The Chicago Marathon Race Report: 42 Down, 8 to Go


So here I am, in my balmy Florida surroundings, getting back to my routine and missing the much better weather in Chicago. I wanted to take a few moments today to share my Chicago Marathon race report.
Warning: this is long! If you don't want to read it all, skip to the end for the Cliff's Notes.
First of all, I don't have enough great things to say about this amazing city!  I thought New York was going to be my favorite "big city" forever, but I have to say that Chicago may have taken its place.  The people. The sights. The food. The weather. The public transportation.  It was all fantastic. So easy to get around and so much to do!
For those of you who don't know, I am otherwise logical, but ridiculously superstitious about my races. A shirt that fits right, a cool race number, something that reminds me of a PR race - I look for all these kinds of signs that a race will go well. And I had all the signs above.
Something happened before this race, in addition to these signs: I decided to carry my phone for a change. I don't like to do this (I'm clumsy and I'm afraid I'll be tempted not to focus.) But, for whatever reason, I chose to carry it.
Remember this - it will be very important in a few minutes.
Race day was beautiful - a bit warmer than we would have liked, but absolutely gorgeous. I got tons of sleep the night before.  I was still struggling with the IT band issue that hit me during the Volition Half back in September, though, so I had no clue what would happen. But 1/4 mile into the race it became patently obvious that it would be a struggle for me to even finish. A personal record time was out of the question; I was still stiff and sore and not ready for 26 miles of running.
So I had two choices: give up so I didn't injure myself worse, or give whatever I had until my leg gave out and I had to drop out of the race. I kept thinking about why I am doing this to begin with and what this race really means.
And I chose the latter. 
The first 12 miles were a waiting game: wait to see if it stretched out or got worse.  I abandoned my original pace plan and just tried to go.....slower.  I even linked up with a pace group that planned to finish around 25 minutes slower than my race goal.  But around mile 12, I couldn't run continuously for more than about 90-120 seconds.
This is where I made another decision: I was going to walk the last 14 miles.  I decided that I would try my best to make the course cutoff time of 6:30, which is very hard to do while walking.  And then I made one more decision: I was going to treat the rest of this race like a stroll around my favorite city for the day.  (A very long stroll.)
This is where the phone part becomes important.
There were about 1,000 times during the race where I questioned my ability to make it.  The pain in my leg was so ridiculous that the few days after the race I could barely walk (still hobbling like crazy).  I was obsessed with making sure I got my medal and finished proud in my AKBTC singlet. I tried to insert some running intervals, but I could barely hop. 
I took out my phone and started texting Blake.  My dad started sending me messages on Facebook.  Blake realized that I was basically crying between mile markers and he asked some of our other friends to send me words of encouragement. I was pretty cranky, but I would not have made it without those texts.
I reminded myself,  this is supposed to be a stroll through my favorite city. So I took pictures along the course: guys dressed up in horse head costumes, skyline shots, selfies. I stopped for a half beer at mile 15 with some randos. Things I've never bothered doing for other marathons because I was too focused on finishing.
What happened was nothing short of miraculous: I finished in just over 6.5 hours with enough energy to walk around a bit afterwards, despite the pain in the injured leg.  And I had one of the best times I've ever had at a marathon.
Cliff's Notes: 8 marathons in 8 states down.  42 to go.  $2,020 raised for pediatric brain cancer research. Lots of tears, lots of smiles. So many thanks that I don't know where to start.
....and 8 more weeks to relax and enjoy the off-season until IMCHOO 70.3 training begins.

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