This was all about Ted running his first marathon. It was a perfect day to run through the streets of Chicago. The morning was 48 degrees easing into a sunny 63 degree day. We purchased tickets to the Balbo Hospitality tent. This makes waiting for the race to start easy. The tent is temperature controlled with it’s own facilities to accommodate runners. Porto Potties, Showers, Massage, Medics, Food (both before and after), Private bag check. The BH staff escort runners to the start and back from the finish. Ted set out on his first marathon adventure in style.
We were in corral F and began at 8 am but up at 5 am to get a bagel in our bellies for the long day ahead. At Balbo, we grabbed bananas and then went nuts collecting an assortment of goodies from PowerBars to Granola bars to more bagels with peanut butter, all to stash in the gear bags. My motto: Be prepared with food Just In Case.
As we sat in the warmth of the tent, Ted tried to relax and hoped his foot wouldn’t give him too much of a problem. He suffered from an Achilles problem early in training then an inflamed tendon in his foot caused all sorts of grief during the later training for this marathon. Excitement was coupled with nerves as we checked our bags and set off towards the corral. It took a long time weaving through the crowd after the BH staff left us. We found F but couldn’t get in for about 5 minutes. We looked around and saw so many discarded clothes, gloves, hats. All those clothes go to shelters around Chicago.
We were lined up and ready to go.
The Chicago sky line from our position in corral F.
The count down began. I wore a pace band on my wrist to try to keep us at a gentle, achievable pace. At a porto pottie stop around the 4th mile, there was such a long line, it dug into our time by about 8 minutes. I knew we could make the time up but we’d have to do it over several miles. We weren’t going to rush anything and have it blow up in our face. It was tough because the racing side of me wanted to go, make up the time, get up there and pass people but the other side, the one that wanted to cross the finish line, husband in hand, stayed the course/slower pace.
The crowd didn’t thin. Runners passed us just as we passed other runners. The streets were jammed with spectators cheering us on and exhibiting amusing signs in support or maybe just to make us laugh.
Ted’s plan was to walk through every water station. He took in plenty of fuel and coupled Gatorade with water, available on the course. Water stations came up just about every mile.
At mile 11, I asked Ted how he was doing. His response in a soft, hesitating voice…
“Okay.” I said, “What’s wrong?” I knew that tone of voice.
He said “I’m trying not to think about my foot.”
My thought was that we might be in trouble. We weren’t even half way yet and trying to talk to Ted and motivate him is very difficult. He is a person who likes to do EVERYTHING on his own so I tried pointing to distractions since there was so much to look at on the course: what the spectators offered as well as performers (Elvis, musicians), as well as the interesting neighborhoods we ran through.
The water stations were getting pretty sticky as we passed through all the Gatorade splashed on the pavement. We began walking a little longer through these areas as the pace time went out the window and at mile 16, Ted was struggling.
His comment after this photo was “Don’t take a picture of me. People don’t want to see what I look like dead.” Oh the DRAMA!!! and me being the loving wife that I am said “Don’t be silly, you look good, strong, we can do this.” I’m sure he would have rather heard “Lets stop here and get a taxi back to the hotel.”
Any planned pacing, hopeful finish time was out the window. The goal now was to get to the finish on his own two feet. Ted was trying to run but by mile 18, his run was my fast walk. It was tough holding back but I didn’t want to rush him in anyway. He was really torturing himself. During the last 10 miles of the race, gels and food were offered. We hit PowerBar GU Stations and snagged a Vanilla and Chocolate GU. We passed crackers, what looked like granola bars?, as well as Gatorade Chomps. I took two packets of the chomps and two GU packets only to store them in my pockets and belt. I was pretty weighted down… food hoarder that I am but I wasn’t using any of it. We forged on, trying to be strong and hold onto the goal.
At mile 20, I told Ted the miles will seem to pass by more quickly and began saying “I see mile 21… I see mile 22” as we approached the mile markers. He responded each time with “Really? Oh good.” Sarcastic tone and not sounding very happy at all.
Banana halves were handed out which made the road slippery because runners were tossing peels where they ran. It could have been a good scene for a comedy run/fall/mass pile up. The banana did taste good. We had been out there a while and it was time for solid food. Ted had been taking in fuel all along but I only had one gel at the start and 4 Chomps. I wasn’t expending a lot of energy but my hips were getting sore. All the fuel in the world wasn’t going to help those hips. I was in no where near as much pain as Ted. His energy was good but it was the pain that was slowing him down.
I said, “Let’s walk from mile 24 to 25 then run from 25 to the finish”. As I looked around, more people were walking than running. We didn’t quite run the finish but considering we did ok and crossed the line for an official finish time.
Funny thing about having pain in a marathon, you endure it and push to the finish. As soon as you cross that line, the pain becomes even more intense as well as more body parts starting to hurt that didn’t before. So things didn’t get better. We did make it back to the Balbo tent where we sat and put ice on his foot for 25 minutes. We got some good food, made an very easy gear bag pick up (I really like having that private gear check!) then prepared for a painful hike back to the hotel.
Photo shoot at The Bean. We planned to see this a little closer after the race but that didn’t happen. We got Ted to the hotel, iced his aches and pains then made it as far as the lobby for dinner.
While still on the course and running, he said this was the most stupid thing he has ever done. After the race, I asked him if he thought he’d like to do another marathon but before I even finished the question, I got “NO! Once is more than enough.”
Well, you know how that goes… you feel like crap with everything is hurting after those 26.2 miles then the following day, the pain is a little less, and you begin to realize what a great accomplishment you just achieved. So while having breakfast the following morning, a guy speaking to us about the marathon asked Ted if he would run another and his response “Ah, maybe.” I cornered him on this and he swore he didn’t realize he said it.
Some how, I think I’ll be taking a photo of matching marathon medals again someday.
My thoughts on the Chicago Marathon: EXCELLENT! This could easily be my favorite next to Boston. The organization is outstanding, from the expo to the start of the race. The course is definitely one of the easiest I’ve ever run, not because I didn’t race the course or that we had perfect weather but it was flat, good roads, interesting course, crowd very supportive the entire 26.2 miles. The finish area very well done with a long recovery walk with the Mylar sheet, medal, all sorts of post race fuel as well as bags to put it in. The beer, really good and that says a lot since I’m not a beer drinker but it sure did taste good on this particular day! I would recommend the purchase of the Balbo Hospitality ticket. It adds that special something to race day.
Will I run Chicago again? I’d like to race this course to see how my time might compare to a hillier terrain but for now, there are too many other Fall marathons on my list and one or two I hope to run with Ted.