Well, race morning, I woke up early.. if you can call it that, since I did not sleep well at all. I woke up almost a dozen times throughout the night. It felt more like I had been taking a little nap than sleeping. When I got up, I got dressed for the race... aaaand we headed to downtown.
My mom and I tried to stop at a few different places in order to get some breakfast-type food to eat, just so that I would not have to run an entire marathon on an empty stomach. That task turned into an adventure... and an adventure that was more a challenge than it was expected to be. We could not find any fast food restaurant to get something to eat, so we stopped at a drug store.. which was closed. After a while, we ended up going to a little gas station, where I got a Clif Bar. Then, we were finally off to downtown Chicago.
This was my third consecutive Chicago marathon. That was lucky, because I had an idea of where I was going and what I was doing.
..that didn't save the beginning from being dramatic and anxiety ridden, however.
When we got downtown, some of the roads were already closed, making traffic a little bit of a mess. We were cutting it close on time. So, I jumped out of the car and walk/jogged the mile-ish to my corral. I came to an intersection and saw... the wheelchairs go by. That was the part when I freaked out a little bit. Logically, I knew that my coral hadn't closed yet and I also knew that the wheelchairs always start first and, often, start much earlier than everybody else.
But still... when I was trying to cross the streets and they were blocked by the wheelchairs that had already started, it freaked me out a little bit. (by a little bit, I mean a lot. I may or may not have been borderline panicked at that point.)
Anyways, I ran across the street between groups of wheelchair races and made it to Grant Park, to my corral, then felt much better about everything. I'm very thankful that I didn't have to gear check anything. That saved me from one very very long line. I got into my corral, texted my mom that I made it, she said that she had finally parked. Then I started to get more nervous. For some reason, I was dreading the race. I had hyped myself up for it, especially since last year I had a terrible race, did a horrible job training for it.. and I wanted to do better this year. I did train better, but I was not where I wanted to be. At all.
I was nervous about everything, having a bad race, freaking out, not being able to do as well as I wanted to, and so on.
I ended up talking to some people around me about things. This one woman was running her first marathon and seemed to have a mix of emotions. She was both excited and nervous. We talked about some races that I had done, but mostly... just talked about the day ahead of us. One thing that I enjoy about being a back of the pack runner is that I get to talk to a lot of people in the corral before I get to actually start. Does it calm the nerves? Not necessarily. It's just a nice camaraderie type of thing.
So, then the race started. I decided to push pretty hard in the beginning in order to get a good start, then, if everything fell apart later, I still would have had a good beginning. I'm not sure that was really the best strategy, but it was the best that I had at the moment.
I felt good. Actually, I felt great for many miles. I was killing each mile, on track to smash my PR by at least 15 minutes. I was still on track to beat it by 15 minutes by the time that I got to mile 22. I had a good race. I saw my mom at several different intervals, starting at mile 3 and going all the way through the race. I also saw Katherine and Andi at different places to, but didn't see them until mile 13ish. (I was starting to think that I would not see them at all.)
There's something about having spectators that helps get through the race. It was an energy thing. It's just nice to have someone that you know being there. (though the spectators in general in Chicago are great.)
The streets of Chicago are awesome. I loved running through the streets, seeing all of the buildings. I think that my favorite parts are being between all of the tall buildings. The course, for the most part, is pretty flat. I really enjoy the start, then running underneath the overpass.
One unique thing about running in Chicago is the number of bridges. It seems like we ran over the water a number of times, which was pretty cool. One of the time, at about mile 3, my mom was standing up on the side of the bridge cheering. That was the first time that I got to see her, so that was awesome. The bridges were really fun. I liked that they put carpet over most of them, because it made them easier to run on. (though I did see a girl trip over the carpet. I guess that you can't win them all.)
I started to feel a little bit rough a little bit after mile 22. My legs started to get very tired, my mind started to go negative, in a sense, and I started to feel like I wasn't sure I'd make it. I thought about all of the things of the last year, the tough year that it was, and all of the changes that I had gone through and was about to go through.
At a certain point, it always seems to get a little bit more difficult to run that 26.2. After 24 miles of being on pace to kill my PR, of feeling awesome, of keeping a pretty steady pace, it all started to fall apart. It got tough. I think that part of the problem was that I hit the same point where I really fell apart last year. I wasn't sure if I could run anymore. My legs were heavy, I was frustrated, I was exhausted... So I turned my phone on. I texted both Katherine and Kristie.
Kath and Andi met me and walked with me for about a half mile or so, before I turned off my phone and ran the last part by myself. It was nice to have that support. Kristie gave me a text message pep talk that helped push me through the last part.
I ended up finishing strong. I didn't get my 15 minute PR, since I walked about a half mile. (well, honestly, probably a full mile, if I could the part before I turned my phone on, too.)
When I got to the last push, that last hill right at the finish, I struggled again. That hill kills me every time, even when I'm expecting it. It feels impossibly long and large. I pushed as hard as I could through that point, and ended up finishing with a 6 minute PR.
New marathon PR: 6:24:13
I'm good with that.
The theme of this year: I'm not where I want to be, but I'm on my way. I think that this race showed that.
(thankful for my supporters near and far: those who were physically there supporting me, running all over Chicago, those who gave me words of encouragement during the whole process, and those who sent me well wishes and thoughts that day.)