Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chicago Marathon 2015 Race Recap

You guys, marathon #3 was a magical, amazing, wonderful experience that I am still in a bubble of happiness and awe from. These races are the reason people do more of these things. I am so glad I redeemed my marathon experience from Kansas City with the incredible race that is Chicago Marathon!!  I know I have some catching up to do on the race expo and the rest of my time in Chicago.  I don't like doing things backwards, but whatever, let's just get into it.

For those of you who follow along on Facebook or on Instagram, you know that I exceeded my goals and my personal expectations of myself by pulling off a finish time of 3:58:39 in the marathon. For some context, I ran my first marathon in Paris in April 2014 in a time of 4:37 and then the Kansas City marathon, more recently, in October 2014 in a time of 4:57. I read online that in 2014 the median finish time for all women marathoners was 4:44:19 (thanks Brick!), which had put me right in the middle of that pack.

Until Sunday.

This whole year I have shocked myself over and over as I see myself moving from athletics being something that I just struggle through/complete to the realization, “Wow, I’m actually not half bad at this.” The fact that less than a quarter of those who run marathons ever run under 4:00 hours is something that solidifies that for me as well. And I don’t type these things out to brag, but more to let it sink into my own head, “Katelyn, you are better than you allow yourself to think.”

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have a hard time even calling myself an athlete and a runner.

So where do we start with Chicago Marathon? Well, in the days leading up to the race, I wanted to define a goal for times for myself. I had said all along that once I got through my long runs, I would set a goal based on the paces that I was running for the longer 15, 16, 18, 20 mile runs. Originally I was thinking I wanted to aim for under 4:15, which would be a 9:45/mile pace, and ideally under 4:10, which would be a 9:30/mile pace. My 20 and 18 mile runs were at a 9:58 and 9:30/mile pace. I was researched back to when I did the Paris Marathon and saw that my race pace was very similar to my 18-mile run. Which means about a 9:30 pace for a 4:10 marathon.

But then somewhere I got in my head, could I run a 4:00 hour marathon with a pace of 9:10?  I felt confident I could do a good portion of the race at 9:10, but had no idea if I could do 26 miles.

I have NEVER run that fast for longer than a half marathon. I ran a half marathon in 1:57 in March and finished completely out of breathe and dead.  Yet, for some reason I couldn't get 4:00 hours out of my head.  So I started strategizing.

I knew if I was going to run a 4:00 hour marathon, I would need to commit to it from the beginning of the race and hope I didn’t crash later in the race. I knew that everything would have to work in my favor on race day and that I would have very little margin of error in times. I felt really anxious the whole week before trying to decide if I should go for it or not.  Especially with the hip injury/pain, the idea scared me a lot. It was a lofty goal that I hadn't particularly trained to achieve and I wasn’t sure if I was ready or not. Yet I couldn't get 4:00 hours out of my head.

I spoke with a few very close friends about the idea of going after 4:00-hours but really was afraid to tell too many people because it almost felt like a laughable goal. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it and all the people that I had told I was going after that would have been like, “What was she thinking, was she delusional thinking she could go after 4??” And to be honest, it felt a bit delusional to me as well.  But I couldn't get 4:00 hours out of my head.

The day before the race, I wrote out a pacing chart for myself to have with me during the race of what my splits should be throughout the race to hit a 4:00 hour marathon, as well as what they should be to run a 4:10 marathon. I read a number of articles online about pacing strategies for a 4:00 marathon and a few of them said to plan to run the first half in 1:55 and the second half in 2:05. I also read the fact that less than 25% of marathons run under 4:00 and also started to think again, “Am I totally insane thinking that I should try for this??”

I knew, for me, if it was going to be possible, the way to get there would be to run an even race, and not try to run too fast in the beginning. I didn't like the idea of trying to do a much faster first half and instead wanted to try and stay consistent throughout the race.  Everything I read online said that the number one mistake people make in Chicago Marathon is to go out too hard in the beginning. The crowd support and the adrenaline for the first 10-miles were supposedly crazy, so people tend to go out too much and die on the end of the course, that has less fans and also has less shade so you are more in the sun.  I didn't know if running 9:10 would be too hard for me, and also have never tried to run based off of a time before so that fact made me nervous.

I put together a plan to run effort and how I felt. To get into a pace that felt comfortable, that I could talk at while I ran, and that felt good. I wanted to hold back and have a more conservative first half, try to stay consistent in pace, and above all, not go out too hard. I read a number of articles and here were other aspects of the plan that I put in place for the race:

- Keep in control for the first 10 miles of the course, the “North side” of the route. Be able to have a conversation while running, breathe steady.  Be in control.

- During slow portions of the course and the crowd, focus on my breathing and my heart rate. Ask myself, “Am I where I want to be?” Dial back if needed. Focus on my form. Keep my head over my shoulders. My shoulders relaxed. My arms swinging. My hips under my shoulders. My feet landing under my hips. BE MINDFUL of my run and my form.

- Treat every aid station like a transition in a triathlon and plan ahead of what I needed. There would be 20 aid stations throughout the race. I planned to have a Gu Chomp before the race started with water, and then again about 30 minutes into the race and every 30-40 minutes after, also alternating salt tabs. Switching up Gatorade and Water at the different aid stations.

- There are a number of turns throughout the Chicago Marathon.  Run them tight and RUN THROUGH them and not slow down on the turns.

- If it got windy, find a pack of runners to duck behind and draft.

- During the “no man’s land” of the back miles of the course, add some pick-ups and change the pace around to keep my legs guessing.

- Dedicate the last 6 tough miles to loved ones and those who encourage me.

- During miles 23-26, start to “go fishing” and pick off runners throughout the course. It is a long straight shot to the finish at this point and these are tough miles so keep yourself energized by passing people and picking them off one by one.

- There is a “hill” at the very end of the course, maybe around 25.5? BEAST IT.

- Pace by zones… first 15 miles in “Yellow” or comfortable zone, 16-24 in “Orange” zone a bit harder, and last two miles in “Red zone" -- leaving it all on the course.

These were all the things that I had going through my mind and that I spent the evening before the race reading and focusing on. I studied the course a bit to see if that would help to have a general understanding and familiarity with the route. In general, I have never really done this before and haven’t done a lot of work to research courses. I used to like the not knowing. Whereas now, for goal races, I’ve come to appreciate how helpful being prepared can be in order to mentally walk myself through the course when I am actually out there.

As final last minute prep to get my body ready, I did the normal night-before-a-race carb loading with some delicious pasta and bread from a restaurant right along the race route in Old Town Chicago.

Then that was it! I went into the race more prepared than I have for any other race. With a solid plan and a strategy and hoping for as much to go my way as possible. I was really nervous that my hip pain would flare up and throw a curve in everything. I was nervous my stomach would act up. I was nervous that I would have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the race. As one friend said, with 26.2 miles there is just so much room for error and for things to go wrong. A 5K or shorter distance, there is less to prepare for. But with a long race, you never know what is going to happen.

On Saturday night I had a pre race dinner of a big ol bowl of pasta and some bread, and studying the race, I was in bed with the lights out at 9:00 p.m. Luckily for me, I didn’t have too much pre-race anxiety and actually feel like I fell asleep right away and got a decent night’s rest.

Anyways, let’s recap the day, shall we? I want to remember every moment of this race and how I was feeling about it going into it.

My alarm was set for 5:45 a.m. and I actually did wake up a bit before my alarm. I was laying in bed trying to sleep a bit more and then eventually looked at my phone and saw it was about 5:40 a.m. so I decided to get up and just get moving. As I usually do the morning of a big run, I took a shower before leaving the house. I know it may seem random, but it helps to wake me up and get me feeling ready for the day. It’s also a good few minutes of peace to get my mind right before jumping into race day action.

I’d lay out all my clothes and things I needed the night before, so I got dressed, prepared my nutrition belt, and ate my breakfast of Special K Chocolatey Delight with berries and skim milk while sipping some water and Gatorade Endurance. I was a little nervous about drinking too much water the morning of because I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom during the race. I peed during the Kansas City Marathon and had to go to the bathroom during my 20-miler as well. I felt confident that I was well hydrated from the week/days before and kept my liquid intake that morning to just what felt good to taste.

Before I left the apartment I felt a little anxious like I was forgetting something but just head out anyways. I left the apartment around 6:40 a.m. to head to Grant Park where the race started. I went in an Uber and just asked them to take me as close as they could get me. My wave of the race started at 8:00 a.m. and the corral closed at 7:45 a.m.

The closer we got to the park the more and more people we saw flooding the streets walking towards the entrance. I hopped out of the uber as soon as we felt close enough. Once I saw everyone walking down the street, I realized what I forgot, which was that I had wanted to put some KT tape on my hip and butt, as the chiropractor had instructed for me. I was a little bummed but also told myself that it was probably better since I hadn’t been training like that. And “nothing new on race day” is a mantra most runners live by! I still am not totally bought in to the effectiveness of random pieces of tape on your body, but I’d wanted to do it just even for the psychological effect that it might be something helping me. I did a silent prayer for no pain during the race.

Some of my friends had offered to come with me to the start of the race, but I declined, knowing myself and that I would just want some time to get myself mentally in the zone. I also like to put my headphones on and have a dance party before races.

I was there about an hour before the race, so when I got towards the entrance of my corral, I found a little place to just sit down and stretch/stay off my feet before the race started. It was right by the porta pottys as well and I knew I wanted to use those one last time before the race started. I rested for maybe 15 minutes before getting in line for the bathroom, and then getting into my corral at around 7:30 a.m. as they kicked off the beginning of the first race and official race start.

As soon as I got in the corral I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again but knew that the corral was going to close in 15 minutes and that’s about how long I had been in line the first time. I told myself it was just nerves, that I had gone enough that morning that it couldn’t be real, and that I would just sweat it out once I started moving.

I put my headphones in and played some of my favorite songs where I danced and bounced around to stretch out and hype up. I’d worn a long sleeved shirt that I planned to throw away and kept it wrapped around me to stay warm. It was about 55 degrees at the start, which was actually a great temperature. Not long after 7:30 a.m. the corrals began moving forward and clothing began to be flung to the sides.

I was a little tempted to try and talk to some of the people around and make friends, but just decided to keep my music on until 5 minutes before the start and get focused. I got my watch ready by finding the GPS signal and having it prepped to go when I crossed the start line.

The announcer said that there was 45,000 people running today and warned us that it was going to get warmer later in the race so to listen to our bodies and hydrate throughout the course. I’d seen the forecast expect it to get up to 75 degrees, so I was planning for that mentally as well.

Before I knew it, our corral started and the race was off without too much fanfare. I hit “Go” on my watch right as I crossed the start line and we were off on my third marathon!! There were already tons of people along the very start of the race cheering, and I wondered to myself whose family members those were because they were already cheering like mad and we were less than 2 minutes into the race! I knew that it would be easy to go out too hard with this crowd, so I looked down at my watch to check and see what my pace was. I usually don’t have the pace set on my watch, but I had added it just the day before as a gauge. I was totally thrown off when I looked down and saw my watch was back at the home screen just showing the time of day. What the heck? I thought. I had never seen this happen before.

I pressed the button to the right to restart and find the GPS signal again but to my dismay, it did not find the GPS right away. I had never had it try to set while actually moving, so I wasn’t sure if it would find or not and I started to panic a bit as I started to run. I told myself to just calm down, let it do its thing and wait until I came to the first mile to see if they had clocks at each mile and if I could gauge my time that way.

When we got to mile 1 they did have a clock and as I passed by that it clicked to exactly 41 minutes. I hadn’t paid attention to exactly when I crossed the start line. I knew that we started 30 minutes after the official start, but hadn’t thought to pay attention to the time when I crossed the start line, although I knew it was a minute or so after the wave started. I planned to pay attention to mile 2 so that I knew that 41 minutes was my tracking point for mile 1.

Those first few miles were a bit of a distraction/blur trying to check down at my watch to see if caught the signal. It never did, and I was trying to calculate my pace based on the times as I was worried about starting too fast. When I got to mile 2 the clock read 50:10, which was right where I wanted to be, but the math got harder after that. I am not good at math in general, nonetheless math when I am trying to pay attention to so many other things and also clock math, which means you need to be adding around a base of 60 rather than 100 or something easier.

I also wanted to be paying attention to everything around me. The fans were out in full force on both sides of the street. We ran under an overpass at the very beginning and people started peeing all over the sides of the walls. There was a little girl around 8 or 10 years old who saw her dad right by me and she started screaming in excitement and running down the street continually yelling and cheering in the most heartfelt excitement I have ever seen. She would run ahead and give him a high five and keep running and screaming and it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. I was already getting choked up early in the race. We ran over some grates on the road and a few times they had mats over them, but they were still tricky to try and get footing over and I was wondering how many of these we’d have to run over.

I kept looking down at my watch and a couple times when I did it was no longer looking for the signal and would click back to the home screen, so I kept resetting it and trying to get a signal. At this point I was also mentally preparing myself to just have to run this race “blind” so to say. Even after a couple miles, I was having a hard time remembering exactly where the clock was when I passed a mile check point so that I could calculate my pace at the next one. I also didn’t want to be running the WHOLE race staring and waiting for every single mile. I usually try to distract myself from the exact mileage so to pay such close attention to it would be exhausting. I was mentally telling myself, “You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt. This isn’t ideal, but we can do it. Just run how you feel. You usually don’t look at your watch much when you run anyways.” Which is true, I try not to look at my watch when I run, but with an ambitious goal I’d been thinking of for myself, I was scared of how to go for that without the watch and it is also a bit of a security blanket for me. I gave myself a pep talk and told myself to just focus on what I can control and forget about my watch.

At about mile 4 I began to scan the crowds for familiar faces. This race was so exciting for me because I knew I had so much support and friends to look for along the course in the form of Courtney, Ryan, ICT, Ayanna, Maegan, Tes, Earon, Christina, etc. In addition to my race strategy, paces I was trying to hit, and a nutrition plan, I also was trying to remember the different mile markers where my friends had told me that they would be. I was nervous to miss anyone but trying to locate my friends was one of the last things I was trying to remember/focus on. I spent a lot of time during the Kansas City marathon looking for my then-boyfriend along the course, and I didn’t see him at times and it was really disheartening. I didn’t want to repeat that, so I just had a rough idea to look for friends but didn’t want to bank on that as a method of motivation/inspiration. I thought a few people had said they’d be between 4-6 miles though so when I got to 4 I started to just scan more cautiously.

A little before mile 5 a miracle happened (or so it felt) and my watch found the GPS signal and clicked on and I was able to begin tracking the race. I figured, okay, from here out, we’ll have some sense of what is happening. I felt happier that I could track my time and also use the pacer on the watch as a gauge.

As I mentioned, I don’t usually use the pace portion of the watch and from the small test run I had done with it the day before, I estimated that the pace the watch said was actually about 10 seconds faster than what I was actually running. I honestly don’t know how I got that in my head but it seemed right so when I would look down at my watch and see that it said 8:55/mile, I would try to stay there or ease back a tiny bit. Other times I looked down and it said 8:30/mile or so and I knew I could ease back a bit.

At about mile 5 I saw Courtney and Ryan for the first time. They were smiling so big and it made me so happy to see them! I felt like a special little butterfly of a runner that I had friends along the course cheering for me! Originally Teenie and Ryan weren’t going to be in town for the race, so I had mentally prepared myself to not have them around and lately that changed and they were around so it meant even more to me to see them along the route I think than if they’d always planned to be there. Ryan also ran the marathon the year before, so I felt even special-er having a seasoned marathoner cheering me on!

Seeing them gave me a boost of energy and I decided to be a little friendlier along the route. One of my favorite things about Paris Marathon was talking with other people along the course. I hadn’t felt like doing that at the start of this race, so I finally was feeling better about my watch and got a boost of endorphins from seeing my friends so at about 5.5 miles I told myself, “Let’s make some friends!”

There was one woman who had “Caro” written on the back of her shirt who I had been running nearby for the whole first 5 miles who I swear, looked like she was at the best party she’d ever been to and not running a marathon. She was high fiving people, literally jumping up and down in the middle of her run, throwing her hands in the air, dancing when there was music, etc. I ran up beside her and said to her, “I swear, I think you have having the BEST time of anyone out here.” And she said, “YES!!!!!!! I LOVE this!” and then said “Thank you.” And asked me where I was from. We talked for a little bit and her name was Carolina and she was from Puerto Rico. It was her first time running Chicago and I swear, she was having so much fun. I told her I was going to run by her and she was like, “Yes! Definitely!” Additionally, when I said I was from Atlanta another runner nearby said “I’m from Decatur!” and we all talked for a bit. The Decatur runner ran with Atlanta Track Club and I asked if he knew Tes from Running Nerds (everyone knows Tes) and told him at the 10K point there should be a cheering squad for all Atlanta runners.

I’d seen on Facebook that Tes was going to be at the 10K spot so I looked for her along the route but couldn’t see her when I passed that spot. Again, I’d learned from my last race not to let that dishearten me. I told myself that maybe I’d misread and she’d said the 10 mile spot and kept moving. Instead I motivated myself by telling myself as I crossed the 10K marker that all my friends and family would be getting a text message letting them know how I was doing on the course and that they were all cheering me on. It definitely helped to picture all my friends phones buzzing from Atlanta to San Francisco to New Hampshire to NYC to Rhode Island.

From miles 6-8 I just got myself excited for mile 8. I had heard that the mile through Boystown was amazing. And I also expected to see the Nike cheer squad at mile 8 where my friend Maegan was going to be. I ended up not seeing them, but Boystown was a lot of fun. High energy, cheering everyone, and it was just such an awesome vibe.

 As I mentioned, I couldn’t really remember where I was supposed to look for all my friends, but from my memory I was expecting to see everyone in the first half of the race. Throughout this time I was also keeping my eyes open not just for Tes and Maegan but also Ayanna and Earon, etc. I didn’t see any of them through these miles but it didn’t dishearten me, I just kept moving and enjoying the fans and the signs and getting high fives from every little kid I could see along the course.

At mile 9, I saw Courtney and Ryan again. I wasn’t expecting to see them and they spotted me before I saw them again and it made me so happy!! I waved and cheered and plugged along.

I thought maybe the crowd would die down at mile 10, but it kept up strong from 10-13 and I was proud of myself for still feeling really good along the course. Every now and then I would look down at my watch and see what the pace was and be like, “Slow down a bit Katelyn!”

When I got to 13.1 I really wished I knew what my time was, but there was nothing I could do about it at this point. I got excited at 13 knowing my friends were getting another update and I was also keeping my eyes peeled for Christina, a blog reader, who had told me she was going to be at the half marathon point with a sign for me. There had been some AMAZING signs at this point that had made me laugh and smile throughout the course.  Some of them were the traditional ones that you see at many races such as:

“Worst parade ever.”

“Smile if you farted.”

“This is a lot of work for a free banana.”

“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.”

But then there were also some that really cracked me up, like:

“If Trump can run for president, you can run this marathon.”

“26.2? I thought you said 2.62!”


However, my favorite sign along the entire course I saw at 13.1 which was the sign that one of my readers, Christina M made that said “Run for you, Hungry Twenties (6.2)” which, like, even writing this, makes me want to cry. This is only the 2nd time in my life that I have had a sign for me at a race. Once was earlier this year at the Publix Half Marathon when the Movers + Pacers crew had my name on a sign that I didn’t even realize until the race was over. So I guess you could say that this was the first time that I ever seen saw someone with a sign for me during a race. And also the only time that I ever had a sign for just me. Legitimately, I cannot even put into words how much this meant to me. I was looking for Christina all around the 13 mile mark because I was scared I was going to miss her. Seeing her was one of the highlights of the race for me and I LOVED her sign.

I felt a bit guilty not stopping to say anything, but I can’t stop while I am running. Plus, at this point in the race, I was feeling really good. I got a boost of excitement by seeing Christina and then it wasn’t much further after that on the route that I saw ICT and her sister Julia! It made me SOO happy to see them as well!! ICT and I used to work together for about 4 years and she sat across from me during a really exciting part of my running life - which is when I first started running all together. As I trained for and worked up to my first 5K race, ICT cheered me on and listened to me as I talked about my progression through the program to running my first ever 3.1 miles without stopping. To now have her cheering and running along side me with cowbells during the Chicago Marathon was an incredible feeling.

Mile 13 went by quickly, as did mile 14. That mile is the “charity mile” where the different charities set up tents to cheer on the runners. I’d almost forgotten about that point on the course but went over and gave all the Girls on the Run fans high fives and got them excited.

The crowd thinned out a bit over here and I started to play some little tricks with myself. First, I put my music on to motivate me to run a little harder and to keep me energized through the portion of the race that had less fan fare. I wasn’t sure if I should try to challenge myself to try and run the whole race without music, but a marathon is already challenge enough and I’d already mentally decided I would put music on around mile 15 so I went ahead and did that. I told myself to run miles 15-18 as if they were a 5K and then it would just be 2 more miles into the final stretch of the course.

The back half of the race definitely was a bit quieter but it was still tons of fans compared to Kansas City. I saw Julia and ICT again at about 16.5 and I totally wasn’t expecting to see them too so that was really exciting again! And a little after that, I saw my friend Earon for the first time on the race course. In total I saw friends 9 times along the course. I saw Courtney and Ryan twice, ICT and Julia twice, Christina once, Earon twice, and then later in the race I saw Ayanna and another ATL runner who came to Chicago just to cheer, Tes, each once on the course once as well.

When I hit mile 18ish I looked down at my watch, which was about 5 miles behind and saw that according to that, my mid-race half marathon split was 1:57 and thought to myself, “WHAT?” That felt amazing to see and gave me a boost of confidence as well that I might be close to making breaking 4:00 hours a possibility and just to hold on.

I told myself a number of times throughout the race when I felt strong and in control at a good pace to just, “Stay here.” Not physically, of course, as that is actually the exact opposite of what I wanted to do. But to just “stay there” in the pace, the feeling, the momentum I had in that moment. To just lock it in and stay there as long as I could. I was surprised at how good I felt for so long into the race AND that I had no pain in my hip or butt.

When I hit the 30K mark, I thought again of all my friends’ phones buzzing with the updates on my times and used that as motivation as I knew I was being cheered on all across the country. I saw Ayanna for a split second at 21 and Tes somewhere in there as well, these miles were a little bit of a blur.

We ran through the Latin neighborhood of Chicago that had mariachi band, people dancing in the street and a really fun vibe. We also ran through Chinatown where the cheering fans were handing out dumplings - a first that I’ve ever seen at a race!

When I hit mile 20 I was tempted to sprint but reminded myself that there is still a good amount of miles left. I tried to just stay in control and keep steading and keep something in the tank for the last miles. The sun was high in the sky at this point and I could feel hot so was dumping lots of water on me throughout the run as well. There were a number of hoses/hydrants with water to run through, some sponges being given out, etc. so I took advantage of all of that trying to stay cool, as well as finding whatever shade I could along the race to stay out of the direct sun where I could. The sponges especially were a savior as I would squeeze it all over my arms and shoulders, over my head and on the back of my neck.

I saw Earon again around mile 23 and knew that it was getting into the portion of the race where I really should kick it as much as I could. He gave me a boost and held up 3 fingers telling me there's only three left.  I read his facial expression to mean, "It's go time."  I tried to push harder and kept checking my pace, which my watch was definitely was telling me was slowing from what I was doing earlier by about 10 seconds, yet I felt like I was pushing at much harder effort.

I’d been sticking solid with my nutrition plan throughout the whole race even into the last leg of the race with 4 or so miles left. The last few miles I missed a couple water stops and also the thought of trying to reach into my belt and get out some Gu Chomps felt exhausting so I just said screw it, just charge these miles with just water and Gatorade when I could get it.

I accidentally dumped a cup of Gatorade down my shirt at one point and immediately felt the sting of water hitting chafed raw skin and thought to myself, “Shit, that’s gonna hurt later!” I accidentally stepped on the heels of some woman’s sneaker. She gave me a nasty look and said, “GEEZ! WATCH IT!” to me. I said, “I’m sorry, it was an accident!” and she returned that with another nasty look so I turned back as I passed her and said, “Good luck with the rest of the race!” I meant to try and return her nastiness with pleasantry but looking back it now seems just sort of snide since I said it over my shoulder as I passed her haha... woops! I can’t say I regret it.

I kept doing whatever I could and just wanted to keep moving. I was still trying to do math in my head to figure out how close I was to 4 hours. I had the number 41 stuck in my head because that was the number I saw on the clock when I passed one mile. At first, I messed up the math a little and thought I was WAY under 4:00 and was expecting to finish around 3:52, but then I quickly realized that 41 was the time when I had run one mile, not where I started, so I think that meant my race time was right around 4:00 exactly. I just tried to keep moving at the pace I was at and also started to mentally prepare myself a bit for what I would see at the finish. I stopped doing math and told myself to just run, if I get it, I get it.

Somewhere along these miles I also ran into a fellow Movers + Pacers runner who has since moved to Miami and who was also doing the marathon. I could tell she was struggling and I shouted encouragement to her and with some guilt just kept moving. I could see her pain but also felt that I barely had any moments to spare in this race.

I kept my music in from miles 15-24 and took it off for the last 2 miles of the race. I expected the crowd to pick up more and I wanted to take in every moment of the finish. It actually took the crowd a bit longer to pick up than I thought and I wished to myself that I’d kept my music in one hour longer. However, I used that mile to think back to my plan of dedicating miles at the end to people and thought about my family, little niece and nephew, and everyone who has motivated me and supported me through this run.

I barely remember the end of the run, except that I was hoping it would come quick! I remember seeing the 40K marker. Then the 1 mile mark. Then the 800 meter mark. I remember just pushing myself to keep at it a little longer and pushing for everything I had. I remember the turn onto Roosevelt and feeling confident that I could tackle this silly hill with all the training I’ve done all summer throughout the hills of Atlanta. I remember turning the corner yet again after beating that hill and seeing the finish and watching it get closer and closer until I crossed over that mat and I had FINISHED the race. I finished the Chicago Marathon. My third marathon, that I had trained the past 18 weeks for. That I’d thought about doing for more than a year. That I’d been dreaming about and heard so many wonderful things about, was COMPLETE.

And how about that hair, am I right? I don’t remember what the time was but I stumbled forward and took some water. I wondered where the medals were and tried to catch my breathe. I started to walk away from the finish, wanting very much to collapse but also knowing I needed to keep moving. I wanted to find a bathroom but then immediately didn’t think I needed one again.

Before I got too far I pulled out my phone to take a picture while the finish line was still in the background. I had stopped my watch but I had no idea what my time was and was honestly a bit scared to look. I knew it was close.

When I pulled out my phone to take a picture, I saw that my phone was blowing up in the moment. Text messages were coming in and my friend Kate was trying to call me. I took this as a sign that things were probably good and I opened up my text message icon and saw a number of messages that said things like, “HOLY SHIT!” and a “4:00!!!!!” so I scanned for the official text message results and read my time as 3:58:39.


Holy shit. I just ran a marathon under 4:00 hours.

I was so drained and in a bit of shock so I didn’t really react right away. I kept moving, I took a picture, got a medal, got a tinfoil blanket, which I immediately took off because I was hot, not cold, and grabbed water and food and decided to set my sights on trying to get out of the sun. They were giving out beer before you left the runner shoot, which I wanted, but just not at that moment, so I decided to take a minute to call my mom. We talked for a minute but I realized I was having a hard time holding a conversation and also breathing so I told her I needed to go. I thought briefly about going to the medical tent because I’ve never felt like that before, but instead just decided to get to the shade. Too tired to lift my arms.

I took a beer and carried it over to the shade where I stood for a minute to look at my phone and my time again, eat a banana, and drink some water. I saw a call from Ayanna and texted her which family meeting area we planned to meet and then decided to make my way over there before totally relaxing.

I ran into another Atlanta runner, Holly, who was one of my coaches for the Publix Half Marathon that March on my way. We talked for a while as she was looking for her husband. We realized we had almost the same finishing time and about the pain our feet were in. Together we walked over to the meeting area, as we randomly had chosen the same place to meet our friends. Cruelly, we had to walk down some stairs to get there, and we were also told we couldn’t bring our beers with us, but luckily we were able to walk right by. A number of people seemed to have been getting beat by the heat as we saw a couple people collapsing and one girl throwing up what looked like a lot of lemon lime Gatorade.

Once we arrived, I found all my friends, I drank my beer, I ate some food, I celebrated with my friends, and still felt in complete shock over my time. But I had done it! I ran a sub-4:00 hour marathon at the Chicago Marathon!!!

Even more amazing than that, okay well maybe not more amazing, but just as amazing... my half marathon split time was EXACTLY 2:00:00.  Seriously, what are the odds of that?  It still amazes me.

The fact that my first half marathon split was 2:00:00 means that I ran the race in negative splits, with my second half being 1:58:37, which is almost close to my time from Publix half marathon where I broke 2 for the first time.  It's crazy to me how much I have improved from the beginning of the year. The second time in my life I run a half marathon in under 2 hours is the 2nd half of a full marathon!  My time was a full hour better than my last marathon and a PR from Paris by 39 minutes!!

I'm so proud of this race and so shocked and amazed that I pulled it off when it wasn't even a time that I necessarily trained for.  I ran a near perfect race, with negative splits and extremely consistent pace throughout the whole thing.  Here are my 5K splits, which the race printed off for you, which was kind of cool.  As well, the mile splits from my TomTom watch.  This says it is miles 1-21 but technically they are the times for miles 5-26.

My place was 10,680 out of the 46,033 people in the race.  I was 3134 out of the 16,915 women in the race and 734 out of the 3380 women ages 25-29 in the race.  I was in the about top 20% for all of those which is pretty amazing to me.

One of the things that means the most to me about this race is all the support I had.  You know from my thank you post that there were a lot of shout outs to be given, but I feel even more so after the outpouring I had from people on Sunday.  The reactions that I received from so many of you were SO fun to read and see.  I could feel all of you cheering me on.  Especially to all those who were there in person, Courtney, Ryan, ICT, Julia, Ayanna (who came all the way from Atlanta!!!!), Tes, Earon, and Christina... having you guys all throughout the course was incredible.

And everyone who posted on Facebook and texted and called.  Your excitement made this so much fun for me.  I heard from so many people that they were on the edge of their seats, refreshing their phones waiting to see how I was doing, screaming in the streets when they got the texts, and were just as awe struck as I was to see what some hard work and confidence can do.  Many of you have seen me progress over the years and this is just unbelievable.  I was never a runner.  I was never an athlete.  I was never good at this.  I was always a chubby, lazy girl in the back of the pack.  And now I am achieving things that many people don't and it really gives me confidence and a different perspective on things.

Even friends of mine who don't run and who don't normally care about this stuff I saw getting into it and getting excited at me breaking 4:00 hours.  That was so cool to see and I am so happy you were all a part of it with me.  I love you!!!

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