Chicago Marathon – The " What If " Marathon

Chicago Marathon – The " What If " Marathon

So … where do I start the race report for Chicago Marathon 2012? The injury scares in the beginning of the season, gingerly putting my feet back in and following a slightly modified long run schedule, then getting into the full swing of things and busting to train to this time goal I had in mind, excited and nervous and more excited and then … The week before the marathon – was I getting sick or was it nerves? A bit of chest congestion never hurt anyone, did it?

Pre Race

Flew in on Saturday and headed straight to the expo with Dana. They were out of Tshirts in my size and it took forever for me to get a decent fitting shirt.

At the expo – picking up numbers. And … meeting Desi Davilla. I was star-stuck and couldn’t talk!


Race Day

Race day dawned and I woke up with a slight temperature and a not-so-light elephant on my chest. Seeing Megan and Maggie dressed up in the cutest ugly Christmas sweatshirts,  I got that excitement spiked up again. Slight logistical mistake on my part on not defining the side of the road to meet and we missed Olga, Beth, Teri, Barry and Doug. Oops. (Next race, I’ll get it right.)

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Getting ready to start a long run.


The Plan

Plan! What plan?

After busting to train and after pondering strategy for days, I was very very very put-off that I wasn’t going to have a good race. It just wasn’t fair and I dared anyone to say otherwise. I was either going to run and bonk or run bonking. I had given up even before I had started. (Was I afraid to succeed and giving myself excuses to fall back on? I don’t know.) 

Miles 1 – 5 Struggling to get into a groove

Being mad at something unexpected beyond your control is not a great way to start a race. Certainly not for someone who is generally always happy. I was mentally yelling at myself and everything. Barry and his pace group passed me just before Lincoln Park zoo area but I did not have it in me to talk or even smile at him. I just wanted the earth to open up.

Miles 6 – 13  Remember the Reason
Then by absolute chance/miracle, there was a man holding a sign saying “Remember 26 reasons why you are running this”. And I started thinking about it. By the time I got to reason #7 or 8, I couldn’t think of anything more other than because I love it. Good enough, eh?
Slowly, I pulled myself together and kept thinking about
the hills near my house that I wimp out on,
the Cochran shoals flat trails where I see shirtless eye candy in the summer,
the Ghirardelli Sundae that I’d have later,
the comet with the roller blade girl and her gallon water jug,
my running buddies and our completely ridiculous conversations,
my coaches and my endless questions,
the Ghirardeli Sundae that I’d have later,
my kids,
my running skirts,
my husband who accidentally turned me into a monster,
the Ghirardeli Sundae that I’d have later …
When I crossed mile 12, I remembered it as the start of the point when I reached out for help through FB and texts after panicing last year. I shoved my fist at it and said “You did not get me this year. So there”.
It’s awesome how things bring a smile to your legs!

Miles 13 – 17 Steady but Demoralized 

When it came time to increase my intervals after half way point, I did exactly that. Moved on to 3:1 and then to 5:1 or until I needed to walk to drink. And usually my pace starts increasing through all this. Sadly today, it was not to be.  I was just out of breath. Very out of breath. That demoralized me a lot. So although I kept with the increased intervals, I stopped paying attention to pace.

And I was very very tired and sleepy.

Miles 17 – 22 Getting through the Wall. No Excuses 

When I passed Teri and Kim, the breathing was not getting any easier and I was in a kind of daze.

I kept talking out aloud. This isn’t you being sick, this is THE WALL.
This is it.
It is going to suck for another few miles. There is no getting around it.
You have trained for the mental suck.
Don’t give up and waste your training.
You just have to get through it.
Remember the reasons why you are doing this.
No excuses.
(Someone told me later on that they stuck right behind me while I was giving myself loud pep talks because they were so motivated by that!)
When I spotted Doug, Kathy and Jaime at Chinatown, I could’ve jumped and hugged them. It was that awesome. It really was.
Amazing spectators and some awesome signs!


Miles 22 – 25.8 Another Reason I love Running

I remembered one more reason I love running – I love talking to people!

Running loosens my tongue which is why my running group sees a non-stop talking side of me while others see a socially awkward side of me. I started spotting people who were walking and I’d go up to them and talk for a bit.

I spoke to a girl doing her first and upset that she lost her pace group. Talked to her about running her race and not the pace-group’s race.

Another guy with whom I discussed miles to km conversions and he ended up asking Siri for the answer.

The people running for the Fox Foundation who were trying to encourage one of them to keep with it for a little longer and that she’d never have to do it every again. Never listen to a handsome man in the middle of a marathon, someone said.

The Indian guy who was hobbling badly and was upset that he wouldn’t be able to take care of his 2 week old baby and wife because he was selfish enough to show up for the race. We swapped mother-in-law stories!

The countless people who were dedicating their runs.

The blind runner and his guide, visibily suffering and grunting but moving forward.

The girl walking in her boot, yes, THE boot!

The surprising thing was that most people were happy to talk to me, except for one who gave me an absolute stink eye.

Bringing it Home

At the final 800m sign, I said aloud that this was my last Yasso800 of the season. Got some scattered laughs around.
As I turned the final bend up Roosevelt st., a feeling of incredible sadness came over me as I remembered my family at the 200m sign last year and there wasn’t anyone there for me this year (I didn’t know if people would still be at the finish as I had lost all concept of time). Just then, a marathon maniac called me out “Hey Atlanta, Let’s get this over with.” and I ran in the finish with him.
Post Race Tears
Unfortunately, that run-in did it for me. I was gasping for air and also crying. The meds came over and after the usual ‘are you feeling ok’ questions, got me a medal and off to the tent I went with them. Some help and a bit of ice later, I finally answered my first text. Yes, a whole 6.5+ hrs of just me, myself and my thoughts.
It was the BEST sight ever to see my people at the ‘G’. I was overcome by their kindness and ruined a few nice jackets by crying all over them. Sort of awkward and embarrassing, now that I think of it. But really, you don’t know how much that meant to me. For people to believe in me enough to wait; frozen in the cold and wind.

I sent my husband a very emotional text which got him to call me the very next second wondering what happened (he got my race updates and knew I had finished, but I hadn’t told him about being sick and all that). More tears followed. Sigh. I was just an emotional mess that day.

A lot of crying, a lot of laughing and a LOT of celebrating


Once the looooooong celebrations started, it went on – swapping stories (and thankfully no more cry-fest from me!) that evening.


The BEST thing about races – celebrating with friends!

And ending with ….


THE Sundae that I’d been thinking about since Mile 9!!


Post – Race Analysis
People have applauded and praised me for finishing in-spite of being sick. I cannot take credit for that. Because – the thought of quitting in-between never occurred to me. It just did not. So really, there was no extra effort on my side towards finishing.
I’m not beating myself up because my performance wasn’t what I’d aimed for; Just anger at my body for failing me and sadness at disappointing people who had faith in me.

But as I was told, there will be good races and there will be not-so-good ones. If I don’t learn to accept the bad ones, I’m not really learning anything from this journey, am I? And for me, training for a marathon and running the marathon is a journey of self-discovery that continues to amaze me with every run.

I guess I have to accept that I wasn’t in the best of health to run to the best of my ability/training. When someone posted that I ran very consistent splits, I was surprised and proud. To have done that unconsciously without trying – I think that counts for something.
1st half – 2:57:54 2nd half – 3:00:36 (Not too shabby)
And although I don’t want to give excuses, there will always be that nagging thought of ” What If ….. “.
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