CHICAGO MARATHON 2018
I have been in several minds about this race. So, why not write this report and get it out of my head?!
Road to Chicago
After having entered this marathon last December, I was stoked to find out that my bestie, Laura was also in! She is a native of Chicago (in a manner of speaking, she lived there before moving to London 6 months before we met 3 years ago) - so this was a Homecoming race. Of sorts.
She had been training for Chicago before she had to pull out years ago due to health issues. This was time to put it to bed.
Alas, life got busy between December 2017 and August 2018. In August, she let me know she was deferring her place to the next year! Darn!
I didn't blame her though. She had a charity race (Midnight-2-Midnight) to direct in the middle of London at the end of September. This usually meant lots of long hours, sleepless nights and organizational manpower even before the 24 hour relay was upon us.
She was still coming to Chicago though. AND, she was bringing an extra Mascot/ cheerleader. Okay, we also call him her boyfriend but I saw an extra cheerleader!
We planned to meet at the airport on the morning of our flight to take our United Airlines flights out to Chicago. I got my Uber and my giant almost empty suitcase and gritted my teeth through the SLOWEST route to Heathrow that I have EVER witnessed. It was like he was trying to make me late for our rendez-vous time! Don't worry, it was like 3 hours before the flight departure time.
On arrival to Heathrow, I located the self-service check-in and looked around for the rest of the party. Not a sausage (British saying for 'nothing here')! So I settled in to wait as I was sure Laura would be here and we just couldn't see each other.
Ten minutes later, they rolled up. This became a theme for this trip. Which is funny because, I'm the Nigerian who often shows up a few minutes late. Otherwise, my British leanings kick in and I'm early!
Laura is the American who is always on time! So this must have been down to Myles. This was confirmed later in the trip but initially, I just thought traveling as part of a couple had thrown off her usually impeccable calculations, maybe. What did I know?
The flight was largely uneventful. Good food and movies.
Once we landed and got the weirdest Uber ride known to man (our driver stopped for gas and left the meter running and wanted us to pay....lol, nope. She had to stop the meter once she made stop 1 of 2.
My hotel was a dream and about 10 minutes walk from the start line. Hotel Julian was a find! (I booked 2 weeks before flying out - yes, I am THAT person!).
I went for a good little run shortly after arrival in my room. My friends arranged to meet at the Oak Shore Beach and I used good old Google Maps to get there. Almost immediately, I noticed the famed "issues" with GPS between those skyscrapers! OMG, it was unreal! For a 1 mile run, I picked up very little actual distance. Then I ran the rest of my 60 minutes since my friends were once again running late. No complaints here!
What better ending to a run along a beachfront than to be complimented by another runner as I was in the last half a mile on my "very smooth running stride". Amen! Any my ankles were not sore after flying - that was a first since August!
The Chicago highlights of the trip before and after the race included:
I did run around a few times in the GPS-challenged downtown area of Chicago. I figured, I really needed to turn off the auto-lap as it had no idea how long a mile was anymore!
I also went to a Blues Bar and Second City Comedy with my friends in the evenings and had a pre-race evening meal with Kenny (pasta)! It was a nice chilled but enjoyable trip.
All too soon, Race day was upon me!
I woke up very early and put on my racing outfit - my new red MyWambas sports bra with a handy pocket for my phone and my newly-designed Mornington Chasers Racing Crop top were on! I also put on my vest over the top because, I had no idea what the weather would hold.
A quick selfie before the extra insulation layers (long running tights, long-sleeved running hoodie and my race number, initially pinned to my crop top).
The long walk to the start line was in order. Many runners in various states of sleepiness, zombi-like or just plain nervous, all joined me in that long trugde. Security checks over, we went to the areas for bag drop-off. I opted to keep mine a little longer.
It started to rain.
At this point, I was starting to question my life choices - What am I doing out here in the dark, in the rain, waiting to run 26.2 miles. Okay, the last bit I couldn't wait for (I'm a sicko like that) but the early morning rain was really getting to me!
I found a little hut to huddle in and sat next to a lovely lady from South America who had flown over for her first marathon! I encouraged her to not put time pressure on herself, go easy in the first half and really just ENJOY the day. It is a celebration of all those months of preparation! We soon were unceremoniously kicked out of the hut (they had to set up some refreshments for post-race), so we parted ways with good luck wishes. I dropped off my bag and started the next bit of searching for my start pen.
The day was brightening up quickly and I was feeling a bit less of that pre-race foreboding feeling.
I found my pen and started doing some warm-up drills. The rain even decided to stop! Hurrah!
Of course I then felt the need to pee! Could I hold it in for another 10 minutes? Nope.
So I climbed back out of my starting corral and went to join a pretty swift-moving porta-potty queue. Funnily enough, I was not the only person climbing out and finding the loo (yes, I am British!).
Business done, myself and my fellow last-minute stoppers somehow made a gap in the fence to shimmy back into the corral. Oh, such rebels!
And all too soon, it was go time! I thought, there goes Mo Farrah, time for me to follow! Lol
Miles 1 - 13
The first few miles were all about finding my stride and starting slow.
I noticed that the rain had stopped and the GPS was indeed crazy. Thankfully, I had managed to switch off my automatic lapping function just after the Shake-out run with McKirdy Trained athletes the day before.
As expected, Mile 2 read a funny little autolap (like 5:xx) so that was out!
I chatted briefly to a lovely racing lady who had braids and maroon lipstick - darn, I need a race day lipstick colour like that, I thought - and she was aiming for around 3:25 finishing time. I was aiming for 3:20 at this time. We wished each other luck and carried on trucking.
There were a bunch of "Jesus Saves"-style signs along the start of the course. I'm a faith-filled Christian and I appreciate that they wanted to be there but their tone was OFF. Most of the signs seemed to say, why are you running when you should be in church, you heathens? How about, God gave me a passion to run and every mile is my prayer and praise to Him? That's what I wanted to answer those posters. It was so off-putting! Other runners I spoke to later said they'd felt the same way.
Did I mention, it started to rain again around mile 3 or 4? This continued for the remainder of the race but it was a gentle steady drizzle most of the time.
I finally settled into my groove by the 6th mile, but found I couldn't get myself to speed up much more. I realize now, I prefer to be a metronome in races - a steady pace overall since the later miles take more effort to keep even the same pace. So holding a 7:50-ish pace became it!
A friend had texted me just before the start saying he would cheering be around 9.6 miles - I know, random distance or what? So, I craned my neck left to right and scanned the roadsides from miles 9 to 10. No dice! We missed each other. Just as I'd missed him whilst cheering at the London Marathon. Oh well!
I kept saying to myself, see how you feel at halfway, maybe you can stop for a second!
As soon as the 12th mile marker went, I knew it was just a lie I had been telling myself to keep me turning over. I had no GI issues, I had no need to pee, I had no cramps in my legs....so, no GOOD reason to stop. I ran past that 13th mile marker and the clicked my auto-lap, as planned.
Miles 14 - The Finish
The remainder of the race was about putting one foot in front of the other and noticing my surroundings a bit more.
I noticed Chinatown - there was no food cooking. Apparently everyone was out cheering! lol!
Around the 17 mile mark, I was still enjoying my jog (sorry, run) through Chicago. Thinking about how to keep avoiding the Gatorade holders and grabbing water after eating a Clif Blok or two, I choked. Yes, I choked on a gulp of water! I tried to style it out. Act like I meant to choke on that very sip and just cough to the side.
Just as I was recovering my breath, I heard my name being called. That can't be right?!
I looked up to see my best friend, Laura yelling and jumping up and down in excitement! And her boyfriend, Myles was going nuts too! (Camera forgotten around his neck as he waved manically at me! I don't know if I managed a high-five or not. All I know is I was touched and super suprised!
It was so unexpected but it was the very boost I needed!
I ran on to the finish, just focusing on the mile I was running. I completely forgot to lap the 23rd mile (so it was extra-long - lol!). I ran up to and said hi to Julia (from Instagram) who went on to run a PR!
A guy ran alongside me at mile 24 saying I was "looking strong"! I thanked him but knew I was partially faking it, partially just not working that hard. It was positive reinforcement though. I kep going.
A thing about Chicago is that it is famed for being FLAT. Well, I felt every incline up a bridge, every decline and I wondered, "what the hell are they talking about?"
I felt Boston was more my speed even with its accepted hills and valleys! Whenever a race is famed to be so FLAT or even DOWNHILL, it tends to backfire. I mentally hated every slight or proper incline.
So at mile 25.9 when THE hill of Chicago came, I was over it! I was like, whatever, just show me the finish.
And as I turned left at the top of the hill, I was so ready for that finish line.
I also noticed one other thing - the clock read 25:xx. So I sped up and raced across the line.
I stopped my Garmin but didn't even look at my time.
My watch had a joke for me though. Knock, knock....who's there? Fastest 26.2 time: 3:18:xx. Lol! This GPS really is a joker!
It was only much later that I realized my time was 3:26 FLAT. Yes, you read that right. I'm that precise! Ha ha!
On to the celebrations!
Post-Finish and Lessons Learned
First things first. They had an UH-MAZING set of goodies for the runners!
Shortly after crossing the line, I was given a can of beer (lol, I don;t drink but okay)! I'm not sure if I got that before or after my Medal! I took a few sips as I was handed 2 plastic bags to collect goodies from tables lining the finishing chute.
Then handfuls of Gatorade recovery bars and products were thrown into my bags and I was offered bags of Ice. Yes, ICE! Perfect, I can sit on that later for my glutes- I thought! Post-shower, of course!
Suffice it to say, I had a blast grabbing my goodies! (I still have Gatorade bars I grab after a workout on the treadmill from my stash - I kid you not!)
I bumped into the legend that is Patrick Cutter (@irun26point2_) one of the McKirdytrained coaches and an IG buddy, @Diorisromero. Her friend turned out to be the lovely lady with the poppin' (yes I left out the 'G') lipstick! So we took some pictures and got changed!
I then stumbled across the free massage tent on my way out - Yaaaaasss! So I limped my tight butt over there and walked out a bit less like a Zombie and more like a lady (after a fashion). I also tried to convince my masseuse to give Marathon-running a go!
I will admit now that I stopped at a Starbucks on my walk home (all of 3 blocks) to grab a croissant sandwich which I devoured). Post-race meal was actually another Chicago deep-dish pizza - this time at Pequod's Pizza. I live the life of a marathoner!
Hope you enjoyed my little mind ramble and the pictures.
Do drop me a line below if you were in Chitown or have run a marathon this year.
Any questions or tips are welcome!
I'm Lola - a hair obsessed doctor who stumbled into running long distances and baking all the cupcakes.
I blog about life, running and of course, hair! I'm an Altra "Team Red" Sponsored Athlete, so I will do the occasional running shoe or gadget review.
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I do not own the copyright to all the pictures so I will credit the source, where that is the case.