I can do ANYTHING! My Journey to The Chicago Marathon

I can do ANYTHING! My Journey to The Chicago Marathon

by Debbie B.

Running the Chicago Marathon for the first time took 25 years.  The dream was born while watching an old boss run the Cleveland Marathon to celebrate his 40th birthday 25 years ago.  Well life happened as it does, and the years passed.

I started running with a group of wonderful ladies and we call ourselves the “I Hate Running, Running Club”.  I ran off and on with little consistency.  I did some races.  The typical 5Ks.  The first 10K I did was just about the last time I laced up my running shoes.  I came in DEAD last.  Yes, I was the very last person over the finish line.  I ran to the porto potty and just bawled.  I felt embarrassed and humiliated.  I was never going to run again!  Our youngest son, Jonathan, says to me on the way to soccer practice that week, “I heard your race didn’t go so well.”  I replied with I didn’t want to talk about it.  He continued by saying, “ok we don’t have to talk about it, but I want you to think about something.  Were you ever an athlete growing up? (no) Did you ever do any team sports before? (no) How many people do you think signed up for that race and didn’t show up? (I don’t care)  Don’t answer anything, we will talk when we get home from practice.”  After practice he had me pull up the race results.  It was there that I learned things are not always what they appear.  I saw that there were over 20 people who never even showed up for the race.  And more importantly, I may have been the last person over the finish line, but I wasn’t the person with the longest time!  And I had beaten a 25-year-old!!  I was well into my 40s by then.  Jonathan encouraged me to keep going and keep running. And I have.

Fast forward to fall 2018.  I decide I want to run a marathon before I turn 60.  So that means I must run it in 2019.  So, I decide to run on behalf of a charity, Autism Speaks and I sign up.  Here we go.

I realize to run a marathon at 59 years old is a whole new level of crazy.  Yes, I have been running consistently now for the last three years.  I have 4 half marathons under my belt and added two sprint triathlons to my race resume.  I’m feeling good that I have a solid foundation.  My goal – to finish the race standing and to continue to be able to run after.  The marathon is not the finish line for me.

So, I decide I need some help.  This is where Coach Joe LoPresto of Experience Triathlon (ET) Personal Coaching Services enters.  I realize that somebody needs to save me from myself if I am going to do a marathon.  After meeting to discuss my goals, Coach Joe is the perfect fit.  Race day is October 13, 2019 and my first training session is January 19, 2019.

Coach Joe lays out our plan and I work through it.  Doing the Naperville Sprint Triathlon is part of my training.  In fact, it is my work out for that August morning.  Not only do I complete the triathlon, but I post my best time ever!  This is my third time doing this race.  This time I swim the ENTIRE course and I have enough energy to RUN the entire 5K course.  In fact, I could have done another one!!  It was an amazing day.  I was no longer dragging myself over the finish line!

Now I enlist the help of Laurie Schubert, ET Team Dietitian.  I have hit “the wall” on two of my previous half marathons and I am not looking forward to doing it in the marathon.  We put together a plan for the week before, night before, morning of, course hydration and nutrition and post-race recovery.  I am good to go!

Finally, we get to the marathon.  The night before the wheels fall completely off the plan.  Both of our sons and a family friend have all come in from out of town.  Rick fixes an amazing meal on Saturday night and just looking at it makes me want to vomit.  I am in full out panic mode!  All I can get down is a cup of peppermint tea.  I think I got about 2 hours of sleep too.  I spent the entire night telling myself, “I have trained well, I am focused, I am confident!”  Alarm goes off at 3:45 am.  I must have breakfast by 4am.  I decide on chicken soup, so I eat two servings.  My mind starts again, “you can’t do this, you have only had 2 hours of sleep and you are not following the eating plan!”

We arrive at the hospitality suite for Autism Speaks.  There is nothing more grounding than raising money for such a worthy cause.  This was my first time meeting people from the group since I did not participate in group training.  This is where you realize it is not about the race but about the kids with autism and all the families helped by Autism Speaks.  I met a woman from Flower Mound, Texas with three of her four children on the autism spectrum.  Talk about putting things in perspective.  My nerves were instantly gone.  It all became about the bigger picture.

The race itself was flat out amazing!!  I loved every minute of it.  From the cheering crowd to all the neighborhoods and the runners.  It is truly a world class event.  The city of Chicago has never looked better.  It seemed like everybody was there cheering on the runners.  I couldn’t believe it.  And my family; they were everywhere!!  They were in so many different spots along the course.  And, the world famous ET cheer crew!!!  They were there too, and they waited for me!  I was running behind my plan and I couldn’t figure out what was happening.  I thought I was running a 12:30 pace but the elapsed time was not syncing with that pace.  Turns out my Fitbit Charge 3, in the absence of GPS, became just a step counter.  UGH!!!  As Coach Joe says something will always go wrong on race day; count on it.  It did, I took it in stride.  I kicked it in at mile marker 15 and started passing people.  My nutrition and hydration plan worked perfectly.  There was no cramping and no wall.  I finished RUNNING across the finish line.  I finished upright! All before turning 60.  I also raised over $1,500 for an amazing organization.  I will be back.  I will to do it again.  Now my training is learning to recover and the importance of doing it properly.

My biggest take away:  I can do ANYTHING!!  It is NEVER too late to set another goal or to dream another dream!

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