remember that time i ran the chicago marathon? oh yeah… that happened. what an experience!
i woke up bright and early at 5 to get ready- jumped in a cab around 6 and headed to the hilton for the CARA VIP experience. met up with my running group, checked my gear, and walked over to grant park to hit the port-o-johns before the race. something really important for runners? go to the bathroom before the race. even if you think you don’t have to! the lines were massive and we couldn’t find the special reserved CARA lines so we just ran around til we found the shortest lines possible. once in the corral it seemed like ages before we actually started. my foot was already starting to hurt, which was bizarre because during training it only usually hurt if i was in heels, on the elliptical, or after running 3-4 miles. i took this as a terrible sign of the pain to come so i texted with my friend joe to distract me and calm my nerves. and then… we were off!
the first couple miles were brutal getting my body warmed up. i hadn’t run for over a week so my legs and feet were all like what the and stiff. my knees were all tight but my foot felt fine. at about mile 5 i decided i would just run til i saw my fam and friends and then quit. maybe just run off the course at that point and head out for brunch. but when i saw my mom i got all re-inspired! then i saw my friends and i was in it to win it! that was about mile 8. then at mile 9 i started doubting everything. there was NO way i was going to make it 17 more miles. no way at all. my hip started hurting and i’d never had hip pain before. and my IT band was so tight i thought it was going to snap (is that even possible??). so i made a decision in my head. make it to mile 13 and you can quit. a half marathon is awesome and respectable and with all my injuries nobody would think less of me.
and then i hit mile 13 and said to myself “well… maybe just make it to mile 20, go two steps, and then quit. that way you’ll go further than you’ve ever gone”. so i had that finalized. at mile 14 i saw more friends and told them i was ready to quit. so so ready. but something happened then… the hip pain was gone. and i had 14 miles behind me. when i saw the 15 mile marker i thought to myself “holy shit. i only have 11 miles to go. i’ve run 11 miles millions of times. maybe i can actually pull this off!”. then when i saw my friends again at mile 16 i was ready! i knew i COULD do this. it was inevitable. i already felt a million times better than i had during my 20 miler and i hadn’t even walked yet.
so then it was about finishing quickly. i was running the slowest pace of my life (every time i tried to go faster the pain just shouted “HAHAHA you fool- no way!”) and i had to get my bag out of gear check by 2:30. and at the pace i was going i would finish at about 2:10. so i had to make sure i actually kept at that pace so i’d have time to get to my bag.
so the last 11 miles i just kept on keeping on. stopped to go to the bathroom, ate all my gummies and gels, made sure i got enough gatorade and water, high fived every kid i saw on the course, chatted with a couple other plant based athletes, and tried to take the advice of everyone i’d talked to and have fun. and while i wouldn’t say the back half of a marathon is “fun”, it’s definitely something you’ll never forget. by that point i was running so slowly people were walking faster than me, but i didn’t care. early on in the race someone had a sign that said “run your own race” and i really kept repeating that to myself throughout the race. don’t look back to make sure you’re not last… don’t worry about people passing you… don’t worry about anyone else’s time. just run the best you can and keep putting one foot in front of the other. so i did. and somehow i was suddenly passing the 20 mile mark. and then the 21. and the 22. and the miles just kept falling behind me. i swear they got shorter at the end. i was in awe of how quickly the next aid station would come up. i felt like i had just passed one and still had the taste of gatorade in my mouth. maybe i was delirious? in any case… i loved it. every painful step. during the last couple miles my leg/knee started really hurting and i was audibly saying “ow” every now and then… but i kept going. at that point there was no choice. and all of a sudden i turned a corner and saw the finish line. THE FINISH LINE YOU GUYS! and i started tearing up. i wanted to sprint that last little bit but remembered the advice of someone i ran with. since it was my first marathon, she said, i shouldn’t rush it at the end. just look around, take it all in, and take a minute to really appreciate what is happening. and i did. and i am so grateful for that advice because you know what? i did it. and i loved it. and i was able to just smile and be happy and see all these people cheering and waving and it was just great. the whole thing was great. the entire city came out to watch, it felt like, and they really just made the race amazing from start to finish.
now… i’m incredibly sore and can hardly walk and give a dirty look to any steps that get in my way (i’m looking at you, porch), but if i could go back, would i do it again? abso-freaking-lutely.