I ONLY had 20 miles to go, but I knew I could do 20 more because I did that many in my training. I didn't think about much for the first 7 miles, other than, "I can't believe I am really running a marathon." As I was passing people, many wore shirts and signs of people in which they were running for. My curiosity kicked in and I wondered what the story was. The one person that sticks out to me the most was this man who was probably in his early 20s. He was a very tall man and on the back of his shirt he had a picture of himself hugging a girl, and with her name, date of birth and date of death. The woman died in August of this year, and his shirt said, "running for her". My heart went out to this man because I am assuming it was either his wife or significant other. I was amazed by the number of people that dedicated their run to other people.
The race went on and I loved watching the people in the crowd. The amount of people cheering was simply amazing, and the types of shirts and signs people make or hysterical and very creative. However, one sign simply stated, "Run Bitches" and made me laugh as I was running. The crowd definitely helped me keep going the whole 26.2 miles.
Miles 7-13.1 were great! I was surely enjoying my run. I stopped at every water station and the only thing I really thought was, "this is actually enjoyable". I ran a 2:04 half marathon, so I was on pass to run a 4:08 full marathon, and man did I feel great about that. Then, the need to pee kicked in at about mile 14. Rach and I were still together at this point, and we decided to get a Gatorade cup, drink it, and go over to the bush and pee in the cup (TMI?, Sorry), and so we did, several times. After that potty break, we felt better and were back on the road to a nice full marathon time. We ran about another two miles and the heat just started to really kick in. It felt like every time I pounded the pavement it got hotter and hotter. We walked through the next water station and stretched and that is when I lost her. I ran forward and then stopped about three times to look for her, but with no luck I just kept going. At that point it was me racing for the finish with thousands strangers around me, and my own thoughts.
I thought about everything I could possibly think about, and for several miles I was looking hard in hopes of seeing Mr. Hoosier on the side of the street with the sign my students made me, but had no luck. My mind thought about how I used to HATE to run, and how it is now just a part of who I am. Often times my mind wandered to my mom and how much I have her to thank for my passion for fitness, running and living a healthy life. I remembered the times when I was little and would get jealous because she would be at the gym or on a run, but now I get it- in order to be a good mother, she had to get her exercise, and I hope my future children understand that about me some day. Mr. Hoosier had been so patient with my 4:30 am runs during the week day, my early bed times on Friday nights because of a long run on Saturday, and my Saturday afternoon naps through this marathon training; I thought about how thankful I am to have such a patient and loving husband. Of course I thought about my Dad and how thankful I am for him. I also thought about that silly biological dad of mine that I don't talk to as I ran through Wrigleyville, the anger for him made me run a little faster, but then I began to think how much better off I am without him in my life. I thought about my brother and sister, of course. I wondered what Zach was doing out at sea, and wondered if Court would ever run a race with me. The, for a few miles, I thought about my Grandma Gladys and my beloved Uncle Rick; I knew they were watching me as I raced through the streets of Chicago. I am sure my grandma was proud, as was Uncle Rick. I am sure he also was thinking I was crazy! I thought of all the moments I had with him- I sure do miss him. I thought about all the girls that I have influenced through coaching Girls on the Run, and with that I was trying to think which of them might run a marathon some day. I thought how cool it would be if I could even run a half marathon some day with some of my girls- they have had such a huge impact on my life. I thought about all 29 of my students and how amazed I am by their love for life and for learning. Basically, as I ran, my mind just wandered; it was a peaceful wander, one that I have never experienced. And that is what I did all the way until the finish line.
However, it wasn't all fabulous and peaceful. At mile 19, I had some bad thoughts as I had slowed down a lot. I knew I wasn't going to get my 4:10, but was still hoping for 4:15. I was so hot and exhausted. I somehow self-talked myself into continuing, but I had slowed down drastically. At mile 22, I walked a little, but then told myself I could still run a 4:15, but after that I walked three other times! At one point I said to myself, "this 26.2 is the dumbest thing I have ever done!" Finally at mile 24, a sweet older lady patted me on the back and said, "You can do this, finish with me," and that is what I did, I picked it up and never looked back. I lost her at about mile 25, but I wasn't turning back now. I couldn't believe I was only 1.2 miles away from completing my first marathon! I opened up my stride and really went for it despite the pain from the heat. I had 400 meters to go and I picked it up even more, and then I sprinted the last 200 meters to the finish line. I had done it, I just completed 26.2 miles in 4:18:28, and my my first thought was, "I want to do it again, I have to beat that time."
It was difficult to walk to the charity village, but when I got there I just plopped myself on the ground. I was disappointed in my time, and reflecting on the times I walked and was angry. However today, I am happy with it because it was my first marathon, and so many people never even complete one marathon. I have set a baseline, and now know what to do when I choose to do another one- I just hope my mom will join me for my next...