Monday, October 14, 2013

Race Recap: 2013 Chicago Marathon


So, with that out of the way...

I didn't take a lot of photos yesterday. Katie managed to snag two of me on the course, which provide a delightful illustration of mile 2 versus mile 21, and we took pictures after the race. But before the race, I was just totally keyed in and for once didn't feel the need to take any picture. I just wanted to start... and was also totally scared of starting. (I may or may not have said "oh f-ck, oh f-ck, oh f-ck" as we got within sight of the start line. May or may not have.)

But once we crossed the start line, I felt ready. I just started in at a roughly 10:15 pace... 15 seconds faster than I'd thought I was going to when I chatted with Jess. We'd decided I'd start at a comfortable pace for the first 10 miles, then shift gears for 10-20, and then see how I felt for the last six. I suggested 10:30 as an optimal pace, based on my injury and my A goal -- that I thought was out of reach, post-hamstring strain -- had been an average 10:00 pace.

My legs didn't actually feel great. My calves were tight and my right piriformis was loudly proclaiming its displeasure with moving. Yet somehow, mentally, I felt fantastic. I started a podcast that I only half-listened to, just using it as conversation to listen to while paying attention to the crowds.

Crowd Support
Oh man, the CROWDS! Chicago deserves a million high fives for the fantastic crowd support. There were maybe three miles in total that didn't have people lining the sides cheering, handing out water, bananas, and even beer.

I'd written my name on my charity team singlet (Lurie Children's Hospital! WOO!), so people kept cheering me on, which was awesome. And I kept yelling "thank you!" with a giant smile on my face. I was running a marathon!

The Amazing Course
2012 map, but don't think it changed (source)
In addition to the fantastic crowd support, the course is just wonderful. It's essentially three large out-and-backs, on different roads, with extra curves. That means spectators can see you at multiple points -- I got to see Sourabh, Katie, my mom, and my aunt six times! (They split up at the end so they could see me multiple times) They were AMAZING. Seeing their faces helped me so much each time.

It was great to be able to split up the course in terms of seeing my cheer squad. I knew I'd see them at miles 2, 13, 17, 21, and 25, and possibly at mile 9/10 as well. Leticia was visiting Chicago and cheering, and I knew she'd be around miles 8-9. I'd start looking out for them for a half mile before the planned area, which was a great distraction. It was so nice to break the marathon into mini chunks, so I just had to get through a few miles before seeing my loved ones. And seriously, I love these people. At mile 21, I shouted "I LOVE YOU GUYS!" at Katie and Sourabh. 21 was my toughest mile, and seeing them then helped so much. I may have been a tad bit emotional.

Additionally, I had my miles broken down further by fueling -- 4, 8, 12, 16, and 21. I couldn't find any place that sold Vega gels near me, which I'd used early on for fueling and liked, so I stuck with Honey Stingers, another more natural fueling method. I took four chews at mile 4, five at mile 8, half a Honey Stinger waffle at mile 12, half at mile 16, and a Honey Stinger gel at mile 21.

I also kept Nuun in my handheld and used that for electrolyte replacement, taking roughly a swig or two every mile. Oh, and in the craziest news, I didn't actually stop running the entire time. I ran through the water stops. Jess said I could make a game-time decision based on how I felt, and I somehow just... didn't want to stop running? I can't explain it, but running through the water stops just felt right, so I went with it!

Mile Breakdown
Miles 1-9: Like I said earlier, I didn't feel fantastic legs-wise, but somehow I just tuned that out and focused on the amazing things, like the fact that I was running a marathon. In August 2012, I couldn't run a mile straight. And here I was running a marathon. I smiled at the crowds and enjoyed the loop through Lincoln Park. I had thought I would aim for 10:30 as my comfortable pace, but 10:15ish felt right, so I stuck around that pace.

I'm running a marathon! I'm so happy!
Splits - (1) 8:54 - messed up because of tunnel, not accurate! may be the reason my Garmin was so off on distance, (2) 9:24, (3) 10:39, (4) 10:14, (5) 10:04, (6) 10:16, (7) 10:13, (8) 10:12, (9) 10:15

Miles 10-20: Jess had said to check in with my body and see how I felt at mile 10. If I was up to it, I could bump the pace 20-30 seconds. If I wasn't feeling good, I should lower the pace, since my goal was to have a celebration marathon -- rejoicing in everything that has happened this year (graduation, starting work, taking the bar, running my first marathon).

I still didn't feel great in my legs, but everything else felt good, and I thought I could bump it up a notch, so I increased my pace to the 9:30s-9:40s, and ended up never looking back!

In fact, I missed my family at the 13 mile mark because I'd sped up so much! Before the marathon, I told them I'd definitely be running over 10:00/mile paces, so something like four miles would be 43-44 minutes. As I increased my pace, I didn't even think about the fact that I was speeding up so much that they might miss me! Thankfully, they calculated my splits and realized I was going faster, so they adjusted accordingly for the rest of the planned cheer spots.

At mile 16, I switched from slightly distracting podcasts to loud, bouncy music to give me a boost for the rest of the race. I started with "Lake Shore Drive," by Skip Haynes, about the highway that runs along Lake Michigan and gives you a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline. It's my favorite song about Chicago, and it made me smile even wider for the next few miles.

Splits - (10) 10:02, (11) 9:37, (12) 9:39, (13) 9:34, (14) 9:35, (15) 9:44, (16) 9:53, (17) 9:46, (18) 9:49, (19) 9:34, (20) 9:49

Miles 21-26.2: Ow. I'm so happy that I didn't hit the wall until mile 21, because even then, telling myself it was only 5.2 miles left, less than 50 minutes at the paces I was running, I had a hard time continuing my pace. My legs really started hurting -- not just my piriformis, but my knees, my left quad, my right hamstring, my left hip. Basically everything below my waist was unhappy with me for running a ridiculous distance.

I swear I was smiling and waving at them...
Mile 21 was the slowest of my second half splits, but when I saw Katie and Sourabh near the end of mile 21, it gave me a boost and I picked it up through the end.

I wanted to push for that final 5K, but honestly I just didn't have anything left to go faster. I was able to keep up my pace, but doing so felt like I was actually pushing faster. The final 2 mile straightaway hurt so much, but I knew I was about to finish a marathon. At that point, though, I was more excited to finish than to be a marathoner.

I saw Sourabh and Katie again at mile 25, blew them a kiss, then powered through to the end. Oh, by the way, the biggest hill of the entire course is RIGHT at the end, in the last 1/4 mile leading to the finish line. You go up a ramp then turn left to the finish. OW that hurt.

Because I was running for a charity, my mom and aunt got special wristbands that allowed them to sit in the bleachers by the finish line, so I got to see them right before I crossed the finish.

Splits - (21) 9:57, (22) 9:42, (23) 9:28, (24) 9:34, (25) 9:48, (26) 9:40, (.57) 8:41 pace

Final time -- 4:20:17 <--- data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-in="" data-blogger-escaped-shock="" data-blogger-escaped-still=""> The Finish!

Thank you so much to my family, Katie and Sourabh.

And a huge thank you to all the incredible people who I knew were following me online via tracking and Twitter. Every time I passed a trackpad, I got excited thinking of all my friends who I knew would be rooting for me to keep up my pace. It was an additional boost in a race that was already extraordinary. Thank you!!!!!


  1. WOOOOO!!!! CONGRATS JEN!!!! This made me smile so much!! First marathon is such an incredible experience I'm so glad it went so amazingly for you!!!! xoxoxox

  2. I am beyond impressed with you! Way to rock your first marathon. Be proud and you should have a smile on your face for quite some time. I was cheering hard for you at home!!!


  3. Aw...that's so awesome! Great job! (and thanks for the inspiration!)

  4. Congratulations Jen!!! You are so strong and you ran an incredible race!!

  5. Congrats on an awesome race!!!

  6. Congratulations!!!!!!! I hope you are celebrating BIG!!!!

  7. Congratulations!!!!!!! I hope you are celebrating BIG!!!!

  8. WOW! Fantastic! I'm so glad you had such a strong support team AND all of Chicago! That was the difference between Philly and NYC for me...the crowds were such an inspiration for me!!!

  9. SO EXCITED FOR YOU!! Ahhh congrats!!

  10. Congratulations!!! I hope my first marathon is as happy as yours was!

  11. Such an awesome, awesome race! You ran really solid splits. Huge congrats, Jen!

  12. I'm so proud of you! That's such an amazing first marathon!

  13. Amazing!!!! You are such a strong runner! Congratulations!

  14. You make my job so easy! Thank you for being such an awesome person to work with. Congratulations! 2013 is definitely a great year for you and this was the perfect celebration.

  15. Congratulations!!!! It sounds like you had a fantastic first marathon. Enjoy the post race high!

  16. CONGRATULATIONS!!! I loved reading your recap. NYC 2014 will be my first marathon and I hope it's just as great an experience as yours!

  17. Great job Jen! Sounds like everything went perfectly (as perfectly as running 26.2 miles can go!)

  18. Beth @RxBethOnTheRunOctober 16, 2013 at 9:02 PM

    This post put such a huge smile on my face and literally made me tear up. Jen, you are amazing! I'm so incredibly proud of you. You are so strong, so determined and it showed when you absolutely shined on race day and KILLED your first marathon. I remember when I was about to start the NYC Half last year (my first half), I looked at Annie and kept saying holy sh!t, holy sh!t, holy sh!t. I couldn't believe I was doing it and I can't believe I'm about to do what you just did. You have inspired me SO MUCH. You continue to be my inspiration and what's getting me to that start line on November 3rd. Congratulations on such an AMAZING first marathon. I hope you are still celebrating!!!!! #DreamBig2013 has certainly been an incredible year for you. I couldn't be more proud of you. Can't wait to celebrate!

  19. HOORAY!! This was an fantastic recap :) You crushed it! So so so happy for you. I hope you're feeling very happy, accomplished, and proud of yourself. You're amazing!