The only problem with telling everyone that you’re running the Chicago Marathon is that everyone then knows that you ran the Chicago Marathon! I thought about this a lot as I was trudging through the back half of the race, so I decided it would be fun to recap the highs and lows of yesterday…just for fun!
I was lucky enough to attend my cousin Mary’s wedding in Chicago this past Saturday. It was filled with so much family and joy and it set the perfect tone for the next day.
The reception was held at the super chic Kimpton Allegro Hotel in Chicago’s Loop. I felt like I was walking into one of my favorite New York hotels with its Old Hollywood glam vibe and cozy atmosphere. It was the ideal setting for an intimate family wedding and it was also just the right distance from the Chicago Marathon’s start.
My alarm went off at 4 a.m. giving me just enough time to make a game-day decision on what I would wear for the marathon. I planned to dress for 30-degree temps at the start knowing that we’d warm up to the 50s before we were finished. So I decided on multiple layers: black lululemon tank top, my New York Marathon long-sleeve tee, a lululemon Breeze By long sleeve squad tee, my GLASA team shirt, and a throw-away black hoody and gloves (all clothes left on the course during the race are collected and donated to the homeless). On the bottom, I wore my new high-waisted Athleta Contender tights to keep me warm.
My uncle Paul, who was running his 30th marathon, met me in the lobby and shuttled me to the Chicago Hilton directly across from the starting line. When we walked into the lobby, the wheelchair racers were lining up and getting ready to be shuttled across the street. These athletes are so incredibly inspiring, as are the volunteers who kept the atmosphere chaos-free and allowed these individuals get into their competitive zones. (Three of yesterday’s marathoners qualified for the Paralympics in 2019.)
My uncle and I were part of the GLASA (Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association) charity team. This incredible organization makes sports possible for anyone who wants to compete. GLASA, along with another non-profit, hosted a breakfast and gear-check for us at the Hilton. It was a great place to settle the nerves that were starting to set in.
After a bagel and a cup of coffee, we headed over to the starting corrals at 7 a.m. We were in wave 3 that started at 8:30 a.m. (Waves 1 and 2 are filled with the wheelchair racers, elite runners, and all-around faster folks). I honestly think those 90 minutes of waiting and sitting on a cold curb are some of the hardest of the race. The good part is that you begin to know who “your people are,” the folks who will be going about your pace, and a number of others who are also running for an important charity.
The race finally began and we were off to a good start. The marathon MC let us know how good it was of us to let the first two waves have a “head start.” The sun was shining, the crowds were amazing, and the body was feeling good. It wasn’t until Mile 12, about two hours into the race, when the dreaded squishy stomach hit. I can’t explain it. Even with a pretty disciplined diet, the rumbling tummy began to slow me down. I was lucky enough to spot my family and tell them not to wait for me at the finish. I knew deep inside that it was going to take me a while to get there.
It was after the half-way mark that my uncle and I had that come-to-Jesus discussion about whether we were going to stay together or each have our own race. Even though this was likely his last marathon, he told me he’d rather stick it out with me…squishy stomach and all.
Somehow, we managed to talk our way to the finish, alternating walking and running between the Gatorade-water stations every two miles that were staffed with the most amazing volunteers. The miles, albeit long and slow, did tick by and we never once reached for our air pods.
Five hours and forty-eight minutes from when we crossed the start, we finally made it to the finish and I quickly remembered why I ever let myself sign up for this crazy race. That feeling you get when it’s finally over is like no other.
Today is the first Monday following a Chicago Marathon (2019 was my 7th race) that I haven’t been combing the results to see how I sized up against the others who ran. Finally, after all of these races, it doesn’t matter. I finished this tough race and came to the conclusion that while I’m a terrible runner, I have the heart of a marathoner. When things get hard, I know to stay close to the people I love and just keep moving.
Today, while my body feels like it was hit by a truck (nothing that Advil can’t fix), my mind feels like it’s on vacation. My money for GLASA has been raised and those 26.2 miles have been run! Done and done!
Thanks for all of the love and support that got me through this epic race. I could never, ever have done it without you! xoxo