I am now the proud owner of a Chicago Marathon medal. There were many times during the marathon I believed right down to my core I would not make it. Hell, many times I wished they'd sweep me out and have done with it!
I got to Grant Park around 6:30am and went to hang out with Team in Training in the Charity Village. I did not know there were so many charities running! Charity Village was perfect since each charity tent had like 15-20+ port-o-lets behind their tent so there were no long lines of people waiting to use them. Such a relief!
At 7:20am the TNT members all walked over to the starting line. So many people! I was getting pushed around while I stood in my pace group but I managed to stand my ground and not get shoved to the back. I needed to start out ahead to give me some extra time away from the back of the pack. There was a Mexican woman who started out with me. Her two sons were running also but they were in one of the starting corrals and not in the open corral with her. She stuck with me for quite a while and asked me questions. I only lost her at mile 4 when I stopped for the dreaded port-o-lets.
I didn't even hear the gun go off, I only knew the race started because the crowds of runners began pushing me towards the start line. I did my 1 run/4walk and the Mexican woman stuck right with me. She had her iPod and was singing and waving her arms to some salsa music. She was pretty happy to be out and waved and cheered to everyone on the sidelines. I was just focusing on my pace and trying to listen for my watch beeping my for running and walking. It was difficult because the crowds were so loud! It was amazing!
Now, Disney had lots of cheering crowds and all but I gotta tell ya, I really believe Chicago was the better of the two. There were cheering groups along EVERY section of the course, not just designated areas. I'm usually not one for the cheering because in the beginning it kind of annoys me. Especially when I am constantly thinking I do not deserve the cheering. But once I reached mile 8 in Boystown... DAMN! Running through Boystown is like running through the Magic Kingdom in Disney. Only better! Those residents know how to have a good time. Festivals are always more fun there. I cheered for the rifle guard because they were splendid and the folks in the hula girl gear with the silver platform go-go boots were lovely. My favorite sign of the entire race was the one with Mr. Slave that said "Run like a Bear is chasing you!" I wish I could have just stopped running and hung out there.
Before and after Boystown I kept wondering why I was running. I was doing a very poor job of things since my pills for my GI problems were not working. I wanted to cry. I'd tried everything I could to fix the problem and nothing had helped. I could only run a minute at a time before I had the "urge". Many times I just wanted to be swept off the course because I didn't think I could keep it up for the whole race. My legs were fine, my breathing was fine but I kept having the "urge". But being pulled off meant that I would have failed again and I'd have to tell everyone who donated that I failed. That became a worse feeling for me. Having to admit I could not finish was worse than having to use a port-o-let every couple miles. So I kept moving. I don't even remember much before mile 13 other than Boystown. I hated what I was doing and kept thinking to myself that this is rediculous. I should NOT be trying to run marathons.
Around mile 14 I met up with my folks and the boy who was walking with our boxers. They stuck with me until mile 18. At mile 17 I'd hit what John "The Penguin" Bingham called "The Bite Me" mile. My mom had a cowbell with her and had been ringing it constantly. And even when she wasn't ringing it intentionally, it rang. I love my mom and I knew I could not say nicely "please quit ringing the bell". So I kept my mouth shut. It wasn't her fault and she didn't even know it was annoying me. It's really funny now though but at the time I wanted to scream!
I kind of took off after mile 18 and lost everyone. One of the coaches for the AIDS team did ride up to me to tell me he liked my dogs though which made me smile. It wasn't until mile 18 that I believed I really could finish the damned race. I kept telling myself that I only had 8 more miles to go. 8 miles wasn't a long time, only two hours. I could do two more hours.
Mile 19 was in Pilsen which was my other favorite section of the race. Just before I hit the party section of Pilsen I went through a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood street. A very nice man offered me a little powdered sugar donut but I declined. I didn't think I could swallow it. *laugh* But it was really nice to offer! A little further down the road I hit the stores and restaurants of Pilsen. Salsa music was being blared out of windows and on the streets and soooooo many families were out cheering on the runners. It wasn't flashy like Boystown but it was energetic and emotional. It seemed like everyone in the neighborhood was out cheering us on. And the food! I could smell the food from the restaurants and homes and I was so hungry. I passed a man with a huge bowl of pretzels who offered some to me. Those I took with a grateful thanks. I didn't think I could swallow those either but the salt sounded wonderful. And they were!
Mile 21 went through Chinatown but by the time I and my circle of runners reached there the party was over. I got to run near my favorite candy store and run past my favorite bakery (Maxim's) and Chinese restaurant (Won Kow). The police along the course from here on out were wonderful about letting us know what mile we were on.
Mile 23 took me down towards IIT and Comiskey Park which is where the White Sox play. I forgot to look for the stadium since I was more focused on finding a Gatoraid station. A swift bit on 35th Street and then we headed north on Michigan Avenue for the final stretch!
Around mile 24 there was a group of Elijah charity team cheerers who cheered me on and gave me an orange. It was the best tasting orange I'd ever had. Those Elijah team cheerers were amazing! They had cheer zones just about every mile and they really cheered EVERYONE on, not just those who were running for their charity.
Mile 25 had me running alongside a charity runner from Paws who told me this was his 8th marathon and he was running with Paws because he'd had to put down two of his pups this year, a Dalmatian and a rotty mix. We talked as we headed up the final stretch. One of the Team in Training coaches that was keeping pace on his bike and checking on all of us slow teammates kept checking in with me. I wish I knew what city team he was a coach for because he really helped me out and was very supportive. He would give me water and tell me my form was good and I was walking strong. Even when I felt like I was doing poorly, hearing that helped.
Just past mile 25 two of my coaches from my city team appeared. I probably surprised the one coach by not being swept off. I was the slowest person on our team so he regularly ended up running with me in order to speed me up. He and his wife run together and coach together. There were two other Team in Training members behind me so I wasn't the last purple runner out on the course. This did make me feel better. A third coach from another TNT team met up with us also. He had been running with me around mile 6 and he recognized me once my watch started beeping. That's when he told me I had to run the last bit of the race. And the last bit went up the largest incline on the course (on Roosevelt Road).
That last 0.2 miles... 4 coaches and 3 teammates, all of us heading towards the finish line. I ran the last 100 yards with the coaches and teammates. I won't even post my time but I did finish. I saw my folks and my husband and our cousin and my two pups cheering as I ran to the finish. I didn't believe I could do it, even with training. It was hot and I was slow and had to fight my own internal problems (physically and mentally). I wanted to drop out for most of the race and the only thing stopping me was letting down everyone who believed in me and donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. I knew that would hurt worse than any pain I felt after finishing.
So here it is, 2 days later. I finished my first marathon. Would I do it again? I am planning on Disney when I turn 40. I am hoping that I can run a 10 mile minute within those next two years. I have to get the damned "urges" under control. That is what slows me down, still.
I'm not an athlete. I've never wanted to be an athlete. I started this because my sister wanted to run the Disney marathon when she was 35. I signed up without really thinking about the consequences. And my failure hurt. So while I didn't make some great time for Chicago, I did finish. And finishing was my goal. My only goal. At the end of it all I did enjoy it. I loved how the crowd just cheered everyone on. I wish Chicago had a race that just ran up and down Halsted in Boystown because that was my favorite neighborhood by far. I don't know if I would run next year (unless I can do that 10 minute mile by then) but I will be cheering in Boystown!
Thank you to friends and family who supported me! And thank you to everyone on the streets of Chicago who cheered and offered food and water and misting stations. And to the volunteers and police and medical teams! I am in awe of how many people were out there to support the runners! And who smiled and cheered the entire time. It was a hot day, maybe not as hot as last year but it was still toasty and there were so many people out for the race. And to the Team in Training coaches and other TNT individuals who helped me out with fundraising. TNT is a great charity to run with and the coaches are incredible! I know when I started and when I finished and that was many hours from beginning to end. So to everyone who stayed out and cheered us on from start to finish, THANK YOU!!!
Next up, Trick or Treat Trot 5k and the Turkey Trot 8k!