A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicago Marathon Race Report

At mile 24 I saw the following sign:

You are no longer just a runner. You are now a MARATHONER.

I am now a marathoner. But it wasn't easy.

Kim and I went to the expo on Saturday afternoon to get our bibs and shirts and to check out the booths. My favorite part? The free commemorative photo:

After that it was home for dinner and last minute race prep. Kim and I watched Spirit of the Marathon which is about six runners running the Chicago Marathon. A little inspiration, no?

I could not fall asleep on Saturday night. Finally, after about 5 hours of sleep I dragged myself out of bed and choked down my usual bagel with peanut butter. Then it was off to the train to meet up with some people from my running group.

Jacob and I had run our 20 miler together so we planned to run the marathon together as well.


The start areas were crowded and chaotic but that's what happens when you cram 40,000+ people plus spectators into one area. Thankfully I was able to get into my office building which is near the start so we could use the restrooms there instead of the portapotties. Gear check was a breeze, as well, and before we knew it we were saying good luck to Kim and Jacob and I took our place in the start corral.

We ambitiously placed ourselves near the 4:30 pace group. That means we hoped to finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes. For reference, my original goal when I started this whole thing was to do it under 5 hours but when my 20 mile run went so well I started thinking maybe 4:45 or even 4:30.

Ominously, when I picked up pace bands for friends at the expo the day before the guy handing them out told me that because of the heat everyone should expect to add at least 30 minutes to their goal finish time. I sort of blew him off but, like in any good story, there was some foreshadowing going on.

The race started at 7:30 and it took us about 17 minutes to cross the start line. I texted Jason so he could start keeping track and we were off!

The first mile went by in a flash and before I knew it we were at mile 2 and approaching the first spot where Jason told me he would be. We turned a corner near my office building and I saw Jason and then my parents. And although this photo didn't turn out great, I think it probably embodies the craziness of the first few miles.

As we headed north of downtown the sun came out to play and I could feel the air heating up. We cruised through the miles feeling pretty much on pace and to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger" as well as thousand of screaming spectators. I was still feeling good and strong as I walked at the 10K mark and took my first Shot Bloks.

At mile 8 Jacob needed a restroom break so I stopped with him. The sun was starting to take its toll on me and he wasn't feeling so great either. But we knew his family was up ahead and mine was at mile 11 so we soldiered on.

He saw his family and a few miles later I saw mine.

Let me tell you: knowing that you have spectators out there cheering and waiting just for you is such a great motivator. When Jacob looked at me at mile 12 and told me I should go on without him I knew that my family was going to be even more important.

That sun was brutal and I was fading fast. When I hit the halfway point I really had to give myself a pep talk.

"Jason and my parents and my brother are at mile 17. I just need to make it to them."

"My running group is at the mile 18 aid station. I need them to see me running strong."

"If I can make it to 18 then I can totally finish this thing."

The pep talk worked for a bit but after that my pace went to hell and I decided that I wasn't even going to worry about it. Although, I have to admit, I really wanted to keep the average under 11 minutes/mile. But when I saw it creep closer to 12 I forced myself not to care.

My mom says when they saw me near mile 17 I gave her a look that essentially said "shut the f@%# up." I promise you I was probably trying to smile. It probably came out more like a grimace.

Still, it was really exciting to see my brother and my husband scouting for me from a distance.

The crowd got a little quieter until I hit the mile 18 aid station. By this time I was doing a random run/walk pattern and searching out all the people with hoses, electronics be damned!

I was walking through all the aid stations as well as a tenth of a mile after every mile marker. As I walked through mile 18 I saw several people from the running group and stopped to talk to a couple of them. They agreed with me that it was hot and that's when Geri looked down and realized I had goosebumps. "Drink more!" she ordered. "Get going!" Yes, ma'am.

I wasn't expecting to see anyone else I knew until after mile 20. When you wear your name on your shirt lots of people yell it. Lots of people say, "Go Erin! You got this! Looking good!" and such. I always tried to wave and smile at anyone who shouted my name but I never recognized them. Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of mile 19, I hear someone scream my name and I look up to see someone from work! I might have been walking at that point but it gave me a much needed boost.

Someone at some point near there had been handing out orange slices but by the time I got there they were no more. Just tons of orange slices on the ground and the smell of oranges in the air. I would have killed someone for a nice, cold orange slice right then. I was so tired of Gatorade and water (both of which I was drinking at every aid station) and my Shot Bloks. I also saw someone eating an icy pop. I would have killed for one of those, too.

I was hoping to see my family near mile 21 but when I texted them at mile 20 (while walking) they said they would miss me. Darn. But mile 21 was so crazy with the people and dragons (yes, dragons) in Chinatown that I didn't even notice. I also didn't even notice that I was now running further than I had ever gone before. I never once let that thought cross my mind.

I finally got a text from Jason that said they were at the 40K mark. Being an American who is bad at math I had no idea what mile marker that was. So on I trudged. I thought about texting back that it was now quite the death march but I didn't want to scare them. Although my knee had been holding up quite well it started to hurt when I walked but I was so hot and tired that sometimes I had to grit my teeth and walk through the pain.

Miles 22-23 were not pleasant. When I saw the 35K marker at mile 22 I realized I had 3 more miles before I would see my family. The sun was beating down on us. I saw more people walking than running. My goal time was shot. But it was at that point that I realized I was going to finish this thing.

At mile 24 the DJ was playing what sounded like Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" which made me laugh. If there was a wall to hit I hit it long before mile 24. He also admonished us that there was a woman up ahead who'd done an Ironman 4 weeks before and were we going to let her beat us??

And that's when I saw the sign telling me I was going to be a marathoner. I got a little choked up and had to fight back the emotional anxiety-induced asthma. Instead I thought about what I was going to say when I saw my parents in another mile.

"You've got this!" my mom screamed as I approached the 40K sign.

I slapped her hand. "It won't be pretty, but I'm GONNA DO THIS!" I screamed.

If you need evidence of what a good spectator interaction can do for you, just watch me look strong when I feel like hell.

I ran until the 800 meter sign. Just twice around the track, I told myself. But I stopped to walk to gather up my strength. When I could see the big screen tv just before the hill up to the finish line I started running again. I wanted to see myself running on tv, not walking.

I turned the corner onto the hill and tackled that thing. This isn't so bad, I thought to myself. Just a little bit longer than the overpass I run by my house. No big deal. And then I turned the final corner and I could see it.


I can't wait to see my official finish line photos. I threw my hands up and opened my mouth in a silent scream. I'd done it. I made it 26.2 miles. I was a freaking marathoner!!

I had no idea what my time was. My Garmin died shortly after I crossed the finish line. I was stumbling around looking for ice for my knee and wondering where to get my medal.

Finally, after getting my medal I realized that there was no more ice. I got a ton of texts all in the space of a minute. Jason asking me where to meet. Friends saying congrats. I was hot and tired and I wanted nothing more than to sit down but I knew I needed to get to the runner reunite area. And that's when I started to cry. I stood there for a minute and tried to compose myself before continuing the walk to meet my family.

My final time? 5:14:10. 30 minutes off my revised, not-as-ambitious-as-4:30 goal pace. That guy at the expo was right.

When I made it to the meeting spot my mom gave me a big hug. And she took one look at me and said, "It's okay. Let it out." I'm not ashamed to admit I bawled. Not out of sadness. Just out of pure exhaustion, frustration, and a total feeling of being overwhelmed. After a few minutes, a cold cloth wrap for my knee (still no ice, though) and finally getting to sit down I felt better although I had a killer headache. I knew I should eat something but absolutely nothing sounded good. So, while my parents headed back to their hotel, I got a massage instead.

While in the massage tent I saw Jacob walk by! "JACOB!" I screamed. I honestly didn't think he was going to finish the marathon so when I saw the medal around his neck I practically jumped off the massage table to hug him.

When I left the massage tent Kim was waiting for me. Sweaty hugs were exchanged all around and we posed for some photos.

We also discussed how when each of us came upon the Eiffle Tower guy we decided we were NOT going to let him beat us. I mean, could you let yourself be passed by this?

Didn't think so.

Today my quads are so sore it feels better to walk down the stairs backwards. My knee aches some when I bend or straighten my leg. My shoulders and upper back are sore. My calves still feel like they have rocks in them. But I'm up, I'm walking and I freaking finished a marathon.

I am so thankful for every single person who shouted my name either in person or virtually. For my friends who trained with me for the past 18 weeks. For my husband who made dinner when I had to run and who ran around the city of Chicago to support me on the big day. For my parents and my brother who came out to cheer. I couldn't have done this without all of you.

Now, who's ready for the next one?*


*Preferably somewhere colder

P.S. Huge thanks to Kim for several of these photos.

P.S. And a big thanks to my friend Rae for sending me the 26.2 car magnet.


Route:--Elev. Avg:592 ft
Location:--Elev. Gain:+4 ft
Date:10/10/10Up/Downhill: [+433/-429]
Time:07:47 AMDifficulty:3.5 / 5.0

Distance: 26.68 miles
Speed:5.1 mph
Pace:11' 46 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
110' 33-1' 135.7+0.6-6 ft
28' 51-2' 556.8+1.7+10 ft
39' 30-2' 166.3+1.20 ft
49' 57-1' 496.0+0.9-10 ft
59' 53-1' 536.1+1.0+10 ft
610' 21-1' 255.8+0.7-3 ft
710' 44-1' 025.6+0.5-3 ft
89' 53-1' 536.1+1.00 ft
913' 00+1' 144.6-0.5+6 ft
1011' 14-0' 325.3+0.2+3 ft
1111' 29-0' 175.2+0.1-6 ft
1210' 32-1' 145.7+0.6-6 ft
1311' 41-0' 055.1+0.0+10 ft
149' 56-1' 506.0+0.9-13 ft
1511' 34-0' 125.2+0.1+9 ft
1612' 26+0' 404.8-0.3-3 ft
1711' 28-0' 185.2+0.1-3 ft
1812' 49+1' 034.7-0.4+7 ft
1913' 45+1' 594.4-0.70 ft
2012' 44+0' 584.7-0.4+3 ft
2113' 21+1' 354.5-0.6-6 ft
2212' 37+0' 514.8-0.3+3 ft
2313' 21+1' 354.5-0.6-10 ft
2413' 23+1' 374.5-0.6+10 ft
2513' 51+2' 054.3-0.80 ft
2613' 28+1' 424.5-0.6+3 ft
end11' 33-0' 135.2+0.1+7 ft
Versus average of 11' 46 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com


Lacey Nicole said...

YAY! CONGRATS!!!!!! and omg "who's ready for the next one" you crazy girl :) crazy AWESOME! :) congrats congrats. i heard all about the heat in the news! love the hoses! they did that at the MORE nyc half marathon the first year it happened b/c it was craaaaaazy hot that day. so refreshing.

d.a.r. said...

I got totally choked up reading this, congratulations!!!!! What a HUGE accomplishment!!

Amanda K said...

Congratulations Erin! I had so much fun reading your report. You're such an inspiration, I'm still just barely getting started running but you're journey makes me think that one day I can do it too!

EricaH said...

Congrats on becoming a marathoner or should i say rockstar. :) Sounds like you had some pretty great cheerleaders.


Shannon said...

Congratulations Erin! It was a tough day out there, but you prevailed. The next one will be easier especially if the weather is cooler. That was brutal!

Erika said...

Way to go out there! I had so much fun cheering at that race...thank you for waving at the people cheering for you:) I saw the tower at 4 and 11, but when we waited at 22.5, never saw him come through...do you know did he finish?? just wondering. way to totally rock that race, it was so hot!

Jessica (Bayjb) said...

I really love that phrase because it is SO TRUE! I can't imagine how it felt seeing that at that point. Glad to hear you finished and survived the heat. And some of your photos in this post weren't showing up, I'll come back and check them out.

RunningLaur said...

Congratulations!!! You're a MARATHONER!!! And through such heat! Great work!

Marilyn @ Lipgloss and Spandex said...

YAY! Congrats :) I did my first marathon this year, and remember feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and relieved and this huge rush just almost bringing me to tears. You rock!

Anonymous said...

Congrats! It's great to hear about your (overall) positive experience, and that you're raring for more just one day after! Go you!

Jamie said...

Congrats MARATHONER!!! Running 26.2 in the heat is the absolute worst and you pulled it off!!! Nice job!

Linda said...

We in northern Arizona are so happy for you. What a great accomplishment! We have so much admiration for you!!!

Love Linda and Tom

Holly said...

Yay! I had to wait to get "home" to be able to leave a comment. But I am so happy for you!

Lindsay said...

Congrats on finishing your first of hopefully many marathons! If you try a spring one, it might be better temps. Look for a May marathon.

bobbi said...

YOU DID SO WELL!!!! Congratulations! I loved your race report....and the smell of oranges KILLED me in that spot - I wanted one so so badly...

Jacklyn said...

AGH! I'm so so so happy for you! As I'm training for my first in Dec it is so cool to read about people who have done it. I'm prob going to bawl when I'm done too :) CONGRATS!!!

kilax said...

St. Louis in April? Nah, too close to the two halfs (halves seems wrong) we want to do.


I love all the pics your family got. And especially the video. You look great! You would never know you were struggling then.

This was a good first marathon for us. It set us up to PR at our next one, and I am sure, taught us a few lessons. I am excited for your 10 lessons learned post.

I hope your knee is doing good and Jacob is feeling well too. Hmm. I should send him a FB message.


Anne said...

Congratulations Erin!! You did great...love the video of how strong you looked :) You are definitely a marathoner, despite that crazy heat...you did it!!

Anonymous said...

YOU DID IT, Erin!!! Congratulations!!! Despite the raging heat and sun, despite your injury - you overcame ALL of that and finished! I am so incredibly happy for you. I know how much work you put into your training, and how much this meant to you - especially with your recent knee trouble. You are officially a marathoner!!!!

Meghann said...

I think I get teary eyed every time I read a Chicago recap post. All of the emotion, all of those things go through your head, they are still fresh in my mind because I experienced them too. I was 15 minutes off from my goal, so I totally agree with that guy. That race was a challenge, but one I was so happy to be a part of.


Brandi said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile. I got choked up reading your race recap. I ran my first and only marathon last year and it was literally the hardest thing I have ever done. Your post describes exactly what goes on during that time. I think I hit my wall around mile 16 but I was alone at that time and it was tough to push through. Congrats on the finish!! That's all that matters! When you tell someone you ran a marathon, the time isn't important, it's that you finished! Something a lot of people cannot say! Congrats again!

Mica said...

Yay! You did it! Sorry that it took me so long to read your race report--I wanted to save it for when I had some time.

With the heat and your pre-race knee problems, it sounds like a really trying ordeal. Congratulations to you for persevering and pushing through all the tough parts. I hope you are so proud of yourself!

Michel said...

You did it congrats!! I was told race conditions further into the day were close to what they were the day they cut the marathon off! So remember if you finished in that you did great!

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