I don't know why I got into the Chicago marathon. There were thousands of other runners who tried to register, but couldn't get through the registration debacle, then "lost" the lottery. Many, if not most of them would have been faster than me, which somehow makes me feel like they were "more deserving" of a spot than me.
I had motivation problems all summer and seriously considered reselling my number on Craig's List, making a profit in the process (shhh it's not condoned by the race). Given the registration debacle this year, however, and the near certainty there will be qualifying times and/or a lottery for everyone next year, it was likely the only time in my entire life I'll have the opportunity. So I did it.
We got to the hotel Saturday afternoon, had an early light dinner then I was in bed by 8:30 and fell asleep to the Tigers game. I didn't sleep super well, and my first feeling when I woke up was nausea. Again??? At least I learned from the barfing incident in Indianapolis and didn't force myself to eat or drink anything other than 2 Salsalate pills. Instead I stuffed my pockets and belt with food, hoping I'd be hungry once I got outside.
I looked outside, checking for snow or rain or whatever. What did I see? Volunteers setting up fluid stations on the hotel street!!!!!! I booked the hotel because it was a steal at $135 right downtown, not even realizing it was on the race route!
When I made it outside, the sun was rising and it was cool and comfortable. Thankfully I felt a little hungry, so I started nibbling the bagel I had brought from Panera. We made our way downtown and I seriously felt like I was in kindergarden - I had Bill's phone number written on my arm, we had a meet up plan, and an emergency meet up plan in case the course was evacuated, or I was still completely MIA at 3 pm.
I had read online to write your name on your shirt and people will encourage you by name the whole way. Seemed like a good, fun idea, so I taped 2 lines of white duct tape to my shirt and wrote on it with a Sharpie. I felt extremely silly, but I wasn't the only person like this. Bill couldn't come anywhere near the start corrals, so before we said goodbye, I had him take my picture with his phone, so in case I went missing he'd have a photo immediately available of me, in the right outfit. Smart idea, eh? Kindergarden safety!
I was in the G corral, for people with an estimated finish between 4:00:00 and 4:40:00. It's right where I thought I'd finish when I registered in February. It was the biggest corral but I never felt cramped for space. The only thing I would have changed would be to put some porta potties inside the corral because the gates closed at 7:45, and we didn't cross the start line until 8:07.
It was cool beforehand, but not cold and I knew I'd ditch my jacket and gloves within a mile, so I gave them to Bill before we split up, so I could use them before a really cold race. Predictably, I got cold, so at one point I wore a blue shirt from the donation pile, then I wore gloves for the first two miles....
Everyone I know who has run Chicago has said the crowd support is incredible. I mentioned it to "Indy" afterward and he asked if it really was that great. The only thing I could compare was coming out of the tunnel in Detroit, so I texted him, "Remember how it was when you came out of the tunnel? It was like that."
"Holy $h!t!" he said, "Wow! The whole way?!"Yes, the entire way! The news estimated 1.7 million people came out to watch. It was incredible!! They were out several people deep with food, drinks, high fives, signs, music, noise makers, for 26 miles!!!! At least a thousand people cheered for me or encouraged me by name. Around mile 21 I was dragging so I was singing out loud and a woman said "Just keep singing, Michelle!" It was awesome! I ran the whole thing with one ear bud in and the other tucked in my shirt so I could hear everyone and everything. Most of the time, the spectators were louder than my music :)
Something particularly sweet was early in the race when we ran past a retirement home or a nursing home and several of the residents were sitting next to the windows on the second floor watching and waving. One elderly man stood up with a sign "Go! Go! Go!" We all waved.
I passed a woman who was wearing a shirt that said "Run like Hal." I said I like her shirt, and asked if she had met him at the expo. She said "He's my dad. We just passed him a little bit ago." Neat!
Someone else I passed was a guy whose shirt said on the back "Slap my ass when you pass." Yes...I did... I also told him nice job.
Some of my favorite signs:
"You run better than Congress"
"The government can't shut you down"
"You've trained for this longer than Lindsay Lohan was in rehab"
"If Britney Spears survived 2007, you can survive this"
and my favorite "Run while you have an ACL"
The only one I managed to photograph was "Run you B!tches"
By my watch, I hit the halfway point in 2:13, but when I hit their half marker, I was already at 13.4 miles on my watch. I always try to run the tangents and the inner parts of turns, but there were so many people and the streets were so wide that it just wasn't always feasible and I was over mileage.
The weather warmed up as we ran and it was in the upper 70s during the second half. I drank from every water table, and I knew I was dehydrated, so twice I took a salt packet from my pocket and downed it, hoping to retain water. Yeech that was nasty! I ran through every sprinkler, anything to help with staying cool.
It wasn't enough, though, because by mile 22 I was having some pretty serious cramping in my right side and doing a lot more walking than I wanted. Breaking 5 hours was still possible when I was at the 5k mark with 30 minutes to go. I would have to be just under 10-minute miles, which is easy enough, but I just didn't have it in me with the cramping.
Eventually I finished in 5:11. It was my best time for 2013, and my 4th best overall. How did I feel after? I didn't feel anything. I wasn't happy for finishing, wasn't sad about missing my time, I was basically numb.
Number eleven, baby! The finishing chute seemed to stretch forever. I had to walk at least a half mile before I met up with Bill at our designated meeting point. A very nice man draped my medal around my neck and said "Congratulations. You earned it." I picked up a food box and a big beer (hee hee) but passed on the space blanket and the towels soaked in cold water. There were tons of medical personnel, as there had been along the course.
It was by far the biggest race I've ever done and the organization was incredible!!!! The hundreds / thousands of volunteers knew exactly where to send us and answered whatever questions we had. At no point did I feel lost. The corrals were well organized, the finish chute progressed easily and the meet up areas were easy to find.
Security was ramped up, but I didn't think anything was too excessive. There were several police dogs working Grant Park at the start, and security checked bags going into the start, but I didn't have anything so I breezed through the express line. The only thing I noticed on the course were the soldiers in uniform, with automatic weapons in their hands, ready to fire. The start and finish lines were closed to spectators, but that was only 0.2 miles of the race. It's impossible to secure a 26-mile route, but I felt extremely safe the entire time.
A few stores would engrave the back for free after, but we were short on time and food was more important.
On the way home, I texted Kelly that I was going to finish the races I already paid for, then take off some serious time. She asked how much? Two weeks? haha I said I might skip the whole spring race season in 2014. She said I wasn't allowed to make any major decisions after a race, and she was right. Maybe just Toledo and Cincy next year. We'll see.
Chicago was a hassle to get there and go to the expo and everything, but if by any chance I can get in again next year, I'll do it again. In a heartbeat!