As quickly as the Chicago Marathon arrived, it’s now gone just as quickly.
The whole day, and the whole weekend, was whirlwind and still feels more like it didn’t happen than that it did. And since this was my goal race, you know this will be a longer post (brace yourselves).
I hopped down to packet pickup at McCormick Place on Friday with hopes of missing a bulk of the crowds, and not having one extra thing to do on Saturday. After hearing rumors that the expo was bananas all day, I was a little concerned about how long this trip might take. Fortunately, I was able to breeze through security and get my bib and bag.
When they pulled up my bib number, one of the volunteers made the comment that I was a fast runner. Doubtful, but I appreciated the comment. I grabbed my shirt, picked up a new pair of Experia socks (new design so they were a no go for race day), and my CARA VIP tag for Sunday morning (more on that later). The only thing I didn’t like was that none of the vendors were selling Huma Gel, so I stopped at a local running shop in Naperville to pick some gels up for the race.
Saturday rolled around and it was back to the city for the BibRave shakeout run. Storms caused the official run to be cancelled, but I moseyed north to find Steph and Julia who were getting a longer run in. I also saw some of the Kenyan runners along the Lakefront Path doing their shakeout, which was neat! My shakeout ended up getting a little long and a little fast, but it did feel good to stretch the legs a bit, and my HR showed that those miles weren’t making me work too hard.
After breakfast, I meandered the city, grabbed some lunch, and hit up the live BibRave podcast. So in addition to seeing some elites in the morning, I got to see Meb here as well.
From there, it was off to the hotel I was staying at for the night, since I wasn’t all about trying to fight my way into the city on race morning. I chatted with a couple runners, but mostly watched Netflix and ate dinner.
Then it was here. Race morning. I set my alarm for 5am, which was about on par for when I wake up during travel season. Got ready, got my bagel with peanut butter (crunchy of course) and set out for the CARA VIP area in the Hilton about two blocks down. But first, I made sure to grab some coffee in the lobby of the hotel.
And I’ll tell ya guys, being in the VIP area was nice. It was a rainy morning, so to be able to sit inside for an extended period of time was great. You know what else was great? Indoor bathrooms #Clutch. Not too mention that we could use any bag for the gear check, so I used my trusted Naperville Running Co backpack. At about 6:45, Jess and I headed off to the start area as the race neared. But first, we stopped for the outdoor CARA bathrooms. Never has a fenced off porta john felt so luxurious.
With a field size of 44,000 you can imagine the start area is bonkers. And it was. Runners trying to get here and there, to the corrals, and to gear check. It’s an interesting scene where some runners are trying to book it to their corral, while some (like yours truly) knew we would make it on time and just walked over.
Corrals close at 7:20, 10 minutes before race time, so the marathon is kind of a hurry up and wait deal. But the rain had held off to this point, so it was a cloudy, cool, and a little humid start.
And then away we went.
I knew that, almost for sure, I would run my first mile slower than goal MP pace, which was totally fine. I was also using my Garmin as a super expensive stop watch, knowing that the city messes with Garmin, I’d just take my own splits at 5k and 10k marks.
Like I thought, I hit the first mile a touch slower than MP in a 7:02. Time to speed up. I split the first 5k just a smidge off of goal pace, about 12 seconds. After seeing Team BibRave just past the 5k mark, I darted into the porta johns along the course for a quick bathroom stop.
As we headed north along the lake, the wind started to kick up. Not a huge deal, I figured, as we would get blown back to the city. Plus, there were enough people to kind of draft off of; the perks of a big race. I cleared the 10k mark again about 10s off of MP. And that would end up being the story of my day. I couldn’t quite catch up to, or find that 6:50-52 pace all day. Definitely an early frustration.
As we turned back to the city, the mist started to turn into rain as we approached the 15k and 10 mile markers. The 10k to 15k split was actually the only one I hit in terms of pace. Which makes sense for a couple reasons. The first being that I normally hit my best paces in marathons around Miles 7-9, and we did have some tailwind here as well. Trust me, it didn’t feel as easy flowing as it should have.
I saw Team BibRave again just before the Half, which was a nice surprise and boost at that stage. I cleared the Half in 1:30:52 which if I were at all capable of running a negative split would have been absolutely perfect.
As we headed west, I lost a little focus and forgot what time I needed to be hitting to stay on track when I cleared the 25k. All I knew was that it was slower than it needed to be (which was true). The lack of crowds in this section was somewhat refreshing and it did give me a chance to check in with myself and see how I was feeling (hint: legs weren’t thrilled).
I remember passing the 30k, but that’s about all I can tell you about that split. The portion of miles between leaving Chicago to head west and Chinatown is kind of blurred/gone from my memory.
As we entered the Chinatown area, there was the Biofreeze zone over on the course. I opted to swing through for a Biofreeze spray on my calves. I don’t know if this helped me a ton, but it didn’t hurt, so it was worth a quick stop. Chinatown definitely brought the energy though! I’ve watched Chicago on TV and heard plenty from others who ran, and Chinatown is always mentioned. It did not disappoint; especially at an important portion of the race.
Right before Mile 23 I saw Team BibRave again, which was a great boost with about 5k to go. I was also able to ask them who won the race, so I learned that Mo Farah took home the Chicago crown.
From there is was back north to Grant Park and the finish. Remember when I said we battled the wind heading up to Lakeview at the start? Yeah, we battled that same wind heading into the finish.
I had been doing some pace math coming down the stretch, and figured if I pushed, I’d have a good shot to come in under 3:10, which would’ve made Chicago my second fastest marathon. Disappointing relative to my goal, but not bad considering I never quite found MP the entire morning.
When we hit the 800m to go sign, I checked my watch and saw that I was about 4 minutes away from my PR that I set at Twin Cities. AKA running the last half mile in under an 8 minute pace would net me a PR.
Let me tell ya, never has a sub 7 minute pace and a tiny hill felt so painful. But ya gotta get that PR right?
So with that, I’ve got a new (small) PR. Not quite close to what I wanted to run, but a PR on a day I didn’t have it is reassuring. Chicago was also the fastest second half of a marathon for me to date, which I’m probably happier about than any other aspect of my race.
I waited around the finish for Bill and Jess to finish, and we headed back to the CARA VIP area for the post race relaxation.
Any of you who are runners can probably relate to what I’m about to say, as dumb as it sounds. But I just didn’t have it at Chicago, and that’s SUPER frustrating. I know it was a tough day with slick roads, but I don’t want to blame that, because it wasn’t awful. Sure the slick roads weren’t fun, but running well was more than doable.
Yes, I notched a PR, but I didn’t have my best stuff for the marathon. At Twin Cities (previous PR) I felt like a god for most of the race, and ran out of steam after the Summit Ave hill. At Chicago, I never really got into that same groove and worked all the way. Obviously I’m proud of that, but frustrated I wasn’t able to run my best on race day.
All in all, Chicago was a fantastic event and a weekend well spent with running and with friends. I’d definitely do Chicago again, but as of right now, it isn’t on my “must run again” list like Twin Cities or Grandma’s.
Speaking of what’s next: in less than a month (oh boy) I’ll be knocking out World Major #2 as I tackle the New York Marathon. Here I’ll be pacing Steph to a PR and soaking in the world’s largest marathon, which I’m super excited about. I’ve heard various things about this race, and I’ll be curious to compare it to what Chicago was like.
My next goal race is another bucket list marathon, for me. On January 20, I’ll be headed back to Texas to take on the Houston Marathon. Due to the quickish turnaround from the Fall season, I’ll be doing my training a little differently for this one, so stay tuned to hear more about that!
A few questions for all of you:
Did you run Chicago? If so, how did it go?
Will I see you at New York? If you’re aiming for the 3:20-30 range, come find me!
Which races are on your “must run again” list?