Monday, November 07, 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011

Brian and I cross the start line with positive thoughts. I've been saying 'We're going to kill it' for the last few days, so how could we not?

The Chicago Marathon is such a spectacle. It's easy to forget you're running - At least in the beginning. As a runner, you find yourself looking to the sides of the road or overhead to take in the sights and spectators. In those first few miles as you travel through the packed downtown streets, you marvel in what a cool experience a marathon is. Why wouldn't everyone want to do this?

Unfortunately, the miles of feeling amazing are short lived in the long 26.2 journey. Brian and I ran a solid 10 for the first 7 or 8 miles. As we headed up north on Sheridan to Addison, I started feeling ill. I tried to assess if it was the head cold or something else. I needed to give myself some time to work through it and see if I felt better. We saw Kim and then my Mom, Tricia and Dave around the ballpark.

As I passed my Mom, I wondered if I should tell her I wasn't feeling well. If I was to slow down or go to the medical tent, how would she know?

The ill-feeling became worse. I started to wonder if I would know when I needed to stop. As long as I could keep running, did I feel well enough? Or does your body not tell you when you need to stop? Is that how people pass out while running a marathon?

Then I thought through the process of quitting. If I kept feeling worse, I'd have to stop. So, how does that work? Do I walk to the side, ask the spectators to make way, remove my bib and start walking on the sidewalk? Where would I walk to? I have no phone, no money, no keys, no form of identification; nothing. All I have is five packets of Gu Roctane, my fuel belt, and the clothes on my back. All my stuff is at gear check which far away from Lakeview. Should I walk up to a spectator and ask to use their phone to call my Mom? How embarrassing would that be?

So instead, Brian and I kept going. I didn't tell Brian about any of this until much later in the race when we both felt like complete hell.

Around mile 10, we saw my friend Carrie. I was excited to see her. She told me I looked great. I realized the sick feeling had passed.

We headed back downtown in a blur, then out west. Way west. Have you ever been in bad traffic heading west on  Fullerton or Belmont where it takes you forever to get to Ashland? Imagine running to Damen. At that point in the marathon, it seems like the mental end of the world.  You can look a block south to see you're just going to have to turn around and run all the way back.

On our way back east, the sun was relentless. It was getting warm. We were heading in to Little Italy now at mile 17. We had stopped briefly to stretch as things were starting to ache.

Here's where I start thinking about my reeler. That's Kim. Instead of thinking about how far I have to go to finish (which you can't process doing anyway), I think of how far until I get to Archer just west of Chinatown. That's where Kim waits for me to arrive, then 'reels' me in, like a fish on line to the finish line.

But before we reach Kim, we have to tackle Pilsen. Pilsen is quite arguably the party area of the Marathon. By far the best music on the course and there's usually some spectators handing out beer. I kept an eye out for my Dad, but never did see him. I had found his camouflaged hunting hat twice last year in Pilsen. Brian did find his friends, which I was happy to see. By the time we reached Pilsen, we had seen my Mom, Tricia and Dave four or five times. They are amazing.

Rounding the corner at 18th and Halsted, we see the temperature reading on a bank sign of 89. Better than 90 something, but far warmer than we'd been hoping for.

As Brian and I headed south on Halsted approaching the south branch of the river, we saw a familiar face. Kim had arrived at her usual spot early and decided to walk further up the course and help us over the Halsted bridge. We were so happy to see her. We forgot about our aches and pains as Kim gave us the race highlights she'd watched on T.V.

Chinatown was a madhouse, but Tricia managed to find us in the crowd. She'd made the best signs!

Now we headed south on Wentworth. For me, this is where I'm transported in to a time warp, or as most people call it, the Wall. There's less than 5 miles to go, yet it mind as well be 10. Your body asks why you're doing this. Regardless, you just have to keep moving forward, however fast that may be.

At 33rd we cross the Dan Ryan. Logistically, this is good. We are heading east and we're very close to turning north. Once we turn north on to Michigan, my very fuzzy brain starts doing math. 35th street minus 12th street equals 23 blocks. I can do 23 blocks. This process continues on until the Roosevelt street sign is in view.

At mile 24, we see Ken, Sara and Kim S. They jump up and down when they see me, which makes me smile. Smiling doesn't hurt, but just about everything else does.

Kim helps me push forward up until 13th and Michigan when we run in to John. John's working for the marathon today instead of running. His job is to weed out anyone who's on the course and doesn't have a bib. He looks at Kim, and Kim points that she'll exit the course on the left. Now I have to prepare to climb the Roosevelt bridge alone.

I can only imagine what I must look like 'running' up this hill. I am sure it's a train wreck. But I'm running, or, I think I am. So many people are walking up the hill. We have a quarter of a mile to go.  I see Jen near the top of the hill. She's also working for the marathon today and cheers wildly when she sees me. As I push up the hill, I see a runner with a prosthetic leg. He wears a shirt that has the Wounded Warrior Project logo on it. I'm inspired by this man.

We turn the corner to see the finish line right ahead of us. I run in at 4:54:09 and hold up four fingers.

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