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The Marathon Recap Pt 2

25 Oct

The week leading up to Chicago, I was having a difficult time focusing on anything other than the marathon. The Thursday before we left, I had an evening class. It’s safe to say that academics were the last thing on my mind that night. I nervously told classmates not to expect great things from me – who knows if I would even finish? That Friday at work, I could barely handle being at the office. My#1 thought that day was “in a mere 2 days you will be running a marathon.

Kris and I left Saturday, and it’s possible he heard variations of “I’m worried” every 20 or so minutes. Poor guy. As we flew the short distance from Minneapolis to Chicago, Kris ordered an adult beverage. We had been given some free Southwest drink coupons from a friend (please, we’re waaay too cheap for that otherwise.) I had Vitamin water because, well, no alcohol before the race.

Now the majorly disappointing thing about our flight was its arrival time. Liz was having a blogger meet up that day at 12 and our flight didn’t even arrive until 1. Boo to that! But maybe it was a good thing after all as I’m sure I would have come across as a creepy stalker. #hatewhenthathappens #hashtagsonwordpressmeannothing

Expo

We checked into our hotel and immediately shuttled over to the Expo which was held at a huge convention center. I picked up my bib and race packet, and we walked around checking out the many stands for a while. Funny observation about runners: even though the race was not until the next day, the majority of people there were in athletic clothes. I felt kind of out of place with my jeans and riding boots.

Expo 2

Can you tell how nervous I am??

From there it was off to eat an enormous plate of spaghetti and bread, 100% guilt free. Carbo-loading, baby.

Dinner

And then it was back to the hotel early to rest up. I tried not to dwell on the fact that the marathon was the very next morning. Surprisingly, I was able to sleep, but when the alarm sounded at the early hour, I just wanted to curl up for a minute in denial. But I did get up, put on my running outfit, grab my hat, my water belt, Garmin watch, iPod (actually iPods, I borrowed my brother’s shuffle in case mine died. I needs my music!), ate a banana, drank some (eew, gross) coconut water, and headed out the door. We had roughly a mile and a half to walk to get to Grant Park, and I saw many other runners making their way over as well. In fact, some runners were actually running to the start of the race. Just for the record, I was not one of those people. Not even at all.

When we finally reached my drop off point I gave Kris an extra long hug and walked through the gates to my designated start chorale. When I signed up back in February, I estimated myself to finish between 6 hours 10 minutes and 6 hours 30 minutes. I figured that was a safe bet for me, so I was put in the very last start chorale.

Two days before the race I read about something called the Nike Pace Teams. It’s a free group you can join and run with, led by experienced marathoners who can keep a specific pace throughout the course. I was really interested in the 5:45 pace. I thought this would be a good thing to join because I had heard countless times, and discovered myself, that running is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. Having a group to run with would help me focus less on how many minutes left until I walk, how tired I am, etc. Just keep with the group. The problem was that the 5:45 group was one group ahead of my start chorale. Upon entering my chorale I was able to spot the 5:45 group ahead of me thanks to their sign.

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There was about a 25 minute wait from when the second wave of (non-elite) runners started to when I crossed the start line. During that time it was interesting to people watch. All these people had put in so many hours of training, all these people wanted the same thing as me. To finish this thing. I loved hearing people’s conversations. Somehow it was oddly comforting to know that I was not the only one nervous as hell.

And then we were off. I crossed the start line of the marathon, and felt great. Usually, I am not the type of runner who finds her stride quickly. Usually, during the first mile or so my muscles aren’t warmed up, and it’s altogether not fun. This time my muscles were ready, and I found my pace. And somehow I just wasn’t tired. Thank you very much, adrenaline. I felt so great that I skipped my first 2 scheduled walk breaks. The crowds were incredible. So much support. And before I knew it, 2 miles had already gone by and I found the 5:45 pace group. Just like I suspected, joining this group definitely contributed to my success. Unlike my training group with The Running Room, I really enjoyed running with this group because they ran at a comfortable pace for me. It wasn’t me spending the run trying to keep up. And they, too, did run/walk intervals. I didn’t have to keep track myself, just follow the group.

In between miles 3 and 4, I heard my name and saw Kris. I ran over to him, gave a quick hug, but had to be on my way to keep up with the group. Right after mile 6 is when the coconut water hit me. I had to go. One of the ladies in the pace group split off to head for a port-o-potty. I thought this was as good a moment as any, especially if another member of the group was leaving. I tried to hurry as fast as I could, but once I was out there was no sign of the group or that other runner. Cue slight panic as miles 2-6 had gone really well being with them, and I absolutely didn’t want to think about completing the remaining 20 alone. I ran alone for a few minutes before recognizing another girl from the group. She, too, must have split off at that point. Her name, I learned, is Brenda. She’s from Texas and Chicago was her 2nd marathon. Shout out to Brenda, as she was awesome to run with for a while. During my run with Brenda, we ran past Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. It brought back memories of the summer Ali and I lived in the city. Visiting Lincoln Park Zoo was something fun and (free) we did a few times. If only I would have known then that 6 years later I’d be back, running a marathon. I probably wouldn’t have believed it.

A little in to mile 7 we caught up with the pace group. I was super relieved to be back with them. I think Brenda was too. And from there we just kept going. I honestly couldn’t believe how good I was feeling. In none of my training had runs ever gone this well. Again, thank you adrenaline and crowds. I noticed around mile 10 (into the double digits, oh yeah!) that my feet were starting to get slightly achy, but it was nothing I couldn’t push through.

And then at mile 11 I heard my name and saw Kris, Karla, Kayla, and Mel. By that point the girls had gotten into the city and met up with Kris. It was so good to see them! I ran over, almost knocking into a guy, and said a quick hello. Here is a video Kris took. He later asked why I wasn’t more excited about the Gatorade – little did he know how much Gatorade had already been handed out. Props to Chicago for keeping us all hydrated, but this wasn’t something super exciting to me at the time 🙂

Despite slightly achy feet, I was still feeling good. When we crossed the halfway point, I remember thinking that every step left was less than what I had already taken. I had been taking my gels every 4 miles. It’s basically a packet of goo that provides calories and energy for longer runs. Not the most appetizing thing ever, but I do think it helped as the miles went up.

I remember around mile 15 is when things got harder for me for a few reasons: I was starting to feel tired, there was less of a crowd, we were out in the boonies, and there wasn’t a lot of shade. The crowds cheering really do help. Despite all that, I did keep up with my group. Miles 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 were hard, but I pushed through. I wanted to stop and walk at mile 20, but still, I kept with the group.

However at mile 22, things changed. I had gone from miles 2-22 with the group, but I needed to slow myself from their pace because of the pain in my feet. And sadly, at that point I let them go on without me. And I walked. And walked. This was far and away the hardest moment of the race and I’m slightly ashamed to say I walked from mile 22 to 23.

But when 23 came around I knew the end was so close. I had come so far, and I couldn’t give in to prolonged periods of walking. I saw my friends again and it was enough to keep me going. I made it through 23. Then 24. Mile 25… only 1.2 miles left. There were so many walkers at this point, and I was so tired that I did give in to walking more than I should have. I thought nearing the finish line would somehow bestow miraculous energy upon me. Not the case until a girl put her hand on my shoulder and said, “No, no walking. We are here. We did it. Let’s finish strong. I’ll run with you.” So with her by my side, I saw the group, gave a wave to my friends like “Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m running!” and headed up the hill towards the finish. As I turned the corner and saw the Finish banner, I uncontrollably started to cry. I was crying as I finished the Chicago Marathon in 5 hours and 52 minutes. And I kept crying even as a volunteer put the medal around my neck. Slow to many, but hey, I beat my goal time by 38 minutes. So slow or not, that makes me damn proud. I called my parents who unforunately couldn’t make it, and then went to find my group.

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A selfie I took right after finishing. You may notice the tears.

I was handed, like all other finishers, a 312 beer which I took 1 sip off and dumped out. Just a head’s up: beer immediately following a marathon? Nu-huh. By the hundreds of scattered, still full cups, around the park, I seem to not have been alone there.

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After meeting up with the group we headed back to the hotel where I attempted to take an ice bath. In case you’re wondering, the Hyatt Magnificent Mile does not have a truly cold option. It was lukewarm at best, which is not what I needed. I mustered up the energy to head down to Greektown for a delcious supper where we had (see Marathon recap pt1) no wait.

So I did it. I am a marathoner. People ask me if I will do another. Honestly, a month ago I would have confidently said no. But now my answer is more like never say never. We’ll see. I would want to do it with someone or a group, and have a little less going on in my life if I ever did it again.

The rest of my time in Chicago I was sore as can be, but we still managed a trip to the Nike store to get my medal engraved. This is also where I was a sucker and spent way too much $ on a finisher t-shirt and hoodie.

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We took a trip to Hyde Park to get delicious tarts at Medici bakery, visited The Shedd Aquarium, had deep dish at Gino’s East, popped into Topshop (where I only could afford a necklace), and saw The Bean.

I will always remember this weekend fondly, and look back to it if I ever start doubting myself. Because me, the girl who used to despise running, and thought a half marathon might as well have been to the moon, did a full freaking marathon.

Oh, and in full disclosure, I now am one of *those* people with a 26.2 sticker on their car. I know – it’s a bit braggy and all that, but there it is anyway.

Photos from Oct 14, 2013

If you’re still reading this, wow, I’m impressed you’ve stuck with it so long 🙂

xo, Kenz

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