If you read my blog you know that just about two years ago I began using couch to 5k to run my first 5k back in December 2010. This progressed to multiple 5k's and then a half marathon. That journey was tough and I thought that might be the end of my big races. As my body healed I realized it wasn't and started playing with the idea of actually running the Chicago Marathon. By mid December 2011 I decided that I wanted to run the 2012 Chicago Marathon. I had planned every run/workout/race from Jan 2012 until the race on October 7th. I planned a 10 mile race in May and another half marathon in July. We also ran the Ready to Run Newton 20 miler in preparation for the marathon. Each week of training go progressively harder to keep up with cross training, volleyball, and weight training. I do admit when I stopped lifting and cross training my body began to change. I'm not as toned and tight and have added a few extra pounds. It is funny how many miles I have ran but my body had changed. I am excited to begin lifting weights and dropping these pounds that have appeared.
I would say I had a few harder training runs than the actual marathon. I never did hit that wall and I left the city of Chicago smiling and hoping that I can arrange my schedule and trick my mind/body into giving up another 4 months to run it again in 2013.
Here is my race recap:
We started carb loading/eating pretty basic foods like sandwiches, veggies, fruits/cutting/caffeine/two weeks prior to the marathon. Water intake was increased. The taper was hard to deal with because I felt like I wasn't running enough, but I trusted the process.
On Saturday morning we boarded the train to Chicago and I was armed with almost every running shirt I had trained in. It was suppose to be about 35 degrees at the start, but I wasn't sure if I was going with long sleeves or short. I even brought a few tanks just in case some crazy thing happened. We checked in our hotel and hit the expo. I'm a sucker for fun at the expo. Taking as many pictures to mark the experience as I could. We purchased the run Chicago marathon shirts. Each of the big brands had their own, but Nike was my favorite. By mid afternoon I could tell my feet were getting tired of standing and walking. It happened pretty fast. We quickly headed back to the hotel via the shuttle and went for lunch. I felt good and actually rested my feet by elevating them. Then it hit my....I started getting nervous. It might have been laying out my clothing for the race or something. However, it just felt like I couldn't get settled. Did I forget something, what if I can't do this, just the mind game of it all. Later that evening we to Italian Village for pasta and I was so nervous I could barely eat. Then I knew what I was eating would still be with me in the morning so it made me even more nervous that I could not eat. I knew we had bagels at the hotel so I tried to just calm myself and we headed back to the hotel. We made our final preparations and talked about what time we wanted to get up and head to the actual race.
I fell asleep surprisingly well that night and very early. About 2:15 am I woke up and was wide awake. I was able to fall asleep until about 4 and then I just got up. I tried to eat breakfast about 5 am and it was like I was going to throw up if I ate. I managed to eat a banana, the crust off some peanut butter toast, and a half a protein bar. I figured I'd eat the rest on the way to the race. We finished getting ready and at 6:15 we hopped in a taxi and was dropped off on Michigan near gate 2. We found a place to sit for a bit and sort of take it all in. We went to gear check and then got into the bathroom lines. They seemed to not move for about the first 20 minutes we stood there. We heard the national anthem and the start of wave 1. We made it to our corral with about 10 minutes to spare. I was lucky enough to randomly run into my friend who was running and it was nice to see her beforehand.
We shed our throw away outfits and found our place near the back of our corral. The only throw away thing I left on was my gloves. As we neared the start of wave 2 it hit me. I was about to run a marathon. I got choked up and shed a few tears. This long journey was about to end today. They pushed us up and we walked bit by bit until I could see the start line. About 10 feet from the line we all started to run. I couldn't believe it I was running in the Chicago Marathon. Both my half marathons started near the same place. Both times I thought this is where the marathon is run. This time I was running it!
The first under pass men were peeing everywhere. It must have been hard for them to all try to use the porto potties or something. I have seen men do this in other races, but this was literally a quarter mile into the race. We worked very hard to keep our pace down and not let the surge of the crowd of runners and excitement of the spectators effect us. I realized it wasn't as chilly has I thought and my gloves were already beginning to bother me. About mile one I ditched them hoping I had waited long enough and not regret it needing them later. We got to the first aid station not really needing it, but it was going to be a long day and knew we needed to pace it out. Walking for 20/30 seconds would be better now for later. By the second aid station I could feel a pinching on the side of my foot. I knew instantly I was getting a blister. I had some blister issues earlier in my training, but the past 2 months they had seemed to be better. I was shocked that only 3.2 miles in was getting one. I just ignored the pain and thought who needs a big toe anyway. It wasn't a muscle/tendon/joint, so it wasn't going to slow me down.
As we ran the first ten miles I tried to take in all the sights. I had three friends at the race and I on the look out for them. I made a game out of it looking for as many posters with the name Amanda on them. I only counted two the entire race. My friends ended up seeing my three times, but I sadly did not seem them. The signs that I saw were hilarious. My favorites had to do with not pooping your pants. I tried to give the spectator a thumbs up or eye contact and laugh when I found their sign creative. I was worried if I gave too many high fives at the start of the race it would take up energy I needed later. I did give in quite a few times early to this. I think it was ok!
As we neared the half marathon point both my husband and I were feeling really great. We trained for this marathon together and we wanted to finish it together. He had ran the Chicago back in 2004. On our training the last two long runs we did split up about mile 16 and 18 so that I could finish. His body was just torn up from all that training and he didn't want to risk injury. We had discussed what if it happened again during the race, but we were both confident that we would finish together.
As we neared the charity village area that all changed. He had us walking a few unplanned time and I was still struggling with my foot hurting. The walking and the starting and stopping was messing with my body. He could tell. His body was strong but beginning to start cramping up a bit. It was about this point when just a sudden as I could feel my blister it stopped. I knew it had popped and I was very grateful for that.
Then my husband did something I was not expecting and will never forget. He selflessly said that we needed to split up. I was running and amazing race and he wanted me to finish strong. We were each running our own race to day and it was going to be too hard for him to keep my pace and would cause my pace/body to suffer needed to keep his pace. Basically he was trying to keep up and his body was hurting. Each time I slowed down and restarted my body was getting more stressed. We had to split up. I started crying and I thought oh no can I run 8 more miles alone. What if I hit the wall, what if I can't. He told me I was strong and I could finish this. I was worried about his as his ham string was cramping and wondered if he would make it. He told me he would be fine and we started making plans for where I would meet him after the finish. With tears rolling down my face it was one of the hardest things I had to do. I hugged him and left. I couldn't look back. At that exact moment on my ipod that song, "I Will Wait for You", by Mumford and Sons. It was the most appropriate song and it let me know that running away was the best thing to do.
I instantly started running faster and the worry about was I going too fast or too slow for him was gone. It renewed my energy. It was about mile 20's aid stations were I noticed the runners around me were changing. Some people were hitting the wall and slowing down. The previous miles if you walked in the water station we had to stay way to the side and watch out for runners. By mile twenty the walkers were anywhere and everywhere. They out numbered the runners. I can't remember where the Latin neighborhood was as far as mile markers, but they by far had the biggest party atmosphere around. It was one of the most uplifting sights and definitely gave me a second wind. I knew an aid station would soon have bananas as all of my clif blocks were gone. I saw a stranger on the road handing out bananas and took one. Risky I know, but it was worth it in the end. All my training had said eat and drink before you actually feel you needed. I think this added to the success of my run. That and the weather.
It was surprising to see how many people were giving out candy, fruits, and water. By the time I got down by Sox Park I was walking now and then. I would pick a mileage or km marker and run to that then take a walk break. I was still feeling surprisingly well. Another emotional place for me was running under the archway into Chinatown. I had watched so many marathon video and looked at so many pictures that was one place that brought tears to my eyes as I passed through there. This was also another place I saw so many people cramping up on the sides. I had to keep focusing on running strong and not feed into what I was seeing. There were a few bridges that looked up hill and then down hill I would walk up the hill and run down them.
I got to mile 24 and that was the place I knew I was going to finish. It was this part of the race I started to reflect on it all. I saw a sign that said, Welcome Back Friday Nights. I don't drink or party, but the past 4 months I would always go to bed by 9 on Friday nights for the prep of the long run on Saturday. There were pockets with no people along that last bit before hitting mile 25. I took it all in. Then at mile 25 there was one long line of people giving high fives. I hit them all and the last man sort of held my hand a bit and said you are looking strong you are on your way to being a marathoner. The tears came flooding down. I took one more walk break to make sure I could finish strong. I saw the 800 meter sign and the crowds of people were thick again. I started running thinking just two times around the track and your done. At 400 meters I saw the man who was blind running with his guide. The man on the podium was calling out names of people he could see and I watched for myself on the jumbo tron that was set up on Michigan Ave. I turned the corner and made my way up the "hill" and rounded the corner and then I saw it. The FINISH. My pace sped up and I felt like I was sprinting. It reminded me of all the races I'd seen on TV with everyone cheering. I felt pure joy that I still can't fully put into words. I clicked my garmin and looked. I finished 6 seconds faster than my goal. I was a 5:29 marathoner. For a girl who two years ago hated to run I was proud of that time.
I got my mylar blanket and medal. Then I found a spot to wait for my husband. 23 minutes later I saw him getting his blanket and I ran up to him and gave him the biggest hug I could gather. We walked through the rest of the finish line and posed for a few pictures. Got our gear and found a bench. I almost like to get my shoes off and sandals on. I nervously took of my sock of the blistered foot. The blood had leaked though my shoe so I thought it would be bad. It wasn't and I ripped off my other sock to find one of the grosses blood blisters on my toe I had ever seen in my life. It looked frost bit. How did I not feel that at all? I still don't know. I quick just put my sock back on and stuffed them into my shoes. No one needed to see that!!!
We found our friends and posed for more pictures. It was really touching that they came to cheer for us. I think I talked a mile a minute for the next few hours as I just wanted to compare/talk/share about this journey with them and my husband.
Later than night I was so overwhelmed with the amount of friends and family who congratulated me.
I finally did it I was a marathon runner. It is one of those things that no one will ever be able to take away from me. I feel like I'm a changed person. I proved to myself that anything is possible. My students were just as excited when I returned to school on Tuesday. They tried on my medal and modeled it. I hope that one day this might inspire one of them to do it.
I'm still coming down from that runner's high and I can't thank everyone enough for the role they played in this journey. I feel so blessed. I will never forget that moment when it all became real that I was about the run a marathon and the selfless act of my husband letting me go ahead of him.
Here are some photos....