We’re continuing with our Chicago marathon recap today. We left off on part one with our team dinner on Saturday night.
Following dinner we headed right back to our hotel to get things ready for race morning. Because we opted to stay further outside of the city we would have an earlier wake up than previous years. Given that traffic had been absolutely awful throughout the rest of the weekend, we wanted to make sure that we had enough time to get into the city should there be any issues on the interstate. Thankfully, the roads were clear and we made it to the Cara VIP compound with time to spare.
One of the perks of running Chicago with a charity is access to the CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) compound. There are a ton of amenities within the room but the nicest is the private bag check.
We hung out at the Team Up! booth for a while and waited for more team members to arrive for our team photo.
Travis was in B corral and had a 7:30 start time so he headed out before I did to get through the security in Grant Park while I stayed in the compound for about another half an hour.
I always find it hard to write a recap for a race that was difficult or didn’t go the way I was hoping. When you run a new PR it’s easy to tell everyone, but when you struggle, it’s harder to share. The 2017 Chicago Marathon was not the race I wanted, but if I am honest with myself and you, it was the race I deserved.
From the beginning, training did not go my way. I even wrote about my poor training during some of our recaps. I did well at first – I was consistent and my times were okay, especially following hernia surgery for about the first 5-6 weeks. But after this point I began noticing that I wasn’t seeing the improvement in my training times that I had seen in previous training cycles for marathons. My legs were constantly heavy and my recovery between runs didn’t seem to have as much benefit. As training wore on, I could tell that this training cycle was affecting me more ways than one because it was starting to get into my mind. It defeated me.
When I lined up for the race on the streets of Chicago, I was still gunning for my three year quest to break 3:15. Over the last three years, I’ve dropped my time from 3:35 down to 3:15:12, missing my goal by 12 seconds last year in Chicago. My goal hasn’t changed and I was still hopeful that the adrenaline of race day coupled with the Nike pace group would help me finally achieve my goal. The pace group worked well for 19 miles, but after that my body and mind let me down.
As my stride shortened and my pace slowed I watched as the pacing group I was with slowly pull away from me during the 20th mile and by mile 21 they were completely out of sight. I was defeated. For the first time in my eight marathons I can honestly say my mind defeated me. Not even when I ran my worst time of 3:55 in 2015 did my mind fail me as I know I gave it everything I had on that day, my body just wasn’t ready. I started letting doubt sink in and before I knew it I was sunk. By mile 23 I had cramps so bad that I had spectators asking if I was okay or if I needed help. I worked them out in route to my slowest mile of the day (11min 47sec) and eventually was able to recover to a jog for the rest of the race.
When I crossed the finish line, I was disappointed more in myself than I was my performance. I was so mad that I didn’t take a single photo post-race – nothing. I’ve posted a lot in the past about how much I’ve learned about myself when I train for and run a marathon, and on this day I didn’t like what I learned. After a few days had passed, I had a realization. I want to share an excerpt of something personal that I wrote to my wife when she began training to run her first marathon this summer. Here are some things I wrote to her:
- Running a marathon doesn’t change your life – but training for it does. You will learn more about yourself in 18 weeks than you have your whole life. Fact!
- You will struggle. There will be days of self-doubt, where you question if you can do this. There will be a lifetime knowing you did!
- Training is a process. Not the events of one day. Trust the process!
- It doesn’t become easier, you become stronger! Physical strength will get you to the start line.
- It’s about conquering the distance, not beating a time on the clock. Screw the clock!
- Your run is 100% mental. Your body won’t go where your mind doesn’t push it. Mental strength will get you to the finish!!
When I look back on those words now I actually get a little choked up. I was a hypocrite and didn’t take my own advice.
So what did I learn after this race? I learned to ‘let it go’ because I still accomplished something pretty damn spectacular. Oh, and I learned to always take a photo because you will wish you had.
On to the next race.
My main focus for my first marathon was to try to enjoy it as much as possible. I knew the pain was coming at some point, but I wanted to try and not focus on that. I wanted to take in the crowds, the sights and the signs.
The race itself is honestly kind of a blur despite the fact that I was making it a point to take it all in. Everybody kept telling me that Chicago was the perfect place for a first marathon, and they weren’t kidding. The crowd support for this race is amazing! The first half of the race went by so quickly and I had settled into a pretty comfortable rhythm. Miles 13-15 I think were my favorite of the whole race. You get the crowds for the half way point followed by the charity block party and there’s so much to look at and take in.
I could tell it was warming up fast, and the back half of the Chicago course doesn’t provide much shade. Things started to fall apart for me around mile 18 and I was just doing what I could at that point. I could tell I was dehydrated despite taking in water and Gatorade at every stop in addition to the Nuun I had in my handheld. Between 18 and the finish I did a lot of intervals, running what I could and walking/stretching when I needed to. Miles 23-25 felt like they took forever but as soon as I saw the 800 M to go sign I got a burst of energy. The only thing that was left was the ‘hill’ on Roosevelt and a straightaway to the finish! I will agree with everyone that has told me that the small overpass feels like a mountain at that point.
I got goosebumps running through the finish. I managed to hold it together until I found Travis in the reunite area and then the tears started. I still can’t believe that I actually finished a marathon just over a week ago. Even though it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, running Chicago was such an amazing experience!
There were many days throughout the training that I questioned whether or not I could actually do this. While it wasn’t pretty, and I didn’t quite hit the time I was hoping for I did learn that I’m a heck of a lot stronger than I usually give myself credit for. I said many, many times that the marathon was going to be a one and done for me…but now that my legs are back to fully functioning, I’ve decided that I want to give it (at least) one more shot. Yesterday I submitted my registration with Team Up for the 2018 Chicago Marathon.
Oh, my favorite sign? Around mile seven we ran by a nursing home. There was the sweetest little old man holding a sign that said “why do all the cute ones run away?” Adorable!