The best thing about my performance in the 2012 Chicago Marathon, was that I made it the entire distance without a single drop. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a dropless marathon so on that front, I was quite pleased.
My time, was just ok. 3:40:50. A minute slower than last year and almost 20 minutes slower than my best marathon. Still, it is a respectable time.
As usual, my first half was good, my second half…not so much. I think my first half time was 1:44 which means my second half time was 1:56, just about a minute per mile slower. Oh well. I really did the best I could.
What I remember most about the start is that I was pretty cold. The temperature was around 40F and there was a slight breeze. I was wearing only a long sleeve running shirt and shorts. Brrr. But once the corral started filling in, it felt much warmer. It’s probably better to be a little cold than to be a little hot.
At the start I was standing next to this guy from Germany. He was wearing a collared, short sleeve shirt, running shorts and shoes. I have to say I’ve never seen someone run in one of those shirts before. Perhaps I’ll try it some time.
When the horn sounded and I got to running, I felt good. I decided to just stick to an 8 min/mile pace and see how long I could go. An 8 min pace is not too difficult for me so I felt great for a long time.
The crowd in Chicago was out in force (as usual) and they were loving the juggling. I got lots of cheers and it really made me smile. I smile way too much in the first half of the race. Don’t smile nearly as much the second half.
Around mile 6 I started to feel a slight pain in my left ankle. It concerned me for about 2 miles before it mysteriously went away. This is the thing about marathons. You’ll get lots of pains that will just develop then disappear.
Joggling back into the city was inspiring. The crowds were bigger and louder than ever. There were a ton of people holding out their hands for “high fives” and I made a bunch of attempts at hitting people’s hands. Unfortunately, they usually pulled their hands back before I could make contact. I think they didn’t know that I was going to high five them. Fortunately, I did get to connect with a few people and I didn’t have any drops despite the precarious nature of the trick.
I was still ahead of the 3:30 pace group when I passed the half way point. The clock said 1:44 so my half time was actually more like 1:42. Not bad considering how minimal my training had been.
This part of the marathon is always the toughest for me. I was happy to see my wife and some friends at mile 14, and the brief stop there really energized me for another couple miles.
However, in mile 16 I started feeling some cramps in my thighs and then the insidious self-talk started. “Just walk for a little while. You’ll feel better.”
But I knew if you walk at mile 16 it will be a much, much longer time for the rest of the race. I was determined not to give in to either the pain or the negative self-talk.
I felt a little discouraged when the 3:30 pace group who I’d been staying ahead of the entire race, passed me at mile 18. I tried to keep up with them but my legs were just not up for it. By the time mile 19 hit, they were out of my sight.
I experienced the predictable pains at mile 22. Somehow, I always get cramps around there. Fortunately, I was eating and drinking a lot so the pains were not as sever as previous years. I know there have been some years when I could barely walk without shooting pains in my leg. However, I kept moving forward.
At mile 23, I accepted a cup of beer from a group of spectators who were handing them out. Tasted awful but I liked the liquid. Incidentally, the number of water stations at the race this year were great. Almost every mile had a refueling station. That helped me a lot!
In the final two miles, I was in survival mode. Just kept moving forward and concentrating on how far I had left to go. One of the tricks I do is to think about my training runs and the path I follow for them. I kept telling myself, “You can do two miles in your sleep.” And I can. It’s just a lot harder doing 2 miles after you’ve done 24 before that.
Admittedly, I didn’t have a great finish. My legs were hurting a lot and I just didn’t summon the energy to pass lots of people as I usually do. I passed a few people but there were a couple of runners who passed me too. I hate when I get passed in the final 100 meters.
At the end, the weather was nice and sunny and the finishing chute was nicely organized. I picked up my medal, my silver wrapping sheet, some food, a couple of beers and then headed out to gear check. It took 40 minutes to get my gear (annoying) but I did have a nice conversation with a couple runners who were waiting in line.
Overall, I felt good about this marathon. I wished I trained better and of course, wished I could’ve run faster but as my old high school English teacher says “At any given moment a person is doing the very best that they can.” I definitely did the best I could that day. Perhaps in the future, I’ll do a bit better.
Epilogue: My sister and her friend both finished fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Congratulations to them!