Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chicago Marathon - Race Recap

I am back from the Chicago Marathon!

A huge grin spread across  my face as I sat down to write this post. My weekend in Chicago was fabulous for so many reasons and I feel like I have a ton to share! Let's start, shall we?

I left for Chicago on Friday morning and spent the day with my family. I had not been home in over a year, so it was really special to be back home :)

Aaron and I left for downtown Chicago on Saturday afternoon and enjoyed the train ride into the city (have I ever mentioned how much I love the train?). We were staying at the Hilton downtown, which is an absolutely stunning hotel.

our elevators were decorated
The whole building was decorated for the marathon and the place was crawling with athletes. The excitement and energy was incredible.

Even my room key was ready for the marathon. You can bet I saved this. 
We dropped our stuff off and headed to the expo. The Hilton had shuttles running to the expo venue, which was so convenient. The setup was really easy and I freaked out a bit when I got my number. Chicago Marathon staff? You put on an incredibly organized expo.

We walked around and took some pictures before heading back to the hotel.

At the hotel, we changed clothes and went to visit my alma mater for the afternoon. I'll tell you more about that later, but it was amazing ;)

For dinner, we participated in the classic Hilton Pasta Dinner. I actually don't like to eat a lot of carbs the night before a race, so I filled up on grilled chicken, green beans, salad, and wheat rolls. We went to bed early with full bellies and lots of excitement.

I woke up at 6am on race day (7am Atlanta time - Whoo Hoo for sleeping in on race mornings). I ate peanut butter on wheat bread - both of which I brought to the hotel from home, haha. We sipped coffee to help, ahem, get ready for the race and headed out a little after 7am.

We walked a few blocks in the park and found our corral. We were just in time and moved up to the middle of the group. The weather was incredible and AR shed his sweatshirt before we even started. I kept my gloves on and tossed my sweatshirt right as the gun went off.

The first few miles were packed and we ran pretty slow -- about a 10 minute mile. I think we were trying to adjust to the crowds. The cheering people on the side of the roads were amazing. I have never seen a race with than many fans!

We picked up pace around mile 4, moving closer to a 9 minute pace. At mile 13 I looked at AR and could tell something was wrong. I asked him is he was okay and he said yes, so I just ignored it. a mile later the look on his face made me worried and I said "lets slow down." We jogged for a bit and AR walked through a water station.

He kept saying his legs weren't under him and he couldn't catch his breath. I was just finding my groove and feeling strong. We kept slowing down and AR kept telling me to go on without him. I got really upset and said "no, this is our thing! I am staying." I lost him a few times because he would slowdown and I wouldn't notice until I had passed him.

Finally, at mile 16, I lost him for good. I stood on a corner and yelled his name, ran backwards for a bit to look, and started to cry. I was worried he wasn't okay and I got scared! But with 45,000 runners, I was never going to find him, so I turned around and started running again.

My legs felt strong and I was distracted by the situation with AR. My pace picked up considerably and I felt good. At mile 18, the wall was nowhere in sight and I picked up pace a little more.

At mile 20, I was still feeling good, which shocked me. I had given up on a PR when AR started struggling, but I realized at mile 20 that I was well within a PR range. I drank a bunch of water from my bottle and kept going. Other runners were slowing down to walk. Over and over, I watched runners pat them on the back as they passed- What a sign of support and encouragement.

By mile 24, I was exhausted and ready to be done, but I was still plugging away. I had been pushing for several miles (my watch said sub 9), so I slowed up a bit. I only had 2 miles yet, but it was a struggle!! Luckily, the crowds picked up just in time! Before I knew it, I was at mile 25.5 and the end was in sight.

As I passed mile 26, I had to fight tears. I was so relieved. I've never crossed a marathon finish line by myself. It was always been me and AR. It felt like such an accomplishment.

After crossing, I looked at my watch and saw 4:17. A PR for me!!!!!!!!

My mom snapped this picture... don't I look excited?

I averaged about a 9:35/mile, which was great considering we walk/ran for those 2.5 miles. I am more excited about my maintained pace than my time - this was the first marathon that I didn't really hit the wall... I felt strong the whole time. 

I met up with my parents (after walking 8 blocks from the finish line, thank you very much) and sat down for a minute. My dad agreed to wait for AR while I went back to shower before we had to check out of the hotel. I hated to miss AR coming in, but after waiting for a while, I realized I needed to go pack up our room.

I showered and was able to walk out of the bathtub without falling (always an accomplishment) and felt pretty good. AR knocked on the door and I was so relieved to see him!!! He finished strong, despite having a rough run.

Stopping for Chicago-style deep dish on the way home :)

Chicago, I loved every minute of my visit. After the Atlanta marathon, I was really worried that marathons just were not my thing. If I learned anything this weekend, it is that marathons are my favorite thing. The crowds, the runners, the volunteers, everyone was wonderful. Thank you for an absolutely incredible weekend. 


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