I woke up Sunday morning around 5:30am and felt pretty rested. I had slept hard and only woke up once about an hour before the alarm, and I had not trouble going right back to sleep.
I got ready, and then I headed to the train station to make my way to Grant Park. A man on the train started talking with me, and we made the exchange to the next train together and continued chatting about races we've run and our thoughts on the weather.
I met up with my three Nashville friends who had also come up to Chicago for this race.
We used the bathrooms and made our way to the start. They had started closing off corrals (which I think is a bit silly) and we had to merge into a corral where people planning to run 13:00 miles were lined up. This was a bit annoying, but I also didn't care too much since I had generally low expectations for the day.
I hate to make excuses, but the honest truth is that I hadn't trained well, I knew it was going to be too warm for me (it was already in the 60s at 7:30, and I do not do well in heat), and I was feeling worse with the sinus issues (I had more phlem than desired and had developed a cough).
We had all agreed that we'd probably be running our own races today, but Matt and I managed to run together for about the first 8-9 miles. I knew that I was holding him back, and I also knew I wasn't feeling too chatty since I didn't feel well... so we quietly parted ways. I was glad to know he went on ahead and finished 30 minutes before me.
Shortly after we parted ways, I got to see Steph and Amanda around mile 9ish. I felt ok, but I let them know I was definitely running slower than I had hoped. I felt like since I knew there was no way I was running a really good race that I might as well not push it too much. I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of my weekend.
I very rarely have to stop to use the bathroom during a marathon, but I had to pee like no other about this point. I had been making a point to drink at each water station since I knew it'd be getting warm, but I think I had gotten a little ahead of myself. I definitely added 6-7 minutes to my time with this stop, but seeing as I wasn't going for any goals other than to have fun and finish I didn't mind.
I do think I scared some of the people standing in line with me because I got to coughing and couldn't stop. I probably made them think I might throw up or something.
I kept plugging along, and I could tell that it was starting to warm up quickly. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.
I remember hitting the half marathon point in 2:30 and thinking to myself that I might have it in me to negative split. I tried to keep a steady pace, and I was actually feeling pretty good all things considered.
I also thought about how even though I was running slower, I was having a lot of fun. It's just neat to soak in the crowds of spectators, the fellow runners and the city. I didn't even bring my iPod because I wanted to enjoy my surroundings.
As I got closer to mile 16 where I'd see Steph and Amanda again, I heard someone say my name. It was Amy! I hadn't seen her since she and Liz took off ahead of us at the start. She told me Liz had headed on her way within the first mile or two. Amy and I chatted briefly about the heat and about this not being our best race ever, and then I went on my way.
I soon saw my girls again, and I stopped for a quick second to pose for pictures and to say hello. I let them know I was definitely having some issues with coughing and knew this would be a 5-hour marathon for me, but that my spirits were high and that I was thankful to have them out there supporting me. (Seriously, they rock!)
After I saw them, I told myself that I would be happy if I could make it to mile 20 without an extra walk breaks. I always walk for a few seconds at water stops so that I can drink without getting it all over me, but I figured if I could make it to 20 without walking then it'd be ok to start bargaining with myself a bit.
Somehow those next 4 miles went by pretty quickly (not because I was running faster, because I wasn't), and when I reached 20 I found myself questioning if maybe I could continue on without walking. By the end of mile 20, I realized this was a dream. HA.
I still managed to keep running for the most part. I would allow myself a walk break at each mile marker and each water station. My legs were feeling heavy. I was coughing like crazy. But I was getting it done.
I knew to watch for the gals around mile 23, so when I passed the mile marker I started watching. I finally saw them, and it was SO good to see familiar faces again. I was moving quite slowly, but I said hello and kept pushing on. (It turns out that their men had joined them as well, but I was so out of it I didn't even see them. I was thankful later though to hear they had come out!)
The last three miles were a sheer battle of my body vs. my brain. I knew that I could get it done. It was fine that I was running it much slower than ideal. I was just happy to be back in Chicago and having a fun weekend. Nonetheless, I still had those last 3 miles to go before I could continue hanging out with my friends.
It's funny. I really thought I'd be more disappointed that this race didn't go the way I had hoped back when I first signed up. I felt really peaceful with running a slow marathon and just enjoying the sights and sounds along the way.
The hardest thing about the end is that there was hardly any shade for the last 7 miles. And I had seen a sign that said the heat index was up to 83. UGH. I was hot. I was debating if I was sweating enough. I was drinking water and gatorade at every station. I ran through every hose spraying water on the runners (so thankful for those). I took the icy sponges each time they had them to give out. But I was miserably hot. (I went on to find myself sunburned as well.)
Nonetheless, it wasn't long before I finally hit that last 1.2 miles. And then the mile to go sign. And then the half mile to go sign. And then the one hill of the race and the 26 mile marker.
It took me 5:12 (including the potty stop), but I finished. And I couldn't have been prouded.
5:12 is the time of my very first marathon. One I had actually done the training for. One I ran on a cloudy and cool and perfect day. One where I felt great.
So I suppose it's kind of cool that now I can show up sick and undertrained and in the heat and run as well as I did during that first race when I was better prepared and conditions were ideal.
The worst thing about this race is that you pretty much walk a mile back to the reunion area. I grabbed drinks and goodies and a foil blanket and a cold towel and my medal and all that jazz and slowly made my way to find my friends.
They cheered as I walked up, and I let them know that "you know you're a marathon runner when you double fist with Gatorade and beer."
We celebrated that we had all survived the race!
We hung out for a little bit hoping to reunite with Amy. She had asked me to let everyone know she was back there and to not feel like we had to wait. We had all hoped to meet up so we waited a bit and reminisced over the race and the heat and how none of us did as well as we once hoped but that we still all enjoyed ourselves and had a good day.
When we decided to head on, I let everyone know I was craving a Jamba Juice (we don't have those in Nashville, but they are SO good.) It turned out to be the perfect post-marathon snack.
I was happy. The day may have gone differently than what I had once thought, but i had adjusted my expectations and was able to really enjoy myself and have fun. Sure, a 5:12 is nothing to brag about... but I ran my 11th marathon. I got it done. And I did it when I probably shouldn't have due to heat/illness/lack of training. Maybe that's stupid, but I walked away feeling proud that I could still get it done anyways despite the odds.