Chicago Marathon 2012

One of the 5 top marathons in the entire World!  One of the Marathon Majors!  As a runner, it’s a must!  It’s on every runners bucket list of “go-to” races.  At least for this runner.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I had the honor and the privilege to run this marathon this year!  It was everything I ever expected and more.  First, the city of Chicago!  Wow!  Such a fun city to visit!  This was not my first time in Chicago, but it offers something new with every visit.

I decided to wrap the marathon in with a little family time, and at the last-minute decided to take our youngest daughter and my hubs.  Our daughter was excited to see all of the sights, eat the great food (Chicago is a great foodie city) do a lot of shopping, sightseeing,, and of course, ride The ‘L’

Our first day there was committed to sight-seeing.  Yes….I had a marathon to run on Sunday, but could not help but indulge our daughter in an entire day (or three) of walking around Chicago.  First stop; Cloud Gate aka: The Bean in Millenium Park  It is always amazing to me, when something so simple can attract so much attention.  The Bean, the huge silver sculpture, is quite a place of entertainment.  We stood close to it, watched people, took pictures, stood underneath, laid underneath, stood far away, stood close up, did back bends onto it, made faces into it, leaned against it, stared at ourselves in it, pretended to kiss ourselves in it, and looked at the skyline through it at various angles, for WELL over an hour!  Our daughter loved it, and we loved it again!

Next stop was the Willis Tower, formerly The Sears Tower.  We were excited to again be in one of the tallest buildings in the World, and in fact, the 3rd tallest in the World and tallest in the Northern Hemisphere!  Since our last visit, they had added the “Ledges.”  These were boxes, that had been built off of the side of the building at the Skydeck level, that were made of glass.  Including glass bottoms.  It took a real step of faith to stand on these glass-bottomed boxes at 103 stories, 1353 feet above the city.  The boxes extend 4.3 feet away from the side of the building.  It was exhilarating and exciting!!  Of course we had to go up twice, once during the day, and once at night!  What gorgeous views of the city!

The next few days, were filled with a trip to the Navy Pier, shopping, eating, shopping and eating…OH MAN, is there a lot of shopping in this city.  Our daughter, literally, wore us out!!

I had the great pleasure of meeting up with some friends from my long-time running group for dinner.  It was fun to sit, talk, laugh, and of course eat Chicago Deep Dish pizza with these amazing and inspirational women.  Even this vegan had to take a cheat day, to eat up the fabulous tastes of this windy city!  “When in Rome” applies when I travel, and feel the need to taste what each new place is all about!  And how can you not try deep dish while in Chi-town? (Thanks for the fun night, Michelle, Sheila and Jenni)

The marathon expo was on Friday, so we took the train in and caught a shuttle to the expo.  I suppose with over 45,000 runners, you would have to have a shuttle system.  This expo!  Words cannot describe, how much fun this was.  We wandered around for well over 3 hours, and still didn’t have the chance to go through the entire thing.  It got me so excited to be running this marathon!  The butterflies were starting to swirl in my stomach!

Race day was upon me, and I was ecstatic!  We got into the downtown area early, so we could make it through the usual, bathroom stops, undressing and dressing, trying to figure out what I should wear.  Weather that day was just about ideal, high 30’s for the morning start, heading into the 50’s during the day.  I didn’t want to freeze all day, but knew that as I run, I would warm up.  I chose an under armor, with my Lake City Tri club singlet.  I had to represent the 83815, right?  I also had on my fave green running skirt.  At the last-minute I decided to pull on a pair of running tights and my gloves.  I thought I would ditch them in gear check, but decided to leave them on and I am happy that I did.

My hubs and daughter walked around with me, as I was navigating my way around into the very, VERY organized area in Grant Park around the start.  There were separate gear checks depending on bib color, and then of course different starting corrals.  I finally had to kiss them goodbye and head off, with the herd, to find my spots.  This was getting real!!  I dropped my bag, stopped and filled my Hydrapack Soft Flasks with water to mix my Napalm, and headed to the corral.  It wasn’t long before we were moving, and after about 20 minutes (I’m guessing) we made our way to the start.  I had heard that it can take up to 45 minutes to reach the start line.  I was happy it seemed to go by so fast!  It was fun walking to the start in this huge group, cheering, waving and meeting all sorts of fun people.  Multiple marathoners, first timers, young, old…everyone had a story to tell me.  And I loved hearing them!

The start!  Oh man….the uproar that ensued was incredible!  It took my breath away and got my eyes sparkly with tears!  We took off!!  I was feeling amazing.  Really taking in the whole experience.  This was not only a marathon I wanted to run well, but also a marathon that I wanted to breath in along the way.  I didn’t want to miss anything about the entire day!  I wanted to capture everything.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the spectators…the essence of this city.  There were 29 different, distinct neighborhoods of the city that we ran through, and each had their own feel, culture, and people out there to cheer us on.  Thank you for being out there in support of this race, and for making this experience for me, so incredibly remarkable!

New East Side
Magnificent Mile
The Loop
River North
Near North
Old Town
Old Town Triangle
Lakeview East
Park West
Lincoln Park
West Loop Gate
West Loop
Near West SideLittle Italy
University Village
Illinois Medical District
East Pilsen
Park Boulevard
The Gap
South Commons
South Loop
Prairie District
Central Station

With over 1.5 million spectators, how can you NOT feel like a freakin’ ROCK STAR!!  It was truly unbelievable!  The ENTIRE 26.2 miles were lined with droves of people.  People as far back as I could see, piled up along side the road, onto buildings, restaurants, up on top of steps, out on balconies, windows, several stories above us, on roof tops…everywhere!

I kept up a great pace, and was feeling really good.  At about the 1/2- (more like the 8-mile)  way point, my body started to hurt a little.   Running a marathon 5 weeks after an Ironman…maybe not the best thing.  HOWEVER, I was determined that I would finish, and enjoy every second!  Right after coming out of China Town, I finally had to stop in at medical and grab some Ibu!  Oh, how I could not wait to get this on board!  Every inch of my lower body was getting REALLY sore.  Hips, knees, IT bands, ankles, and the arches in my feet.  I stopped to stretch, took the vitamin I, and pulled my running tights down, (yes, right in front of everyone)  I was so damn sore, I didn’t care who was looking…and I did have a skirt on that covered my heiny.  I slathered my legs in BioFreeze (this stuff is the bomb dot com) in the hopes that it would take the edge off.  It never did.  I was trying my hardest to ignore the pain, and be in the moment, but every passing mile, was hurting so bad.  I was trying to NOT allow my heart to sink, knowing that little by little, I was slowing down.  I had told friends before we left that I would CRAWL to the finish if I had to, and it was starting to look like a possibility (HAHAHA)  I continued on as the miles passed, in pain, but still looking around at this gorgeous city!  My eyes kept popping tears for various reasons; the pain, the sights, the sunshine, the cool breeze, and overwhelming delight in being ABLE to run this Marathon Major, and one thing in particular kept popping to mind….early in the race, we passed by a big, historic looking, vintage building (ok yes, there are TONS of these in Chicago)…I kept seeing runners ahead of me waving towards the building. When I got to it, I soon realized what/who they were waving to.  The building was a nursing home, and high up, on a second story, filled with windows, were the residents, lined up along the WHOLE entire building.  Some standing, some you could tell were in chairs, and some wheelchair bound.  They waved, and blew kisses to us runners as we ran by.  They looked frail and feeble, some of them nearing the end of their life.  I choked back a sob, and tears fell from my eyes seeing them.  Those running around me had the same feeling, and one woman said with tears in her eyes, that she had goose bumps over her entire body.  I held that memory in my mind.  And as the pain worsened that day, THAT is what stuck in my mind.  I was ABLE to be out here running.  I am still young, and strong, and capable.  I ran my last miles thinking about making my family proud of me, and I ran for those that could not be running.  Because like I have said a million times over, when I get to that point of my life when I can no longer run, and I am the one sitting, looking out from my window, I want to be happy that I LIVEDthat I gave it everything, that I have no regrets, or missed adventures.  That I went, saw, and conquered.  That I looked fear in the face, and jumped anyway.  That I lived my life to complete exhaustion, and used it up GREATLY!!  God gave me only one, and this life of mine is getting thoroughly used!

And so…even though the last 3 miles of this marathon hurt like nothing else has (even Ironman) and I literally cried the whole last 3 (no kidding), I was happy that I pushed through  And when I saw that finish line, it was again…worth it.  Isn’t every finish line worth it?  Doesn’t matter what is happening, it is always worth it.  This relates to racing and in life…always worth pushing through to your finish line.  I crossed the timing mat, held up my hands, and smiled.  Two- seconds later, I was crying again.  I made my way through the finish, getting my space blanket (which I actually really needed) getting my medal (well earned bling) getting my ready-made snack pack of food, and getting a beer (yes…this tasted like gold)  and continued on to the 27th Mile (this is the party area) and searched for my family.  I saw Greg in this sea of racers, party-goers and spectators, (of course I saw Greg…for some reason we have always had the ability to seek one another out, even in a crowd of thousands)  We locked eyes, and that pushed my “sob” button.  I fell into his arms sobbing!  I tried to enjoy the party, the amazing band.  I tried to sit and eat, and watch as people danced at the bandshell, but my body was ready to rest.  I think my body was ready to rest in Sept after Ironman.  =)

I got a marathon PR this day!  And checked off one the Major 5’s.  Yes, I plan to do all 5, and plenty more!  Not that I really have a “bucket list” of races, because I don’t run and race to “check things off of a list” I run and race because its in my blood, its my passion.  It always has been and I LOVE it!!.  And mostly, I run because can!