Chicago Marathon: The Recap

Hello, we're back from Chicago (as of last Tuesday eve)! It was a much needed vacation in the middle of all the chaos. This trip was truly a combo vacation as I was meeting up with blog friends (Amber, Lisa and new friend Anais), running the Chicago Marathon, visiting Pete's family (his brother and sister-in-law live in Chicago with their 11 week old baby girl!), and trying to fit some studying in for my Anatomy test. Oy vey!

I made it through last week and am now trying to avoid a cold, so wish me luck. You might be wondering how the marathon went, so here's a little more detail than what you might have seen on the marathon tracker.

But first, a peek at the largest race expo I've ever been to! Pete's brother Jon dropped us off at the marathon expo to meet up with the girls on Friday morning.

Anais, Amber, myself and Lisa

A & B corral bibs were red because they started 30 min prior to the other corrals

I loved how many running companies were there and all the plays on the windy city and the L train.

The rest of Friday was spent being touristy. The manfriend headed back to his brother's place after a bit and the girls and I took the architectural boat tour and spent some time chatting and sipping tea downtown. 


It was a gorgeous day and admittedly, I took a few brief snoozes on the tour. Thursday's early flight took it out of me.

Saturday night, the girls and I carb loaded at Nilsa's house with her family and a home cooked meal. It was fun and likely, much more relaxed than trying to find a pasta place to dine at in the city. The girls were staying at the Red Roof Inn, which was only a mile or two from Millennium Park where the race started, so I stayed with them that night.

Sunday morning, after about five hours of broken sleep, I jumped out of bed, put my race clothes on and headed downstairs to get oatmeal and tea from Starbucks. Amber, Anais and I took the bus down to Millenium Park and Lisa left a bit later as she'd be spectating.

It was quite a sight to see 40,000 other runners pouring into the park before dawn. I hadn't grabbed a throw away shirt so I was a little chilly for that next hour before the start. However, I can't really complain because race day weather was nearly perfect, starting in the 40s.

After a bathroom stop, I maneuvered my way to the B corral and found the 3:35 pace group. Shortly after, I saw the manfried roll into our corral, kissed him and waited for the go!

From a mile or so in, this race just felt hard.  My pace felt uneasy, although I knew I could likely push harder than my mind was telling me. I could just tell it was going to be a hard race.

The City
I figured trying to stay with the pace group with be the best thing for me to maintain my speed, so I did. I tried to look at the crowd, the buildings, and other runners and just soak it all in. One of the most incredible parts of the Chicago Marathon is that not only do you get to see a ton of the city (downtown, Old Town, China Town, Greek Town, River East, New Town, etc), there are people lining the entire 26.2 miles, and in some places 3-4 people deep.

The Crowd
The roar from the crowd and the looks on spectators faces definitely feeds you as a runner. There were several times where I had to look away from the crowd and back to the runners in front of me because looking at the crowd was dizzying. Another unique aspect of such a large race is that you're always running near people. It's rare that you have a ton of room around you. In fact, it probably didn't start to spread out until mile 21 or so.

Water Stations
The Chicago Marathon did a great job of making the Gatorade and water stations frequent and extra long so you wouldn't miss them while trying to make your way over to the right or left (they were always on both sides of the road). The water stops were one of the challenges in staying with the pace group, and trying to maneuver with so many other runners. Even as a seasoned marathoner and not walking through the water stations, I was chasing pace group down after every one.

Where it Got Challenging
I stayed with or closely behind the 3:35 pace group until about mile 19 where I just couldn't hang on much longer. My stomach was off the entire race and I could barely choke down my Shot Bloks or gel, which was unusual. Over the entire 26.2, I probably ate about 250-300 calories in total, so there's no doubt my energy stores were low near the end.

I'm in this crowd, promise. Just to the left of the blue tank top guy. 

Most of my miles varied from 7:48-8:15 min/mile until miles 20-25 where they dropped to 8:20, 8:28, 8:58, 8:58, 8:55 and 8:18. Clearly, I know there's room for improvement in those final miles but the Chicago Marathon was just not my day for a BQ. The temp had also warmed up by this point and was in the mid 60s. As with most marathons, I wanted to walk several times in those last few miles, but I didn't!

Photo via Marathon Foto

As I came down those last 800m to the finish, the crowd was once again incredible. I got choked up and a bit teary thinking about Boston and and all of those whose lives changed forever. Boston qualifier or not, I was lucky to be running a marathon on 10-13-13. I crossed the finish line at 3:38:05 and cried a bit of relief.

I slowly made my way through the finish, grabbed some food, water, and a free beer and made my way  into the park to the family meet up area to reunite with the manfriend and Jon, Cheryl & Vivienne where we hung out and listened to the live band for an hour or so.

Someone remind me not to wear such a pale color for my next race! Blah. 

*You may have seen this on the results, but the manfriend had a great race and finished in 3:19! His goal was to finish it around 3:20-3:25, so he definitely hit his goal! I have no doubt he could go sub 3:15, so we'll see if there's another marathon in his future. 

It's important to note that the Chicago Marathon felt like a pretty safe race to be running. The organizers clearly did a lot to keep runners safe after the incidents at Boston. Several months out, we started getting emails about what would and would not be allowed in corrals, the finish area, etc. Additionally, we were told that if anything did go wrong, there were colored markers on the course that could change from green to orange, red or black to warn you of an issue.

On race day, there were lookout stations near the start/finish for crowd patrol as well as armed law enforcement and K-9 units in several locations.

All in all, would I do this race again? Heck yes!

Riding the L train makes me feel like a city girl, even though I'm not

So, there you have it: our traveling and running adventures all mixed into one. Every time I visit Chicago, I fall for it just a bit more. I'm not sure I could survive its winters, but Chicago is definitely a place I love to visit. The city just feels alive, yet relaxed and very friendly at the same time. 

How is your week going? I'm frantically trying to catch up on chemistry and A&P reading. Not exactly 'quick reads.'


Heather @ Dietitian on the Run said…
I've been waiting for this recap! Congrats to you & Pete for speedy finishes all around! May not have been your A+ goal, but think how hard you worked to get that sub 3:40, and still ran a 3:38 on tired legs. :) I think traveling for goal races is hard - too many things feel "off" vs. when we race at home - and sometimes it's just more fun to take in the sights of the city. Which, clearly you're pretty stellar at doing ;)

Great recap. I am sorry to hear that you felt off on race day, though. Having tummy troubles on race day is so tough. I think you ran an amazing race, especially when you factor in all of the other stress in your life right now between work and school, etc!

I wish I could have seen you at more places along the route! Or that I had gotten your picture at mile 10! But I am glad I spotted both you & Pete! Congrats to you both!

This week has been really hectic for me. I brought the rest of my family to the airport at 5 am on Monday and then had french class on Monday night, yesterday I did a day trip to Columbus, OH, tonight I have a work diner, tomorrow night I have another work commitment. I badly need a quiet night at home as I have not had one of those in quite awhile... but I don't have plans on Friday so that will be my relaxing night of the week.
missris said…
Congrats on another great marathon! I'm so glad Chicago treated you well!
Raina said…
Wow. You got to do Chicago! I can imagine the scenario with the large city race and the crowds of runners and cheering people the whole way- Very different from Eugene Marathon!

You were really very close to your goal, despite the tired legs and uncooperative fueling. You'll have the BQ next time!! Great job holding on for a super finish, Lauren.
And yes- lets plan a trail run! I have another friend in Eugene who also would like to run trails. Ahe and I are planning to do the North Umpqua again in a few weeks. But a trail up there would be fun too!
Leigh said…
Congratulations to you and Pete on such awesome races! You guys sure are a speedy couple :)
How cool to have so much crowd energy and interesting city sights to see, sounds like a good marathon! I'm glad you persevered and did quite well even though it felt hard.
How cool to have so much crowd energy and interesting city sights to see, sounds like a good marathon! I'm glad you persevered and did quite well even though it felt hard.
Good Article in pleasant atmosphere.Keep writing same as subject.
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Amber said…
Great recap! It was so great to spend time with you again. I love our marathon trips and hope we can make another one happen in 2014. The Chicago Marathon was definitely a very well organized race and I really really enjoyed it!
Elizabeth said…
Sounds like you still did incredible though. I'm always so in awe and amazed by your speed, lady! I can imagine being tired and a bit under the weather didn't help at all, but still very, very, very impressive! Loved reading about the experience!

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