Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Marathon Morning

It's 4:30am on a Sunday.

I put on an outfit I'd laid out days before.

The night was somewhat restless, spent in and out of sleep and making multiple trips to the bathroom.

Must be the morning of the marathon.

I eat my regular breakfast, grab my bag, and head downtown on the El. The weather is warm, even for 5 in the morning. I leave my place with just my raceday outfit on. The train goes from nearly empty to completely packed, all full of marathoners and spectators.

I head over to Charity Village in an attempt to be part of Salute's team photo. It is completely dark out with no wind. The city looks stunning as I walk over the 12th street bridge. I reach charity village which breaks the morning's silence - with Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance.' There are dozens of tents - big, well known charities like the American Cancer Society and much smaller ones like Friends of Prentice for Northwestern's Womens Hospital. I get to Salute's tent to find I had missed the team photo by a few minutes.

I then head to gear check to turn over my bag. I pass by a 'Last minute runner preparation' booth which has jars of vasaline, band aides, safety pins, maps, and more. It is jammed with people. I then head over to the CARA compound at the Congress Hotel. This three step process takes nearly a half hour through crowds and pure distance, and I wonder if I'll be regretting all the pre-race walking later.

Up in the CARA compound, I find the 'Mmm Mmm Good' balloon, which is Kimberley's call sign of the day. Under the balloon stands most of the Saturday 6:30am Montrose Harbor 10:30 pace team. There's a mix of emotions here, varying from excitement to pure fear. We're all, to some degree, concerned about the weather. We sit, wait, watch the sun come up and get more nervous. Then we head out.

But one quick stop along the way - portapotties. This year, CARA had a special section of portapotties just for their Marathon Training members, located just off Van Buren and Michigan. Our group arrived at the portapotties to see a three-layer security detail in place, comparing to going through airport security with the TSA. On the other side of the security line stood a line of clean portapotties with NO line. This is the sort of thing a marathoner dreams of for race day morning. We took full advantage of the situation, even sitting down for a few minutes to regroup before heading to the corral.

The 'Mmm Mmm Good' balloon meets a group of red balloons with a 4:45 finish time sign, which is Tomas, another one of our group leaders. Now we stand and wait. Kim releases the balloon now that the group is together. We are in a sea of 36,000 people. We are somewhere in the middle of the sea, just waiting for movement. Motivational music is playing loudly and there's lots of talking between members of the group.

7:30 passes. We are so far back that we do not hear the gun go off or see the elites start. Shortly thereafter though, the sea of people does start slowly moving forward. We walk til 7:53, when we finally reach the start line.

Our 10.10.10 marathon now begins.

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