Chicago Marathon Recap

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
One month ago today, I ran a marathon.

I still kind of can't believe that I even did it.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  But I've got the medal to prove it!

The entire weekend was a brilliant spectacle.  C, my parents, and I headed for Chicago on Saturday morning for a long drive with many expected bathroom breaks.  (I was really hydrated!)  The closer we got to the city, the more butterflies in my stomach I got.  By the time we rolled into the hotel parking garage, I was almost hyperventilating.  Luckily my father is a total genius and got us a room at the hotel right across the road from where the Expo was being held.  Once we were settled into the hotel, I was kind of going crazy so we headed over to the Expo to pick up my packet and my t-shirt and explore the Expo.  Before this, my only Expo experience was before the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon in 2011, but this one blew my mind.  There was so much stuff, so many cool booths, and unfortunately - so many people.  I picked up my packet without a hitch but when we were wandering around the booths, I started to get so nervous.  I wasn't even sure I could finish the marathon and here I was mingling with all of these amazing people pretending to be a marathoner.  I was having some serious doubts.  Luckily, I brought an amazing support team with me.  My mom went around grabbing free samples, asking if I needed to buy any gels or shoes or t-shirts.  My dad plotted out their spectator plan based on my corral and my expected time.  C bought me an awesome Chicago Marathon long sleeve and held my hand while I slowly freaked out.

One thing I am so grateful that my parents forced me to do was this cool exhibit in the Nike shop.  They had a big flat screen TV and they would scan your bib to get your name, and display it with a cool phrase about rocking the marathon.  It made for a great photo-op, don't you think?

After the Expo was done, my family did the best they could to keep me relaxed and not get too worked up about what I was going to do tomorrow.  We met up with my best friend H for a snack.  Then we had a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Wildfire where I ordered whatever I wanted.  After dinner my dad found probably the greatest pre-marathon entertainment ever - The Musical of the Living Dead.  A musical....with zombies.  It was perfect.  By the time we got back to the hotel, I was so happy that I wasn't even worried about the race.

That night I dreamt that I had already finished the race.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up that morning and remembered that I still had to run 26 miles.

I got everything around, changed into my race clothes, and then noticed that my running watch had broken.  After a mild panic attack, I was able to rig my watch with a safety-pin and prayed that it would hold for the whole race.  I applied my pace band tattoo (probably the coolest thing about the entire marathon!) and woke everyone else up so that they could walk me down to the shuttle - the last time they would see me before the start of the race.  I was so nervous I hardly knew what to do with myself.  Luckily the shuttle dropped us all off towards the back of the starting area, so I had a long walk to relax and take it all in before I got to Corral D.

Inside the corral there was such a buzz about everything.  Everyone was jumping, stretching, getting one last jog in before the race started.  I won't lie and say that I didn't see four gentlemen crowding around a tree to take one last potty break before entering into the corral.  I guess waiting in line for the port-a-potty is for girls.  Once I got in the corral, I took off my extra layers, tossed them in the donation bin, and waited. 

Honestly, once the gun went off, I don't really remember much of the race.  I've heard its common for people to totally forget the first half, which is kind of what I did...and honestly what I hoped would happen.  Regardless, I remember things in sections, so here's how my memory of the race goes.
  • Mile 1: Sticking with the pace group.  Shocked by how many guys just sprinted over to the wall under this bridge to pee.  Marathoning dudes are gross.
  • Mile 3: I guess those dudes knew what they were talking about.  Time for a potty break for me....but I'll have to sprint and catch the pace group!  Oh well.
  • Mile 6: These signs are hilarious.  Remember "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon" and "Worse Parade Ever" to tell C when I get done.  Is that guy juggling oranges?  He dropped one.  I hope I don't break an ankle.
  • Mile 13: Almost halfway.  I really hope I get to see my parents....we should have made a better plan.  OH MY GOD THERE THEY ARE!  I LOVE YOU ALL FOR DOING THIS!
  • Mile 16: Okay, so this is as far as you've ever run.  It's an adventure.  Try not to slow down.
  • Mile 21: You're doing it!  You might not be able to lift your legs off the ground, but you're doing it!  Feel free to walk through the next water station because you earned a little break.
  • Mile 23: Just finish.  You don't have to get a certain time for people to be proud of you.  Just finish and you'll prove yourself wrong.
  • Mile 25: Dig.  Just dig.  You want this more than it hurts.
  • Mile 26.2: Holy crap, I can't believe I just did that.  I need a beer.

I finished with a 4:01:28 and I am so proud of that.  Sure, I wanted a 3:50, but with my training I wasn't really in a position to push that hard.  I wasn't trained for the second half of the race.  But I'm using it as a stepping stone.  Now I know what it takes to finish and I know what it will take to finish that much faster.

After the race, the amazing volunteers guided us through and a lovely gentlemen helped me collect my medal and get me some water.  The food choices were amazing and I got a huge glass of 312, but I couldn't help laughing because every single person in the finishing chute looked like a zombie wrapped in tin foil.  Once we all stopped running, all of the pain and soreness and exhaustion just hits you.  I've never been so exhausted.  I drank half of my beer and wandered out into the larger meeting area, terrified that I wouldn't be able to find my family.  I ended up sitting down and turning on my cell phone to be greeted with tons of Facebook messages, tweets, and texts from all of the people tracking me and supporting me.  I cried then and there out of sheer joy.  I was so happy, not only to be done with this monumental challenge I had put to myself, but also just for the outpouring of love from family, friends, sorority sisters, running mates, and anyone and everyone.  So to all of you - THANK YOU!

I finally found my family and C and we sat down in the grass and they told me about their adventures trying to find me on the course.  Side note: Spectating sounds like a tougher job than running!  I told them all about the crazy things I saw on the course, the funny signs I remembered, and then I realized that I might not be able to get up so we started the long, slow walk back to the shuttle and back to the hotel.

I'm so proud of what I did and so grateful for all of the people who supported me throughout my training and on race day.  I honestly don't know what I would have done without C and my family.  I just hope they're ready for my next marathon!
1 comment on "Chicago Marathon Recap"
  1. Apparently I started chopping up onions around Mile 13 of this post. Ahem. I'm SO happy you wrote this up! I love the "Alana Owns 26.2" photo. It was so fun to watch you run via the little person on the website and to virtually cheer you on. You ran a marathon!!! Woo!!!!!!!! :) :) :) (Can't wait to follow your next one ;))


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