Thursday, October 24, 2013

Race Day [Chicago Marathon 2013]

Sunday was the day, October 13th.

A day I've trained for 18 weeks for.

Marathon morning.

I laid everything out the night before and slept surprisingly well. Maybe the nerves settle over time as you form a routine with a race.

I walked to the train around 5:30. This year the marathon required that all participants use the expo issued bag for gear check. I walked into the station and up to the platform. It was filled with people carying the same bag. It amazes me to see all these people, likely my neighbors, have all been training for the same race I have. We've run on the same streets for hours over the summer. We are just one section of one neighborhood of Chicago.

The reach of the Chicago Marathon never ceases to amaze me.

I head downtown a bit earlier that morning planning extra time for added race security. I meet up with Jeff and Ann on the train. Jeff and I exit the train and walk into the Chicago Hilton around 6:30. The hotel is a marathon runner mad zone. We run in to one of our pace leaders and reshuffle the items in our gear check bags. The bathroom line is crazy, so we head out to the super secret CARA porta potties. We arrive at the location to no line. Every year I think to myself that having quick access to a restroom this close to the start line is worth it's weight in gold.

Shortly after 7 we are set up in Corral G. The 7:30 wave starts, but we're too far away to hear the gun go off. There's a good 20,000 runners in front of us. The mass moves forward and the Start line structure grows larger. By 8:08, we've crossed the start line.

From the start line on out, much of the race is a blur. I feel good. Jeff and I are talking as the miles click away. We see my Mom, uncle and Dave at a few locations on the North Side. On the way back south, we see my friend Sara. We maintained our pace well back through downtown and the out and back west.

Through UIC is where my body started to realize we were nowhere close to done. We kept up a good pace in the next few miles. During this time, I began to feel cramping coming on in my left foot. I've had this feeling while sitting or sleeping, but never while running. As we pass mile 21, the cramping is growing more pronounced to where I'll have to walk it off. Our pacing has been great up to this point. We're on pace to break last year's PR by eight minutes. I look to Jeff and tell him to keep going. He should PR today. I don't want to hold him back with whatever my foot has going on.

Kim jumps in with me through mile 25. That's where the best laid plans can fall apart. I am always so grateful to have her there on Archer. She tells me the runner tracking system hasn't been working well this year. We talk in small spurts about how I feel, how the elites did (they've been finished for hours by now), funny posters we saw, and keep working our way through miles 22-25. I walk through the aid stations and any time my foot ceases up.

During this time, I continue to switch my watch back and forth between current pace and overall time. I'm checking in to see if I can still make it in under last year's time. I watch the minutes pass until I realize it's not possible. Then, for a short time, I'm mad. I should have been able to do this. Then I realize what I'm doing to myself. I'm running a marathon. I have trained for months for these 4.5 hours today. I've been looking forward to it. Now I'm spending time being mad at myself for not PR'ing? Seriously? Why do I even care that much? I flush these thoughts away and focus on the positive. I'm doing this. Every step I'm closer to done, no matter how I get there.

As we reach the final mile, Kim turns off the course and I continue north on Michigan. One more mile. I can do this. After I finish this mile, I don't have to run for awhile. There will be beer at the finish. I inch up the Roosevelt bridge until I can see the Finish line just around the corner. Suddenly I can run a bit faster until my foot hits the sensor mats.

Finished. Chicago Marathon 6. 

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