Sunday, October 11th, finally arrived. That date had been etched in my brain for a year as I worked my way toward being able to run the 26.2 mile course. I'd been resting A LOT for the past two weeks so my nagging right shin felt fine. It was freezing (about 27 or 28 degrees) and I woke up around 5:30 to start getting ready. Since I'm really the anti morning person, I like to lay out all the things I'll need for race day the night before. It only took about 10 minutes to get dressed and get my morning coffee ready. My friend Amy came with me to the start with my "support backpack" that had all the things you could imagine: bottled water, my inhaler, Clif gels, my hoodie, Body Glide and other assorted things that I can't remember or didn't use. Haha.
We rode downtown with some other friends who were running and started our morning at the Chicago Area Runners room at the Congress Hotel. I'm not going to get into it, but it was one of the clutchest moves of the weekend to have access to the indoor bathrooms there not only for warmth but for hygiene and gagging reasons. Marathon port-a-potties are SICK!
Amy hung out with me at the start line, or more like the half mile to the start line point that I was standing at. It was hilarious because everyone had about 10 extra layers on that they were stripping off and throwing. I gave Amy my sweatshirt and my pack started the long walk to the start line. Sometimes I get super annoyed because some people will run or jog to the start line which is SUPER ANNOYING because we're about to get all the running we'll need for the day, plus it tends to make the pack start and stop a lot. Luckily for me, everyone around me had a brain and realized that we were about to run a whole load of miles so everyone just kind of walked until we got to the line. I heard my Champion Chip beep and we were off!
Almost immediately after the start, we ran underneath the main streets on Lower Wacker Drive (if you've seen the Dark Knight, you've seen where we ran) and it's almost like a tunnel so everyone started "WOOOing". It was pretty cool. I had so much adrenaline pumping at this point and I could feel my usual race-day tears coming. It's hard to imagine it, but being in the middle of a blob of 45,000 people is truly amazing. As far as you can see in either direction, that blob stretches for miles and miles. Everyone has a common goal (there is no half marathon going at the same time) and we were running through what I consider to be the coolest city in America. The first few miles we just snaked through downtown. There were so many spectators and everyone was in high spirits. I felt like the first 13 miles just ticked away faster than I was expecting them to be.
Yeah, y'all. There were a ton of people running. It was really cool.
This was the first time I met up with my spectator group for an inhaler/gel stop around mile 6. I can't imagine running the race with out "Team Run, Big Jen, Run" because knowing that I only had a few minutes and miles more to go to see them again really kept me going. Plus, I didn't have to use my evil chafing fuel belt to hold anything since they had everything I could possibly need with them. Between my stops to see them at mile 6 and mile 9, we ran through our neighborhood, Lakeview. It was BY FAR the best part of the course. Lakeview has two smaller "sub-neighborhoods", if you will, Boystown (the biggest gay area in Chicago) and Wrigleyville. I knew from my spectator experience watching Amy that Boystown was going to be super fun and they did not disappoint! There was a set of lovely cheerleaders and my personal favorite, a stage with several drag queens that were dressed up as bridesmaids. The streets were a little bit narrower so it was so crowded with runners and spectators. ***If you ever run a marathon, make damn sure your name is somewhere on your shirt.*** So many people actually took the time to read my shirt and yell out a "Go Big Jen" or "Big Jen, you aren't very big but go girl!". It was a blast to get personal shout outs from people I didn't even know.
This was just after the halfway point. I asked my brother to come with me for a little while, I figure he probably stayed with me for a half mile. We walked for a couple of minutes there too so I could catch my breath. Cold air and my lungs don't really mix well. I'm so glad he ran with me for a few minutes just because it was hard knowing I was only halfway done. I was also waaaaay off of my usual pace so the reality that this was going to take FOREVER was setting in.
Brooke; my brother, Michael; and Adam waiting for me near mile 17.
This picture is classic, I'm eating a gel and it looks like I am about to gag, which usually happens at least once when I eat one. Truly, they don't taste that bad but I am not a huge fan of eating during strenuous exercise (or even right after) so they usually are hard to take down. I had about 5 miles between seeing them at this point until I was going to meet up with them again in Chinatown. Those five miles were tough but we ran through Pilsen, which is a predominately Hispanic neighborhood and the spectators were awesome there. There was a lot of Tejano music being blasted in the streets by DJ's and a couple of mariachi bands too. I was pacing with a team of guys that had shirts on proclaiming that they were from Mexico so the crowd always got a bit rowdier when our group came through.
Chinatown, almost to mile 22! They say you hit a wall around mile 20 and for me, it was a little bit after that, which I attribute to overshooting my 20 mile training run. I passed the 21 mile sign and realized that I only had 5 more to go, or hopefully only an hour more of running. I'd asked Adam to run with me from Chinatown until close to the finish line to help me through the last few miles. I made a crucial error and forgot to take a puff of my inhaler when I saw the group, UG! I think I had the fact that I needed to pee on my mind. (OH and I forgot to mention one of the more funny parts of the race. At mile 6 when I saw the group, I told them that I needed to pee and for them to have someone ready at mile 9 when we ran by their hotel to take me inside to use the facilities. You should have seen the funny looks I got when I ran off the course and back on. Oh and the couple in the elevator who looked at me like I was crazy for having a short-sleeved shirt on even though I was dripping with sweat.) So we stopped at the next set of port-a-potties (tragically gross!) and carried on. For the next three miles, I was miserable. I kept telling Adam to NEVER LET ME SIGN UP FOR ANOTHER ONE OF THESE no matter how much I begged. I was moving like a snail because I would run for 45 seconds or so and then have to walk for 15 seconds because I felt like I could get only 10% of the air I needed in my lungs. It was totally frustrating but at some point some man gave my delirious self a little shot glass of beer. It was delicious and amazing.
We saw the group one last time at the 40K mark, which is just a couple hundred feet before the mile 25 marker. I had some inhaler and carried on. I was able to run the last 1.2 miles at decent pace despite the fact that my feet and legs felt like mush. I was so lucky that my right shin didn't bother me too much during the race because I think it was so numb at the start from the cold and by the time I warmed up, everything was already hurting! HA!
I crossed the finish line with the utterly exhausting time of 5:44:00. I think it's awesome that I ended up with an even time. Adam had stayed with me until the big hill at the end that we "marathoners" refer to as Mount Roosevelt. I found him after crossing the finish line and after about 30 minutes of debacle we met up with our group.
Team Run, Big Jen, Run! Mikey, Adam, Dad, Adam's mom, me, Adam's dad, Mom, Mrs. Bazan, Amy and Brooke!!! Many, many thanks to them who completed their own version of a marathon. Chasing me around the city was hard work!
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