For some people running a marathon comes easy. I am not one of those people. My head often hinders my ability when it comes to 26.2. I haven’t decided if I am crazy or I just like to torture myself. Total.head.case. It’s gross.
When I got to Chicago I felt excited and nervous to toe the line. I had just two 20 mile training runs this cycle but felt confident yet uneasy about running a strong race. I had planned on running with a friend and we decided that there would be no pressure to stay together. We would start easy and push later in the race. I just needed some sort of breakthrough.
On Sunday morning the alarm went off at 4:15. I shut it off and planned on going back to sleep and then there was a knock at the door. Breakfast.
The hotel I stayed at had an option for a boxed prerace meal and I jumped on it. There was a lot of food in that little box so I took what I wanted and gave the rest to L. I hopped in the shower to wake up and then checked the weather. Cloudy and 38.
I figured the sun would come out and some point so I went with shorts, compression socks, a tank and long sleeve.
At 6:40 I put on my Garmin and slippped on my little purple “believe” bracelet to support my MIL. I gathered my stuff, put my headphones in my pocket and was ready to go. My friend and I agreed to meet at 7 close to the start so that we could get into our corral before it closed at 7:20. I sent her a text that I was leaving and left my phone behind.
I got to our meeting point at 6:55…and waited…and waited…and waited. By 7:05 I was worried and knew that the corrals were closing soon. I did one last final sweep of the area and decided it was time to go. I was going to be running solo. L went with me until spectators were no longer allowed and I literally had to run to get to the start. I think I was one of the last people to make it into corral C.
I stood at the back of the pack just checking everything out. There were so many runners and so many people. It was awesome. The start gun went off and it took about 5 or so minutes for me to cross the start.
My plan was to go out easy and see how I felt. I passed the 5k point at 27 min or so and realized I was running at training pace. Time to speed up a little. I am not sure how to describe it other than my mind was ready to move but my legs were not. My legs were freezing and they felt heavy. Like I had ice blocks strapped on. NO! You all know what happened right? For the next several miles all I could think about was how effing cold and heavy my legs felt. Told you I think I like to torture myself.
At mile 5 I took my first gel and crossed the 10k mark in 54 min. I think at this point I knew my legs had no intention of going faster so it was time to have some serious fun. And I DID!
I high-fived every kid I saw. I ate oranges, I thanked neighbors for cheering us on and I happily took an ice cold water bottle from someone to refill my handheld. I looked at the buildings, I laughed, I thought alot…about our move, my MIL, my crazy job, my kids. I think I said “I can’t believe I am running the Chicago Marathon. This is awesome!” at least 5 times out loud. I crossed the half way point in just under 1:54 and decided I was done checking my Garmin (which was ahead by .30. Bad tangents I guess) and was going to run to finish strong.
The miles just kept ticking by. At mile 18 a lady on the side of the road was holding a sign that said “Only 8.2 miles left. After 18 that ain’t nothin.” That made me smile. Only 8.2 miles left. I could do that! I looked down at that little purple bracelet and just kept running.
As I approached mile 20 I was ready for it. The wall. I have hit it in every single marathon. I took my 4th gel and reminded myself that I had an iPod zipped in my pocket so if I felt like I needed it I could bust it out. And then suddenly….
Mile 21. What? Wait? Where is the wall? It’s gotta be here somewhere. Holy crap I am passing people. A lot of them. I am usually the one being passed.
“Can’t stop. Won’t Stop.”
Mile 22. I looked at that little purple bracelet. There is no pain while running that is worse than what my MIL is going through.
“The longer I go the stronger I get.”
Mile 23. I should be speeding up but at this point my pace is working. Why ruin a good thing? I’ve freaking got this.
Mile 24. I grab gatorade chews from a volunteer. I will need them to help me pass the time to get me through the last 2.2 miles. A lot of people are walking, I pick up the pace a bit.
“Can’t stop. Won’t Stop”
Mile 24.5. I meet Kevin. He is from NY. He was hungover, barely slept and had run a marathon the weekend before. This race was his victory lap. Without saying it we decide we’re going to finish together.
Mile 25. I look at my watch. 3:38. I knew I was going to PR. I said it right then. Out loud. And then I cried a little. I finally freaking enjoyed a marathon. Yeah the beginning sucked but when I let go I loved it. And then I decided it was time to run fast. It’s never too late to run fast.
Mile 26: I saw 7:38 pace on my watch. I had a lot of kick left. I felt like I could run forever. The crowds were awesome. Me and my new friend looked at each other and sprinted. And giggled like little kids.
I crossed the finish line in 3:49:11.
A 6 min PR.
I took my medal, thanked my buddy for running with me and looked back down at that bracelet. WE did it. I think I did the robot, the running man and the cabbage patch all within a 30 second span. Impressive, no?
So I didn’t break any records, I didn’t make it hurt, and I certainly didn’t lay the hammer down so that I couldn’t breathe at the end. But you know what? I didn’t care. I freaking ran the best marathon that I have ever ran. I was never tired and I had the most fun I have ever had running a race. Man I needed that!
When I finally saw my splits I realized that I was within 1 min of running a completely even race. That is what letting go does. It allows me to just run.
I got a text later that evening from my “coach” (who has done so much for my running and I can’t thank him enough) telling me he was proud of me. Sometimes that’s all that any of us need to hear. I am proud of me too.
Although there will be another race one thing is certain: I will never forget Chicago. I will never forget the feeling of finally “getting” the marathon. It was the breakthrough I was looking for. I am a heck of a lot more confident in myself. No longer a prisoner in mental self-doubt jail , the headcase is out and this girl is in. Although the marathon will never be easy for me, one day, just maybe, I will do something big.