Since it’s race week here in Chicago, and because I’ve had a lots of questions about my first marathon, I thought I’d share the race report.
I’d watched the weather reports for days. Who am I kidding? I watched them for weeks. Heat.
The Caveman and I left the kids (then 2 and 7) with my mom and stayed at a downtown hotel. It was steamy. Already. My hot pink race day outfit went out the window. I opted instead for loose and white.
In true nervous Nelly newbie fashion, we cabbed to the starting line and, no lie, other than workers, were the first people there. It was well before 5am. Race didn’t go off until 8. On some level I was hoping they’d decide to start the race earlier to avoid some of the heat. No such luck.
Being first has its advantages. You get the first shot at a fresh porta potty. But as I found out, this can also be a disadvantage:
Here’s where embarrassing moment #1 occured: Fresh, unused porta potty + total darkness + hovering + unknown seat/toilet cover position (who even knew porta potties HAD toilet covers? Not I.) = um…business done on top of, rather than in where it’s supposed to go.
After literally hours alternating between hitting the potty and sitting on a blanket hydrating/relaxing, it’s time to line up. It’s approaching 80 degrees with horrendous humidity. Already.
Caveman bid me farewell at the corral entrance. I collapsed in his arms crying because I’m afraid of what the day will bring. I am completely overwhelmed. Can I even do a marathon? Will I be ok in this heat?
I lined up well behind the 4 hour pacer. I’d trained to run a 4-hr marathon but I knew that would most likely be blown to hell in this heat.
We were off. The crowds were thick and loud. The pacer peeled off almost immediately to pee under that first tunnel almost every Chicago race goes under in the first mile.
I carried my own water. For no other reason than that’s how I trained. This would really help me.
I enjoyed the early miles. Loved seeing the neighborhoods and crowds change.
Embarrassing moment #2: Shortly after taking my first GU at mile 5 (I carried gel in a flask in those days) I felt something sticky on the top of my foot. I looked down to see dark brown espresso Hammer gel pooling under the tongue of my shoe. It was sticking and pulling my skin with every step. Even worse, there was an unsightly brown racing stripe of gel running from the flask that hung on my fuel belt, all the way down my leg. And to think I wondered why nobody was running very close to me. Ha!
I stopped at water stations and furiously rinsed as best I could.
Somewhere between miles 7-10 I saw a zillion empty water bottles laying curbside and figured they must have been giving them out. I did not know the water station was out of water and people were running into a convenience store buying water.
I saw the Caveman and a bunch of friends just before the 10-mile mark. By 10 miles the sun was coming up over the buildings, my water supply ran dry and it was darn hot. The 4 hour pacer faded out of sight and I knew I’d have to slow my pace if I ever hoped to finish this thing standing up.
I started walking through water stations drinking a cup or 2 and dumping a cup of water over my head. I didn’t take additional walk breaks until mile 17. It was all hot sun and pavement now and more were walking than running. Helicopters hovered.
People had their garden hoses out.
Fire hydrants were open.
Residents gave out sponges, oranges, ice and towels.
I swear it was the amazing people of Chicago that kept me going.
There was a feeling that all hell had pretty much broken loose. I came upon a wheelchair racer still struggling on the course. I offered to push him but he flatly refused.
Dawn of the Dead came to mind as it looked like the streets were filled with zombies.
At best we were death marching. From one water station to the next so we could bathe in the cups of water. Some water stations had tables overturned and most could not keep up so they poured right from the gallons.
I did not run with music so my soundtrack was sirens.
People were reeling and going down everywhere. Scary.
I felt ok. Or did I? Seeing so many suffering made me wonder if I could even accurately gauge how I felt.
Finally I heard an announcement that the race was over. Over? They wanted us to walk and board cooling buses. Race officials came toward us holding hands in a long chain, blocking our progress.
I had less than four miles left.
All of my training flashed before me. I did not come 22+ miles to board a cooling bus.
There was no way I was not finishing. Fine, I’d walk if they insisted. A bank thermometer read 93 degrees. I packed ice under my hat and in my bra. But I was there to finish.
They turned off the clocks at the mile markers. Hmm guess the race really is over. Will I even get a finish time?
I looked at my Garmin, which always gets very screwed up around tall buildings/tunnels and found it was totally turned off. Must have bumped it while sponging or icing, filling water bottles or God knows what else.
The pacers were walking. Guess it really is true. This thing is over. My first marathon cancelled.
I walked the final miles, moving over for yet another ambulance as I went over the Roosevelt Rd. bridge for a poor soul who collapsed right on it.
I turned the corner and there, shimmering in the heat like a mirage was the finish line.
WITH TIMING CLOCKS ON!
I ran the final stretch, put on my biggest, fakest smile and FINISHED that hot SOB!
4:44 felt like freaking eternity.
When the Caveman found me heading to gear check, I think I was still swearing and muttering under my breath about how I’d never do another marathon. Ha! The rest is history.