Yesterday, I successfully completed my first 26.2 - the Chicago Marathon!
Finish Time: 5:00:35
Full breakdown of splits:
Overall Place: 23728
Women's Place: 8833
Age Group Place: 1653
The start of the race was pretty crazy. 40,000 people crammed into a few blocks of the road at Grant Park first by seeded corals then by mile pace. If you didn't get into the corral in time, they closed it off until the masses moved through! My friend, Cat, and I got in just in time somewhere around the 12:00 mile mark and moved up to around 11:00 where we couldn't get any farther ahead. When the race officially started, we slowly moved forward for almost 25 minutes before reaching the start line.
Then we were off! We passed a lot of people in the first few miles. I tried to keep a slow, steady pace, but it seems like we did a little surge every few seconds to make our way past a group or through a hole. It was tiring! And the crowd of runners never really thinned out. I was starting to hurt by mile 9 or 10 - way before I expected to! I thought that I would be feeling good until about 16 miles and then struggle, but the mental fight began much earlier than that. Somehow, still, I kept on running.
Our friend, Melissa, met us at multiple points along the route and gave us amazing support and encouragement! It was always something to look forward to knowing she was going to be popping out of the crowd somewhere in the next couple miles! Thanks, Melissa! You rock!
The energy of the race was also amazing. It was an almost full time distraction to read the funny signs that people made, to listen to music, or get pumped by all the cow bells and horns. And the runners were just as amusing. We ran near super woman, Wolverines, Spartans, and cavemen who grunted in character during the entire race.
At around mile 12 or so, we caught up to the 5 hour pace group and decided to try to stick near them as long as possible. But just before the halfway point, Cat had to stop to use the porta-potties, so we lost a few minutes there, and the group went past us by maybe half a mile. My legs were starting to get tired, so I was afraid we wouldn't catch up to them again. But the break waiting for Cat gave me a second wind.
We never did see the 5:00 pace group again, but when we saw Melissa at mile 20, she said that we had picked up our pace. I was surprised, because a couple miles before, we had adopted the rule to run between aid stations and then walk through them. I needed the walk breaks, and they must have really helped because despite slowing to walk, we were running faster. As you can see from the half and finishing times, our pace was remarkably consistent for the first and second halves! This also gave us the time to really stay hydrated and consume some needed calories.
Cat was a beast. She hadn't really trained for the race, but she was an inspiring bundle of endless energy for almost the entire run. When I started to struggle, she jumped right in with advice, encouragement, and concrete plans. She really got me through the middle of the race when my legs wanted to just stop.
In the last few miles, Cat finally hit the wall, and then it was my turn to help her along. I got energy from knowing that we might be able to beat 5 hours, and together we kept moving from one aid station to the next. One at a time.
With all the energy around us, the miles seemed to go by quickly. Soon we were in the final mile, the crowds cheering and pushing everyone forward. We turned a corner with about 600m to go and had to climb the only long hill on the course. Then we turned another corner and could see the finish line about a 1/4 mile ahead. All we had to do was keep running. Just finish this last stretch. And we did it! We crossed the line hand-in-hand. I looked at my watch and we had done it - 5 hours flat!
I had run my first marathon!
The finish corral was long but had everything we could desire - water, Gatorade, snacks, icy beer, foil blankets, cold wet towels, and finally after exiting the far end, shady grass to sit down on.
I'm very satisfied with my first 26.2, and I think that I will do it again some day. Not today, but some day. ;) It was a beautiful, warm, sunny Chicago Marathon, and I had a great time. I am proud to say I've done it.