A Marathon Post

It’s hard to squeeze 26.2 miles of thoughts and emotion into one post.  Hence, the marathon sized post to describe my first marathon!

In February when I signed up for the Chicago marathon, it seemed like October was so far away.  After months of training, foam rolling, and carb loading, the day was finally here!  I have been camping out at my parents, but I needed to head home to pick up my gear.  I ended up doing a dress rehearsal.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had planned to wear capri’s for the race.  Being that it was in October, I thought that would be fine with the longer, tighter running tights.  But with 70-80 degree weather all week, it looked like I was going to have to find some shorts to wear.

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I had made a list so that I would remember everything that I needed.  As I was packing up, I remembered that I had gotten a new heroes jersey this year and packed them both.  I threw everything into a bag and crossed my fingers that I wasn’t forgetting anything important.

Shot blocks CHECK

Coconut water CHECK

Sunscreen CHECK

Body glide CHECK

Pack to hold everything CHECK

Camera CHECK

Running shoes CHECK

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All of this packing made everything seem quite real.  Would I really be able to run 26.2 miles?  I wavered between self confidence (you have been training, your body is ready for this) and self-doubt (your IT band will hurt, you’ll never make it) and I was starting to feel butterflies in my stomach.  The second picture was during the thoughts of doubt. LOL!

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The night before the race, I barely slept.  I dreamt about the marathon a few times and even woke up at 2:45AM because I thought I had overslept.  A little before 5AM, my mom came in to wake me up.  It was pitch black outside, but I popped out of bed and started getting ready.  I am so lucky to have such a supportive family and this morning was no exception.  My brother had volunteered to get up early with me and drive me down into the city.  My mom got started making coffee (for him) and a scrambled egg for me.  She also turned my sweet potato overnight oats into a smoothie so that I could eat it on the go.  And, she had a map prepared so I would know where to look for them along the route.

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We made it to Grant Park by 6AM and my brother was able to drop me off on Michigan Ave.  It was still dark and the city was swarmed with runners and their families.  It was a beautiful and warm morning and I made my way over to the Charity Village.  I tried to snap some photos, but I had my old camera and the flash isn’t as strong.

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I had no idea what to expect as I made my way over to the St. Jude Heroes tent.  In my mind, it was one of those small overhead covers, so I was shocked to see a full white tent with volunteers outside holding signs and bells cheering for me as I walked in.  I must say it was an incredible feeling and I got a little choked up. 

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The tent was filled with coffee, breakfast, water, Gatorade, Band-Aids, body glide, shot blocks and anything a runner would need before and during a marathon.  The people, some of which I had met at the expo yesterday, were so friendly.  I learned that there were over 200 heroes running and that together we had raised $250,000.

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When it was time to head to the start line, the runners exited the tent together in celebration followed by words of encouragement. 

Heroes on the Run

I stayed behind to meet up with some of my friends and took one last picture before checking my bag and heading to the start line.

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We had planned to try to make our way towards the front of the line, figuring the less time we spent standing around and waiting, the less time we’d spend in the heat later.  Personally,  I was also hoping to run between a 4:00 hour and 4:15 marathon (a lofty goal I know), so I wanted to be near those pace teams.  I was impressed that we were able to see the huge START sign from the open corrals and only waited a a few minutes before crossing over the starting line on Columbus.  My friend took this picture on her phone right before we took off.

Karen and Jen

It was crowded, but not as constricted as I expected.  The streets were packed with runner and the sidewalks and medians full of people cheering and holding up signs.  I must say Chicago is an exceptional city, but the support that the residents showed throughout the entire 26.2 miles was incredible.  We headed around the loop chatting and weaving our way through other runners.  I was surprised how calm I felt starting off.  We headed north through the Lincoln Park zoo and all the way up to Addison running at ~8:30 minute/miles.  Unfortunately, I needed to do an early on potty break.  I spotted the port-a-potties on Broadway near mile 8 and told my friend I would catch up with her.  I made a quick stop, grabbed some water and my first round of shot blocks, and picked up my pace looking for a pink headband on the right side of the road.  I caught up but was fatigued from increasing my pace (a 9 minute/mile with the stop) and was happy to fall back into an easy rhythm. 

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We had both missed our families in Lakeview.  My fam had just missed me since I had thought I wouldn’t be starting until closer to 8:00AM.  That didn’t stop them from cheering on all the runners as they passed by.  And, taking tons and tons of pictures.  I had asked them to really capture the event and with two cameras they were able to get some spectacular pictures, more of which I will share in the upcoming week. 

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Thanks to the text alerts, the fam was able to track me and head over to the West Loop.  I was looking forward to the halfway point where I knew my brother, parents, best friend, her husband, and their baby would be waiting for me.  Miles 10 and 11 were tough and I was surprised by how early my legs started to feel tired.  I had pain in my right ankle, something I had NEVER felt during training.  What was fun was winding through the different neighborhoods hearing people call your name or cheer for St. Jude.  I also saw some random people that I knew watching along the way.  We crossed the 13.1 mile sign on Adams.  I was halfway done with a time of 1:54:34.

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When we ran down Adams and finally crossed Halsted, I clung to the left side of the street looking for my JEN signs.  I immediately saw my mom sporting her Heroes gear and I was overwhelmed with excitement (although probably too tired to show it).

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I can’t describe how wonderful it was to see them waiting for me.  I tried to say Hello to everyone, but knew that I was on pace for my 4 hour race with not a lot of leeway on the back half AND that if I stopped, I was feeling so tired that might just stay with them watching the race instead of finishing it.

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My best friend and my youngest fan!

After the race, the fam said that I looked strong as they handed me a cold coconut water and I continued on my way towards the Charity Block Party.   Having never seen the Chicago Marathon, there were a lot of things that I didn’t know to expect along the way.  The Charity Block Party is a stretch near mile 16 where both sides of the road are lined with the charity tents blasting music and cheering everyone along.  It really comes at the perfect time, as I think mile 15-16 were my slowest of the whole race and where I started running the last 10 miles on my own.

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I took the second half of the race one step at a time attempting to focus on the breathtaking views of the city and the unprecedented support I was feeling from the spectators.  I smiled at some of the signs…

CHAFE NOW, BRAG LATER

YOU’RE ALL KENYENS TO ME

HALF WAY TO THE BEER

THE MARATHON: 99% Mental 1% Physical

IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA 6 MONTHS AGO

 

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Doused myself in water, ran through every sprinkler I could find, and thanked the volunteers profusely for handing me a sponge that I could rub all of my face and tuck into my top.  I couldn’t believe the different things people were handing out on the side of the road, gummy bears, pretzels, dried fruit, tootsie rolls, beer, and more.  I made it to mile 20 feeling hot and exhausted.  My left IT band was screaming at me and I thought my right big toe was bleeding.  I was having trouble getting any of my nutrition down.  I tried blocks, Gu, a banana, and dried dates but spit them all out.  I was able to eat one tootsie roll (always a Halloween favorite) and just after mile 21 (after celebrating a new distance PR) I begged some man on the side of the road for an orange slice, which I had been craving.  It looked like he was giving them away, but maybe just to his friends.  When I asked, he pulled the bag of oranges away.  Feeling desperate, I yelled “I ran 21 miles for this orange, can I PLEASE have it” and he reluctantly agreed (as his friends laughed at me).  The orange tasted incredible and made me so happy!

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I ran through Pilsen and Chinatown which boasted positive energy and a party atmosphere.  My miles stayed steady around 9:30.  I had heard that the real race started at mile 21 and I started to countdown the last 6 miles.  I was too tired to really even think, but around this time I was able to decide that I couldn’t wait for my pumpkin pie blizzard, that next year I would be watching or volunteering at the marathon  not running in it, that the human body was not meant to run 26.2 miles, and that I wanted to take the entire week off from work to recover.  I passed mile 22 and headed south towards Comiskey.  The sun was hot and there wasn’t much shade.  I saw one man start to get dizzy and pass out and two other people receiving medical attention on the side of the road.  It was scary!  Although I felt ok, I knew that I hadn’t taken in the nutrition that I wanted and vowed to stop for water at every chance along the way.  I was running 9:45-10:00 minute/miles and walking through the water stations sipping a little Gatorade, chugging down water, and dumping it over my head.  At this point, I knew I would finish the race, but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to run the last few miles.  I was so tired, I wanted to cry, but didn’t have the energy.

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Finally, I turned onto South Michigan Ave with just the last miles to go.  Around this time, the 4:00 pace team passed along side me and I stayed on their heels as the spectators encouraged us to shoot for the that 4 hour time.  I gave the end of the race what I had left knowing that I would be proud of my finish no matter what the time, but that I wanted to finish strong and healthy. I felt like I was running slow, but my last two miles were just under 9:15.  I passed mile 25 where the majority of the racers were walking and I knew that I would wasn’t going to walk now.  I finally came across a big sign that said 1 mile to go.  When you think about a marathon, you picture relief in seeing that last mile sign, but all I really felt was fatigue.  I was 11 minutes shy of 4 hours and close to the finish.  I turned right on Roosevelt and headed up the one ‘hill’ crossing the 26 mile mark at the top.  I ran down the hill passing the 400 meter and 300 meter signs before rounding the corner onto Columbus and seeing the FINISH sign up ahead.  Both sides of the street were packed and people were standing in the bleachers.  I knew my family was there watching even though I couldn’t look around as my legs kicked in carrying me across the finish line in 4:00:37!!!  Everyone stops the second they cross the finish line and you are greeted with a foil wrap and your medal.  A nice man finishing next to me even complimented me on my race time and finish.  Every muscle in my body hurt and I was afraid I would start to cramp up.  I kept moving, grabbing some water, some snacks, and of course my 312 beer.

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Slowly but surely, I managed to walk my way back to the Charity Village where my family and the BOY were waiting for me at the St. Jude tent.  I think I would have started crying when I saw them except my body was too dehydrated to produce any tears.

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I immediately began spewing out my thoughts from the past 2 hours making no sense at all. My big message was that this was quite the adventure and that my body hurt EVERYWHERE!  I think they were laughing at me as they tried to follow my thought process, but they definitely got the message that I was sore.  It is really an odd feeling to be pumped up on adrenaline, but so sore and tired you can barely move.  I am so happy to cross the Marathon off of my bucket list and LOVED that I got to experience this inspiring event in Chicago!!!

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Race Reflections:

This was the HAREST physical task I have ever done.

I am thrilled that I was able to complete my first marathon in Chicago.

I still can’t believe that I finished in 4 hours!

Those were the longest 4 hours of my life that went by in a flash.

St. Jude is such a wonderful organization! I couldn’t thank the employees and volunteers enough for their support throughout training and especially on race day.

I am so lucky to have such amazing family and friends who emailed and texted their support, tracked me during the race (knowing this kept me going through some tough miles),  walked all over the city on a hot day carrying signs and taking pictures for me, stocking me with coconut water when I needed it the most, and encouraging me through every step of this marathon even though they all think that I am crazy!!!

Race Results:

Half Marathon Time 1:54:34

Marathon Time 4:00:37

Place Overall: 8902

Distance PR and Time Goal Accomplished!

13 thoughts on “A Marathon Post

  1. Jen, I am beyond impressed with your run. Truly amazing! I had chills as I was reading this and tears in my eyes. I am so proud of you!!!!!! Great recap, so much fun to read!!!!

  2. you ROCK… WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU… OF YOUR FOCUS AND DETERMINATION… YOUR STRENGTH AND YOUR STEADFASTNESS..

    HURRAY FOR JEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Congratulations! I am so proud of you!
    Having a baby will be so easy for you, now that you have done this! (labor is like a marathon!)
    Love, Beth

  4. Thank you guys for the sweet comments. I am THRILLED that you enjoyed the post and so thankful to have you as my amazing support system!!! You made this whole expereince so much more fun (even though it was really quite tough). XOXO

  5. What a great post- I felt like I was there with you! I would be more than willing to volunteer with you next year- I heard it is such an amazing sight to see all the runners and support 🙂 I am so proud of you- you kept such a great pace for the 26.2 miles and had an awesome finish time- way to go!!!

    • I am all for volunteering next year. It is great to experience and would be super fun! I actually said to the kid handing me the water when I crossed the finish line that next year I would be him…haha!

  6. […] For my previous marathon, my training was not this planned out.  I trained for and completed my first Olympic Distance Triathlon mid August and then freaked out when I realized that my mileage was not where it needed to be.  Fortunately, all of the cross training had built up a strong cardiovascular base and I was able to increase my miles each week while running ~3 days each week. […]

  7. […] When I completed my first marathon in 2011, it was the children of St. Jude and you guys that inspired me through those last 10 miles. It is true when they say that the marathon starts at mile 20. Those were the toughest physical and mental miles I have ever completed. But the streets were filled with spectators cheering me on and shouting ‘Way to go Hero!’ It brought tears to my eyes. And when I crossed the finish line, my feet on fire, I found my way back to the St. Jude tent where I was surrounded by my family and volunteers, I was full of pride and joy! […]

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