Well Chicago is done and in the record books… And it actually is for me. Got a new PR today which I am certainly pleased with. The marathon started with me hopeful for an even better time and for the first 11.5 miles I was on track for a sub 3:49 finish… The stated initial goal of this blog was a 3:55:59 finish… The actual finish time was 3:57:13. Unlike Hospital Hill earlier this year though… I am not in the least bit disappointed. Attaching the word fail to this endeavor would be criminal. The 3:57 was good enough to earn me a new PR, even if by only a minute and the monumental effort I felt I exerted over the last four miles (and 10 moreover) is sufficient to call it a success in more than one right… In any case, here are some notes and details about how the 26 played out…
Typical race morning… Somewhat sleepless night and then the donning of everything prepared the night before… this time taking care to not forget my watch! Oh, you didn’t know about that did you? It’s an agonizing story which never quite made it to press in the race report of the 2011 Hospital Hill race… 2011… I can scarcely believe that was this year let alone a few months ago. Well, watch and all other consumables and decorations in hand, pocket, and pinned on I headed for the starting area. I figured I would be able to navigate directly down Columbus to Jackson but it appeared to be blocked off so I proceeded to follow the herd of runners through Millennium Park proper. This was about 6:30am and here north of the start it was busy but not overly so… I never felt crowded or jostled. As I headed further south in search of the entrance to the seeded starting corrals I found them easily enough and was soon having a seat on the pavement in the quite open and strangely quiet D starting corral.
Directly to the south a wall of blue clothed volunteers separated The D Corral, from Jackson St, from another wall of volunteers, to the open corral to the south. Here, from the open corral, could be heard a never ending procession of cheers. There was music blaring and whenever the song changed from one inspirational top 10 hit to the next it sent the open corral into a momentary frenzy. When the street lights cut out at precisely 6:41am it sent them into a momentary frenzy. When runners, walking by between D Corral and Open Corral on Jackson St en-route to their respective start corrals, strode by with colors, adornments or pumping arms, it sent both the open corral and the stream of runners on Jackson into a momentary frenzy. This went on for some time with the corral D steadily increasing in population but never quite joining in the frenzy. Most people were sitting around as I was in quiet contemplation, stretching, or complaining happily to their companions that they “didn’t even want to get up this morning” – but I’m quite sure they were only too happy to do so. There were quite a few groups of runners to be starting together but just as many if not more solo runners.
About 7:20am, they began to announce the elite field (to which Ryan Hall received enormous applause including my own), sing the national anthem, and sent off the wheelchair athletes. At precisely 7:30 the Chicago Marathon proper was started. From my vantage point at the back of the D corral it wasn’t possible to tell when this happened officially… one could only surmise such from the time, the wave of cheers slowly heading south and a couple of incidental bullhorns.
We began slowly walking forward at that time as at most large races… shuffling towards the start line. We walked for a minute or two and I began to notice a couple of people racing by on my left. Someone from corral D exclaimed, “the human wall has broken” — indeed. Behind us the entire enormity of the open corral was nearly bursting at the seams. The human wall of the same previously mentioned blue-clad volunteers seemed to be holding the vast majority of the open corral runners with inner-locked arms but it was a frightening restless stirring they held back, as though it would erupt in chaos at any moment. On the far left to my rear there was an escapee every second or so; someone would break through and dart ahead. I’m not sure they really went any where or what their purpose was because the large seeded corrals were still walking slowly forward themselves. It was kind of like this:
I’m not sure what happened to the human wall, but I do know that if they weren’t trampled to death they certainly must have been hoisted up with invisible ropes, vanished, or ran to the sidelines faster than a Kenyan in a 5k. I never saw them but as I crossed the start line everything turned to chaos as the open corral surged to intermingle with the seeded corrals and the race was underway.
The first mile or so was very crowded but I was able to maintain a pretty quick pace as everyone else was doing the same. It was shoulder to shoulder to be sure but it was ‘doable’. The weather that morning had been one of the most comfortable race starts I can remember… Not a chill, not a hint of hot, and no humidity. Now however, about 1 mile into it, I’m sweating profusely and the body heat from everyone in such close proximity is turning the temperature decidedly warm. So I’m thinking well this is going to be one of those days where my shirt is nothing more than a mop…
At the very start of the race, no more than probably .2 miles into it we descended into a rather long tunnel. I believe this may have thrown off my GPS for the rest of the day, as I eventually finished with about 26.6 miles clocked on my GPS… but no matter – it held up largely well throughout the day despite the several more tunnels over the length of the course, underpasses, and sections of city surrounded by tall buildings.
Well the course continued on… Large amounts of spectators lined both sides of the course – and the largest array of cheer signs I have ever seen. My friend had mentioned when he ran the Omaha Marathon a couple of weeks ago he saw one that said “worst parade ever.” That’s a pretty good one. Here are a few of the better ones I remember from Chicago:
“Don’t poop your pants!” (with a picture of Mr. Hanky the Christmas poo) – many variations of this one…
“You got this! And you’re F—— Golden!” (my personal favorite)
“I put laxatives in your water! ”
“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”
“Chuck Norris runs 4 minute miles, in 3 minutes, underwater”
“You are: monotonous!” (to go along with all the”you are: amazing/my hero/awesome/etc”)
Also saw the worst parade ever quite a few times.
Many, many, many more which I wish I could remember and recount here.
The miles went on… From the start of the race I was trailing the 3:50 pace group by about 100ft constantly. At about mile 7 I caught up to them and passed them. I continued on feeling pretty good… Trying to wring out my shirt as I feared the dreaded bloody nipple. I had put on a couple of band-aids but quickly realized I should have done them two per in X format as I believe I’ve seen done (Oh, I remember another sign “Show me your nip-guards!”) as the band-aids I put on helped but not quite enough due to the soggy shirt and profuse sweating. The aid stations were great… They each went on and on and on. The restrooms also looked plentiful. If you needed to use a porta-potty mid race in Kansas City you might have to wait. I feared that would be the case even more so here with the 50,000 runners but somehow it wasn’t — they always looked available. I decided each time to continue on though never really needing them.
Finally at about the 11 mile mark I had passed the 3:50 group by so much that I actually caught my first and only glimpse of the 3:45 group. I began to deliriously entertain the notion that I might be headed for a sub 3:45 finish. Well, not too long after this I pit stopped just before the 12 mile mark and aid station to use one of the conveniently available restrooms. This was a nice reprieve but it also marked the downfall of my pace. I still felt ok enough at this point but I never passed the 3:50 group again (as they had passed me while I was on break).
I came out and was just behind them and ran for a bit but was now feeling winded.
It was here that we passed the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) This was definitely a highlight of the race. Not only was it an imposing and impressive sight, the crowds here were phenomenal. The tower itself was quite foreboding actually, it really reminded me of something although at the time I couldn’t place it. Later I did: the Luxor in Las Vegas. I think it was all that black glass, the darkness that ensued (due to it and the surround buildings on that block blocking out the sun), and the sense of old posterity that emanated from it. The Sears tower is an older symbol of American dominance… the tallest building in the world for a time and now the tallest building in the United States. It was the old general…
Anyway… it struck a special note in me. I read about this thing as a kid, and now here I was right next to it in a huge event. I’ll leave it at that.
Well leaving this I suppose I hung around the 3:50ers for the next couple miles, then I think they lost me. Around mile 16 it started to hurt some…
Miles 16-20 continued on… delirium setting in… a couple of sections of HUGE crowds with unbelievable cheering. It sounded like a home run had been hit, Ryan Hall was coming down the stretch, or a touchdown pass had been caught – it really was a roar and it kept me going. We hit Chinatown. More unbelievable crowds. Just lining the streets… 10 people deep… police going up and down asking people to back up repeatedly, stand behind the line. I couldn’t believe so many people had turned up to watch. It was truly amazing.
Somewhere, the crowds thinned for a moment and there was a guy standing by himself on the right, in a suit, with a cardboard cut-out speech bubble sign pointing to his mouth that said “You got this. And you’re F—— Golden!” at the exact moment I was a little too delerious to appreciate this completely. But I appreciate it now… his countenance, his demeanor, the sign, the event. It did it really.
So trudging along somehow I’m now finishing the miles in 9something which I’m actually really pleased to be doing… it feels like I’m running a 12 minute pace at least. I want to scream out or talk to someone and ask them, is this hurting you just as bad? Is this supposed to hurt? You’re hurting too right!?!?!?! But instead I’m silent. I just keep running.
The aid stations are serving bananas at this point, and after the banana at aid station/mile 22? I actually felt better for a few moments. I strode it out again and probably hit 9:00 flat for half a mile. It may have been the bananas… yeah… I think that’s what kept me going the last miles. The promise of another banana. I was walking through the aid stations, but I was trying my damndest to get inbetween them running. I succeeded mostly.
And here, at like mile 25 are photographers set up. Sure there had been a few prior but these were set up in a way to ensure they got you. At mile 25? I’m sure I looked like a refugee on hunger strike and dead 2 weeks. Really? This is where they wanted photos? I guess… I tried to smile or stick something up in the air… cheer…
Finally I saw a sign that said 800m left. It was going uphill. This was tough.
Eventually the 400m sign appeared. I could kinda deal with this one. I think I actually picked up the pace a little. That must be what snuck me in under 8,000th place
At the finish I was done. I was so happy I could walk – so happy I was finished… now was the reward!!!!!!!! BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!
Well the finish area was interesting… it seemed like this desolate wasteland full of wanderers in capes that were being well supplied. I got a FULL banana, a water, my medal, a cold wet cloth, a bag of ice, a bag of goodies, a beer, missed the Gatorade, but oh well. There were ‘spotters’ everywhere – and I’d read prior – do not stop in the finisher chute or you will be carted off to a medical tent and not released. So all these spotters had a good lookout going for anyone stopping/laying down/sitting.
So I got through this wasteland and found the 27th mile which apparently was more aptly named than I first thought… I think it actually was, by the cartographer, the 27th mile.
Here, I was afforded another free beer. Yeah that’s good.
Be the first to like.