Staying in the Box at the Chicago Marathon

Staying in the Box at the Chicago Marathon

by Mike L.

“Don’t start too hard.  Don’t start too hard.  Don’t start too hard.”  I had been working with Coach Joe for six months, and when we went over the plan for the Chicago Marathon this was the most important piece of advice.  I had followed the plan he suggested, hydrated well, and had two good nights of sleep leading into the race.  Conditions were great.  I just needed to make sure I didn’t start too fast.  First mile was 9:30.  “That’s good,” I thought.  “A few more like that and I’ll be okay.”  Four miles later, I found a groove and kept it steady.

I had never had a good marathon before.  Last year I finished 4:41, and the year before I did not finish (DNF).  In 2009 I limped in to finish well beyond five hours.  This year, after seeing the Experience Triathlon Run Club group at Starbucks in Naperville one morning, I decided to contact Coach Joe and see if he could help.  He did.  For starters he had me run on an incline on the treadmill.  I had never done this before (it made me run slower during the workout).  He then had me fitted for shoes, doing interval work, and keeping detailed notes on my workouts.  I hadn’t had workouts this intense since soccer in high school.  By the end of the training, I was feeling strong and ready for race day.

I saw the ET gang at miles 2 and 13.  I finished the first half in under 2 hours, and I felt like I had a chance at negative splits.  I continued on, and when my legs felt good where they had cramped up in the past two marathons I kept thinking, “God Bless Coach Joe!”  I was waiting for the wall to come, for the cramps to come, for something to go wrong, but nothing did.  As I came up Michigan Avenue, I was looking for the ET crew one last time, but I missed them.  I continued on to the finish line.

When Coach reviewed my goals for the race, he laid them out as follows: 1) Have a good race, 2) PR with time under 4:30, 3) If all goes well, finish under 4:20, and 4) Dance in the streets if you finish under 4:00.  Well, Coach, I finished at 3:57:55.   I would have danced in the street, but all I could do was take baby steps back to gear check.  I am extremely grateful for your guidance over the last six months, and I am looking forward to seeing where we head next.

Enjoy all our photos of the 2012 Chicago Marathon on the ET Photo Gallery!

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  • You rocked it Mike!! Way to break through and post up a fabulous race and huge PR! Your hard work and dedication really paid off. So proud of you! Thanks much for sharing your story. I’m sure it will inspire others to go 26.2!

  • Nancy Haines

    Awesome! Amazing what a difference coaching makes.

  • Drew Repoza

    Great job, Mike! Sorry we missed you at mile 25.2, but you were just so darned fast you beat us there!! What a great race you had, and I can totally sympathize with not being able to quite dance in the streets after the marathon, but at least you were dancing in your heart where it counts 🙂

  • Jim R

    Way to go Mike what an awesome PR for you and way to stay inside the box, its hard to do but pays big dividends when it counts most, at the end.

  • Sarah F.

    Love the dancing in the streets visual, even if you were too tired to pull that off in the moment! Congratulations on a great race, and on a fantastic PR!

  • Jeff P

    Excellent Mike! Glad yo broke through and blew past your goals. It’s truly an amazing feeling, isn’t it?!