Staying in the Box at the Chicago Marathon
“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!