Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicago Marathon Race Musings

I am sad that I don't think I can fully capture and express how the day went. So this is not a race recap, so much as it's my musings on the day with a bit of recap thrown in for flavour.

I slept surprisingly well the night before. The first time I woke up was after 1.30, which was much better than I had expected. I eventually got up around 4.30 to start getting ready and eat a little breakfast. At 5.30 I headed out towards the Red line with a stop to pick up coffee along the way. I started spotting fellow runners as soon as I stepped out my front door.

Because I'd done the CARA Marathon training program, I had access to a special CARA area at the Hilton hotel with gear check plus we had our own special port-a-potties near the start line (something I should have made better use of). I dropped off my bag and met up with a few of the girls from my training group. We got a few group shots and then headed for the start.

Excited before the race

Waiting for things to get started
I started with the girls from my group but lost them after the first water station. The early miles flew by. I was trying to look at everything and memorise the experience. Of course, now, it's all a blur. I remember smiling heaps and trying to high five every kid who had their hand out. At around mile 5 I knew I needed to take a bathroom break. It's moments like these that I am jealous of the guys and how they can make use of the trees. The lines at the toilets were just too long for me though to take a break, so I kept on.

The support on the course was fantastic from start to finish. While there were stretches that were quieter than others, I never felt like I was out there on my own. The huge number of people around me running helped with that too. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to run Chicago as my first marathon.

To say I had favourite parts would not be accurate. There are just parts I remember more clearly: people standing on the bridge supports to get above the crowd and cheer, the music and colour of Boystown, the familiarity of Lincoln Park, the huge support and camaraderie on Charity Row, colour and dancing beats in Pilsen, super slippery banana peels after the 20 mile marks. Unfortunately, there were so many parts of the course when I really didn't know where I was. Note to self: Experience more Chicago!!

My pace plan for the race was to try and keep things even. It's pretty safe to say I have identified an area that I can continue to work on. I would say that for the first 30km or so I wasn't too bad. But after there things slowed down. There was no wall. This was mostly a reflection of tired legs and not being confident enough in my abilities. It's so easy now to look back on things and say I should have done things different.

Going in to the race I had a few goals:
1) Finish - it's your first marathon, so just be happy with getting across the finish line. It's no small achievement. But I ultimately knew that I would be disappointed if this was the only goal I achieved.
2) Sub-5:00 - this goal was the one that I fixated on and had repeatedly told myself I wasn't willing to compromise on.
3) Sub-4:45 - my "wouldn't it be nice" goal. But I never believed I could do 4:45, even though a variety of pace calculators said I could. And while in my head I thought about this quite frequently, I never mentally committed to achieving it. This was my undoing. My 20/20 hindsight says this was well within my reach.

When I got tired and sore after the 30km mark, I knew that I had enough time left to meet sub-5:00 while relaxing my pace. Sub-5:00 was the goal I had mentally committed to. So slow down I did.

An illustration of not maintaining an even pace
Please don't get me wrong. I am beyond happy that I am a marathoner. I am also very pleased with my 4:53:22 finish time. But the feeling that I didn't live up to my potential is nagging at me somewhat. But maybe that's what the next marathon is for?

Now, as I limp around nursing a very strained left leg (I could even concede injured given my swollen and crunchy knee), as the endorphin buzz of the day has worn off, how do I feel?

Chicago Marathon.
I loved every minute of you even when I was hating you.
You were all that I had hoped for and more.
You will were worth all that I put into training for you - every early morning, every mile on the treadmill, every blister, every toenail, everything.

You were the time of my life.


  1. Congratulations marathoner! And congrats on the sub 5! That's awesome :)

    I love all the memories you wrote about from the marathon. Each day I seem to remember something different that caught my attention- like waving to the seniors in the nursing home around mile 6?

    Don't let it get you down that you didn't live up to your potential. Marathons are tricky beasts and you never know how they will turn out- that's what keeps me coming back to them :)

    I am so happy that you had a positive first marathon experience.

    1. Thanks!
      I agree on the delayed memories. I'm thinking of new things all the time too.

  2. Congrats on your first marathon!

  3. YAY!! You did awesome!! I am so happy that you enjoyed and savored the experience and you were damn close to that stretch goal! Next time!!

    1. You are right - next time :)
      I'm really glad that I made sure to focus on experiencing the race and not just running it. I'll never have a first time again and it's so easy to overlook living in the moment.

  4. Hoorah first marathon!
    It is really hard to feel we reached our current potential for the first time doing such a hard distance. So much has to go perfect, no previous experiences to learn from mistakes that only racing the distance will teach you.

    I loved the experience myself, everyone I got to meet through the journey, new friends I've made that I would never have met otherwise. It showed me a lot and let me know that we can do so much more!

    Great job marathoner!