2013 Chicago Marathon
I'm going to take another break from the business of healthcare to talk about my running of the Bank of America 2013 Chicago Marathon on Sunday. This was my big race this year. Everything I've done has been in preparation for this. One goal: run under 3:30. The conditions were primed for a good day. Start time temperatures were in the low 50s, sunny skies and Chicago's famously flat course. After a moment of silence to honor those killed and injured in the tragedy during the Boston Marathon, we were off.
Chicago's course is one loop through 29 neighborhoods and as mentioned before, epically flat. With more than 12,000 volunteers manning aid and support stations, and close to 2 million spectators (not an exaggeration) screaming and encouraging runners along every inch of the course, this city comes alive on race day, which also serves as a great distraction for runners who don't want to think about how much they have left to run or how much pain they're in.
My run started off pretty well. I kept a steady pace between a 7:45-7:50/mile for the first 18 miles. Then, right on cue, my stomach started acting up. I've had issues in other races with my stomach; it's not a fun feeling, but fortunately, I've learned how to manage the problem. After getting some more salt in my body and some extra fluids, I was able to keep running, albeit at a slightly slower pace.
Around mile 24, I heard a spectator scream out, "Go 3:30 Pace Group!" This group has a pacer who holds up a sign that says "3:30" and runs a perfect pace to hit 3:30 at the finish line. I ran ahead of this group the entire time, but we started the race at the same time too, so I knew if this group got ahead of me, I wouldn't meet my goal. So for the last 2 miles, when my stomach still wasn't 100% and my legs were already burning, I had to actually run faster to get to that finish line before the clock said 3:30.
Mile 25 and I was right even with the 3:30 pacer. The crowd was electric, fans screaming and music blaring. Half a mile to go, and we hit what some consider the hardest part of the course. In the last 0.2 miles, after already running 26 miles, you hit the "hill." It's really the only significant incline on the entire course, and to call it a "hill" may be a misrepresentation. It's less than a 1% grade, and only lasts about 0.1 miles, but when your legs are barely hanging and the thought of having to go uphill makes you want to throw up, any incline seems like it might as well be a mountain. Needless to say, I made it up and rounded the last turn into Chicago's Grant Park, 100 meters to go. The finish line was right in front of me. I looked down at my watch, as I crossed the line: 3:29:28!
The race was a success! On Monday, I could barely walk (a good sign that I ran hard). The elite runners had good days too! The top woman, Rita Jeptoo of Kenya, came in at 2:19:57, earning her a coveted place among the "sub-2:20" female marathoners. While the top male, Dennis Kimetto of Kenya, came in with a new course record at 2:03:45 (just 22 seconds off world-record pace, and the third-fastest marathon ever). All in all, it was a great day. I feel great about my time and nearly 39,000 other runners crossed the finish line within the 6 hour, 30 minute cut-off. Great running, Chicago!
And on a lighter note to end with, spectator signs are always a highlight of marathon running. My top three:
3. "PR or ER!" (I've been to the ER after a race, so I can relate!)
2. "Run Like There's a Sharknado Behind You!"
1. "You Run Better than the US Government!"
My sister Annie and myself after the race. I ran a 3:29:28 (PR by 6:56). Not to be outdone, my sister ran a 4:56:39 (PR by 1:04:40 -- she'll be the first to admit her training for her previous races was less than adequate).