A blog by runners. For runners.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon: My First Marathon!

My first marathon. I ran the Chicago Marathon last Sunday. It should have felt fabulous when I crossed that finish line, right? That's what I was trying to tell myself. I put my hands in the air for the finish line photo because everyone else was and I thought that doing so would make me happier. I still have yet to figure out why I was so bummed crossing that line!
Let me take you back in time to Chicago Marathon 2009. I watched Adam run and was completely in awe of the elites and even more inspired by everyone else running. And so, this was really the starting point of my training. I already had a half coming up a month later and another in January. I trained in the dead of Chicago's harsh winter hoping to run my best in my January half (I didn't, but that's another story).
As luck would have it, I got a Team in Training scratch off card in a race goodie bag and underneath the little scratch off box I won an entrance into one of the events they participate in. Chicago 2010 was one of these events. I was officially running Chicago! Special bonus- it was for a cause that hit close to home. Thanks to the support of friends and family, I went on to exceed my $1,000 goal for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
For 20 weeks I was on a run-eat-sleep-repeat cycle. And I liked it. At times I felt like I was a newborn baby, eating every three hours and going to bed at 8:30. Ah, I really did enjoy this eating, though.
I was so pumped to race. I made a playlist with songs to get me through what I knew would be the hard miles. I was ready to rock.

Race Day

I woke up and I wasn't nervous. I knew this was not a good sign. I should've been nervous that I was running the furthest in my life that day, right? The entire wait at the start and the walk to the start, I still wasn't nervous. So when did I actually get nervous? Perhaps it was the timing of my caffeinated energy gels (which I'm never doing again), but when I approached the mile markers where I knew friends and family would be, my heart was racing as fast as my legs were.
At mile 10 I made the mistake of drinking Gatorade. I knew I shouldn't have. I never drink Gatorade. It gave me the worst side cramp of my life! I walked-ran from 10 to 14 and stopped at a med tent to make sure I was still alive.
This didn't slow me down too much, though. I was on target to finish in 4:30 until mile 18. My wall. I saw my friends and family and just started crying. “I never want to do this again” where the only words I could say. Needless to say, 18 to the end was not fun. I forced myself to run 10 minutes and walk 2. My body was fine. It was a pure mental game at that point.
I should mention that the alert advisory for the heat went from green to red in about an hour. The bank clock said 87 degrees.
My initial retrospective look was filled with a bunch of “what ifs”. What if I had trained with a group all 20 weeks, would I have been better trained? What if I didn't skip those couple mid week runs here and there? What if I actually did all of my cross training?
Right. I've since come to the realization that running 26.2 miles is in itself quite the accomplishment. I hung my medal over my bookshelf where I can see it every day. I plan on doing a spring marathon and definitely Chicago Marathon 2011. I have to beat my time. I just have to.
I knew I liked training for half marathons, but training for marathons was a different story. I fell in love. I like the structure it gives to my day. I enjoy eating healthy because everything I eat affects how I perform. I like taking up new cross training activities. I like talking about running to anyone who will (pretend to) listen. Not only am I a runner, I'm marathoner. Man, that feels good to say!
Have you ever had a bad race experience? Did the weather, race route, or just a plain old bad day get you down? Please share your story!
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