I Never Thought I’d Run the Chicago Marathon
Last year, while in downtown Chicago on the way to a meeting for my job, I decided I wanted to run the Chicago Marathon. Now that is saying a lot for someone who a number of years before, while attending her first Experience Triathlon summer camp in 2007, said, “I have no desire to run a marathon!” when asked about her fitness goals! The appeal was mostly the thought of running around Chicago and seeing all the neighborhoods but in the back of my head I wondered if I might actually, one training run at a time, do something that would totally stretch me as an athlete and enjoy it in the process!
I had never been much of a runner. I have been a competitive swimmer for most of my life and love to bike but running has always been my weakness. As opposed to shying away from the sport that challenges me most though, I’ve chosen to work on my run by training for run races of gradually longer and longer distances. I worked my way up from 5K’s to 10K’s to half marathons and have generally been happy with my results. I am never going to give the Kenyans a run for their money but I feel like I can safely call myself a runner. Even so, the Chicago Marathon was entering uncharted territory for me as an endurance athlete. So in August when I finished my last race at Bang’s Lake, I was somewhat apprehensive about starting my marathon training. The first thing I realized was that continuing to train into the fall is a double edged sword because while everyone else is enjoying their end of season recovery rides and short post season runs, I was doing 2 hour, 2 ½ hour, and 3 hour runs every Saturday morning and 2-3 more runs during the week. Maintaining my 3000 yard in an hour swim workouts was becoming increasingly difficult while my running mileage increased, especially on Mondays after the long weekend run which for me took several days to recover from. And I missed my bike! Every Saturday as I’d leave for my run I’d gaze at it wistfully and promise to get on it for just a short recovery ride on Sunday. Sometimes I’d make it, sometimes not. Those feelings were balanced by some really cool experiences I never would have had had I not been training for the marathon, like starting a run in the cool of the early morning when the sun has only been up for a short time and having it warm up 20 degrees by the time the run is finished. I am also lucky enough to live very close to the Fox River Trail and because of my son’s sports schedule I did most of my training runs on it by myself. It’s an amazing route, especially during this time of year when the leaves change from the green of summer to the golds and oranges of early fall and I got to see the progression firsthand. Finally, I came to appreciate the contemplative nature of long distance running – both the physical effort of sustaining a pace (in my case pretty slow!) for so long and the mental effort of keeping myself focused and motivated to keep going.
So the weeks progressed and finally the marathon came. I felt as ready as I could be, and it turned out to be a beautiful day, sunny but cool at race start with a gradual warm up to the mid 70’s. I was relaxed and happy on the way downtown with Matt and my sister and after prepping at the Congress Hotel (per Joe’s instructions) and walking over to the race start I started to feel a little apprehensive. But as I took a deep breath and walked through the fence to Columbus I looked at the amazing number of people gathered in this great city to run this great race and I smiled because today I was part of it. And because today, I was doing something I never thought I’d ever in my life do – run a marathon!
Click here to enjoy all the photos from our day at the 2011 Chicago Marathon.