Chicago has come and gone, and much like the days immediately following a vacation or holiday, it is bittersweet. Beyond elated that I ran my first marathon, but sad to see the weekend spent with friends in this incredible city, filled with such high energy, support, culminating in such a personal achievement, (and food) come to a close. With that, I give you the first part of my recap. As this was a big first for me, I decided to separate out the realities of the experience: major highs and some lows. In most cases, I prefer the “bad news” first, but this has to be an exception!
Simply stated, I met my goal. I ran a marathon this year, and I finished it. Having been a non-competitive runner since the age of 13 or so, a marathon becomes the ultimate goal at some point, whether or not it seems feasible. I focused on making it to a half, then came another, and another, etc. Six half marathons and an adventure relay later, I was ready to take it on, and set my goal for this year. Done!
I recognize I am surrounded by blessings in the form of friendships, and the added bonus was that this weekend packaged up several of those little moments you experience with them from time to time which make you realize just how lucky you are. Let’s break it down, shall we?
We all made our way to Chicago on Friday and promptly (well, with an added side trip through Millenium Park) made our way to the race expo, took our awkward family photo (there may or may not be evidence of this floating around on Facebook… this may be my Christmas card to those with a sense of humor this year), wished to the money fairy that we could walk away with everything we wanted, saw Ryan Hall, finally realized we were all exhausted, then went our separate ways for dinner and rest.
Friday’s carb load was in the form of a tofu noodle dish from Ben Pao, an old friend named Turley (wine from Heaven), and great company as we watched Ghost Adventures and YouTube. Stop sign. Can I just say that if you’ve never watched the former, you are missing out on some entertainment gold? I can’t take this show seriously, and neither could the rest of my crew. We laughed our dinner off just in time to fire up YouTube for ‘Baby Monkey Riding on a Pig’, ‘Antoine Dodson’ (the autotune version), then learned there are way more panda videos than necessary out there. Perfect way to get my mind off the jitters and enjoy hanging out with my Chicago gang.
Saturday was perfect. Took our time getting up and around, ventured out into Irving Park for what else? Mexican food! I had to check myself though. Thanks a lot, conscience. I partook in some of the pre-meal goodness, and even stole some sips of the margarita, but I ordered a veggie-stuffed burrito the size of a juicehead guido’s arm and finished half. After a restful afternoon and evening, I made my way downtown for the big pre-race sleepover at Katy and Kristin’s hotel, (where TNT was staying).
Kristin and I laid out our race attire and accessories, got ready for bed, watched TV to get sleepy, and it was lights out. While I fell asleep fairly quickly, I was awake after four hours of sleep, and never really made it back to sleep before the 5am wake-up call.
We made it to 10-10-10, dance partied while getting ready, ate oatmeal without spoons, chugged coffee, and met Katy and Sarah in the lobby for the walk to the start line. While we were among the first to arrive, I think we were glad, as it gave us time with the port-o-johns, stretch, photo ops (including our fave yoga frog pose which makes for great hip opener and awkward family photo #2), and time to take in the faces and energy as runners from all over gathered at the start.
Kristin and I made our way closer to our pacers, and before we knew it we were walking to the starting line. I fully expected to cross no sooner than 8am, but alas! Things I’ll remember about the course in its entirety are the supportive spectators and the variety of neighborhoods through which the course winds you. Snaking our way through downtown before heading north to the Lake Shore area, we were keeping a slow, steady pace. The goal was to finish, and it was unseasonably warmer than anticipated, so slow and steady was the name of the game. We really enjoyed running through Wrigleyville, the Greek neighborhood, Boys Town, etc. and I was feeling fine. The mental challenge hadn’t kicked in, my muscles felt loose, my levels felt pretty balanced, I was hydrated, and odd as it sounds, I was pretty comfortable.
Miles 7 to 13
Then it happened. The challenges kicked in, but more on those specifics in Part II. I’ll focus on what got me through some of the challenges. Immediately, I felt a meltdown coming on, but thankfully Kristin was there. I told her, “Don’t let me lose it. Not yet.” She gracefully accepted the challenge at this point, and made it her job, (as if running 26.2 wasn’t enough) to get me to that finish line. Runner comradery at its best is in the form of a great friend. Without this girl, I’m honestly not sure I would have pushed through some of those miles… which is why she claims she didn’t leave me! Thanks, Kristin!
During these miles, I had to acknowledge the pain, and let it go. Let the mental marathon begin. This is also when I really started paying attention to anything else. Well, hello spectators! We hugged the outskirts of the lanes, as it is easier to take walk breaks, stretch, and have your name cheered by the crowd! So glad I did this. Even though these people don’t know you from Adam, there’s something about hearing your name surrounded by ‘You’re an inspiration!’, ‘You can do it!’, ‘You’ve got this!’, and so on that keeps you motivated.
There were also many signs held up by folks that were both inspirational and hilarious. We saw a proposal in progress, (the girl’s name was Shannon… but I didn’t recognize the dude, moving on) a ‘You are all crazy!’ sign followed by, ‘Vaginas rule’ and ‘I’ll still love you if you poop your pants!’ for example. I kept seeing the Philippians 4:13 verse, which always resonates with me during adversity. So these stood out to me, and with Kristin’s support, got me to the half-way mark.
Miles 13 to 15
These miles were honestly a blur. I kept thinking of all the training, those who donated to the cause for which I was running, those who would benefit from the cause, and then came a much needed pep talk from Kristin. It began with taking turns listing why we are fortunate to be able to run when there are many who can’t. Then we listed reasons why others are unable to run, be they disabilities, disease, etc. The spectators thinned out a bit as we headed westward, and into the land of no shade. Thank goodness the charity block party was positioned along these miles, because, as I learned, their cheers really support my mental marathon. I needed to get out of my head and let them cheer me on. Then came the first ‘Pain is temporary, quitting is forever’ sign. Thank you very much. We also managed to do some bad math and somehow determined that at mile 15 we were into the single-digit countdown and only had nine miles left. Ha! If only that were true.
Miles 16 to 20
I kept thinking ‘Make it to 20, you’ve done it before, you know you can do it again. From that point on, it’s all downhill.’ It was sometime along these miles that I told Kristin I just had to finish, to which she replied, “No. You don’t have to finish. You CAN finish.” I’m telling you, there’s a reason they made her a TNT mentor! She also mentioned that if I wasn’t meant to run this race, then I would have broken all my toes instead of just the one! It was also sometime during this stretch that my Garmin pooped out on me. That was actually a blessing in disguise… I’m no zen runner, so I regularly look at my watch. I soon realized I was ok with this.
So let’s review the tools of my mental marathon so far:
Great friend/running buddy who refuses to run ahead, inspirational quotes/signs, name on the shirt to elicit cheers, the energy of the crowd in general, gimp watch, positive thoughts including the fact that our pain is nothing compared to those for whom we run, who inspire us, etc.
Miles 21 to 25
Again, mostly a blur, I was using each water/Gatorade station as something to look forward to, as well as goal markers. Also goal markers? Shade spots! The heat was really kicking in, and while you would think that after training in Charleston all summer, this would be nothing, it had an impact. Signs I needed to see along this route included, ‘You are stronger than you feel right now’. So true! Another favorite was another version of the pain is temporary which read, ‘Pain is temporary, bragging rights are forever’. Amen. I didn’t come this far to flop out now! I also recall the back of a girl’s shirt which had ‘Mind’ embroidered above ‘Matter’. In. Deed.
Somehow, after a cool sponge bath, a cool towel bath, several cups of water/Gatorade, we made it to 25 miles. Thank you to the man on the mic cheering us on with ‘You are about to finish the 33rd annual Chicago Marathon! You are at mile 25 and you will finish.’ I remember saying to Kristin, “I want to go hug that guy.” Alas, I needed all the energy I had left to get me 1.2 miles down…err up the incline to the finish.
We could hear the sounds of the finish line festivities, but still had those last few meters to go. This is where the human body and its capabilities will always amaze me. Talk about pushing through adversity, what a metaphor for life. When the going was the toughest, I guess you could say I toughened up and got going! I remember mustering up a quicker pace and telling Kristin “Let’s finish this thing,” as we turned the first corner toward the finish where we could see ‘Mile 26’. When they say it’s the last .2 that really kill you… nevermind, I’m saving that for the more challenge-themed recap. We turned the FINAL corner and could see the finish. I remember stopping to walk once and thought, “WTF, it’s right there!” We linked arms and ‘Woo Girled’ our way across that finish line. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t necessarily smiling for the cameras, but I did catch sight of a wheel chair which I’m pretty sure had my name on it.
…To be continued
2 years ago
• 1 note
• view comments