Leading up to this marathon I was filled with all types of nervousness, memories of the Vancouver marathon always at the back of my head. After Vancouver I said I would never run another full marathon again. Yet here I was, ready to toe the start line of my 3rd marathon in 3 years of running.
I took the training for this marathon very seriously, found my weaknesses and made them strengths. (You should see my single leg squats and hip flexibility!) One of my biggest issues in the past was staying injury free during marathon training. Strength training 2 days a week and running 4 days was the perfect balance and kept me injury free during the 3 months of training.
1. Stay injury free
2. Run sub 4 hour marathon (reach goal)
3. Run sub 4:20 marathon
4. Beat my mental demons (my toughest goal)
Getting out of my head and not negative talking to myself during a race has always been a weakness of mine. I've always been able to convince myself to let up and settle for less than I know I am capable of. It was no different this time, but how i battled it through the race was different.
From the moment we landed in Chicago on Saturday morning, there was a marathon vibe in the air. Leaving the airport we were greeted with a overhead highway sign welcoming runners to Chicago for the marathon. The streets were lined with banners and posters. I stayed at the Hilton Chicago the official race hotel, all their staff were in Chicago Marathon shirts, elevators plastered with with marathon posters and even the room key was Chicago marathon themed! They automatically gave all runners late checkout and really catered to the hotel being filled with runners.
The Race expo, very well organized no lines but plan to spend money and a bit of time there! The race weekend high gets to everyone and money will be spent! There are a lot of cool things to take photos with too!
Nutrition & Fuelling:
I find pre race nutrition one of the toughest things to get right, but I think after 2 marathons of not doing it right along with the advice of my naturopath, Dr Marc Bubbs I nailed it on the head for Chicago.
First half of the race I had non caffeinated gels, 3 Honey Stinger chews every 45 minutes. The second half caffeinated chews, also 3 every 45 minutes. During training I laid off the caffeinated chews at the end of my training to ensure I would feel the extra kick when I needed it. Oh yes, I felt the much needed 9.6mg of caffeine kick every 45 minutes!
I ended up in start corral J with the estimated finish time of 4:59:56-5:00:05 (yes they were very specific times). Though these times were way off my goal time I tried to not let it bother me and planted myself as close to the front of the corral as I could. Starting too fast I knew wouldn't be an issue, there wasn't room to go anywhere. There were 3 corrals ahead of us in the Wave 2 start.
Here are some interesting, fun, odd things I noticed throughout the 42.2k course:
- Under the first bridge, the number of guys drop their shorts to go wee under the bridge. Quite possibly the only day they can ever pee in public in front of the police without repercussions
- Porta potties at the first two aid stations were packed - I held off till the third aid station to go to the washroom. Also go the extra distance to the stalls at the very end. There was only 1 person ahead of me.
- Running over bridges is weird but if you aren't on the side with the carpet don't sweat it. Just watch your step and keep running.
- Roads with islands in the middle and you have to choose to stay left or right. I always hung left, I knew most turns were on the right side and the right side of the course was always packed. Left side, less runners.
- Aid stations, I always got my Gatorade and water at the very end of the tables. The front is always crowed and many stopped to drink. I drank 1 Gatorade and 1 water at every aid station.
- Last 400m was on a slight incline and I mean slight. But after running 41.80km you can feel every bit of that incline (I'm a bit hesitant to call it anything more than an incline, certainly not a hill).
Also with 45,000 runners don't expect to ever be alone or have a lot of space. There was quite a bit of weaving throughout the whole race but it was nice to always have that many people around as well. It wasn't until the final 3 miles did I really notice the street widened and runners were more spaced out.
The final 800m was completely lined with spectators, I took my headphones out to fully embrace what I was seeing. It was pretty amazing. I loved the finish, I had heard a lot of about the spectators as well as the the slight incline that takes you to the finish line. It was pretty amazing getting to the top of the incline turn left and the finish line is a sprint distance away!
I saw the overhead clock and it was 5+ hours gun time but I looked down at my watch 4:17:35. I was ecstatic, I was tired, exhausted but without any of the pain or hurt I felt after the Vancouver marathon. I had a 30 minute marathon PB but what I was most happy was not letting my head get in the way of my running. Fighting back against the negative talk. I achieved 3/4 of my goals and I know a sub 4 hour marathon is more than possible now.