Though the Chicago Marathon isn’t scheduled perfectly with the 20 mile run in my training program, I decided not to waste the opportunity to get in this long run because of its convenience. How many times can you do a fully-supported long training run with plenty of company??
I arrived plenty early at the Hospitality Suite hosted by a local running group to meet up with the “gang”. Little did I know this would be such a hot spot for seeing other people I knew! It was like every time I turned around, there was another familiar face! It was fun to see everyone and the room was just buzzing with energy, but I will admit that made it a bit distracting. Even though this was just a training run, I still wanted to be prepared.
Several trips to a nearby bathroom were necessary because I knew the porta potty line down near the start would be a zoo. It was very convenient and, despite my multiple trips, I never had to wait in line. Bonus! I went over and over and over all the nutrition and supplements I had brought along to get me through the race. Meticulously, I placed everything into my pockets in the opposite order I’d need them in to make for easy access while running. Donna even decked me out with one of those pace tattoo thingys.
With about 40 minutes to go, we headed out toward the start. I had already ditched my throw-away shirt because it became a little toasty in the hotel. Once outside, I didn’t even miss the shirt, a sure sign of the warm day ahead of us. Of course, I had my compression socks on and wasn’t even feeling self-conscious about them. This year, they had the starting chute blocked off for what seemed like FOREVER and we ended up entering in at the 13 min/mile pace. This meant we had to zig zag our way through the dense crowd to try and squeeze up into a more adequate running pace.
Once in a position where all of us agreed we should be, we joked and laughed and tried to take our minds off the upcoming run. We paused for the national anthem (GUYS – PLEASE take your hats off during this!! I was shocked at the number of men who left their hats on during the anthem!) and the crowd moved up slightly toward the start line. I don’t even remember hearing the official start, but soon everyone began walking forward. Next thing I know, RT is pointing to me where the “official” start clock had been running for some 5+ minutes. Huh. Ah, it doesn’t matter.
Crossing the start line is always a little chaotic. People every which way, dodging the left over water bottles athletes just placed on the ground and jumping over piles of clothes kept on to keep warm (I don’t advise jumping over anything at this point). There were spectators lined across 2 bridges right away that gives you a little boost. Not much cheering this year, though, as we ran under those. Sometimes, because of the echo, people like to make a lot of noise over there. If you’re lucky and a lot of people are feeling overly enthusiastic at this point, it can be deafening and motivational! Today, however, that wasn’t to be.
The pace seemed to be a little quicker than I thought it should be, but I didn’t want to run alone, so I stuck with BC as he dodged his way around the slower people who had lined up a little ahead of us. Within 2 miles, I was already sweating, which is very unlike me. Another telling sign of the heat to be experienced this day. NOTHING like last year, but definitely warmer than ideal marathon conditions. Another mile or 2 pass and we see JM just ahead. A couple of strategic moves and we ran up on each side of him to start up a conversation. He seems to be running well, but really just wants to listen to his tunes. We run with him for about a mile or so and press on.
The pace still seems quick, but my Garmin is malfunctioning. I keep losing the signal. I am happy I’m trying to keep splits on my good ol’ Timex and note that the pace is about 15-20 seconds faster than target. I wonder how this will bite me later on, but still don’t want to run alone, so I press on. A few people here and there commenting on the compression socks – then I notice they have them on too, so then I don’t feel like they’re making fun of me. I pass Elvis – in a very heavy blue outfit studded in gold…he’s shuffling along, though!
I’m having a bit of a hard time trying to keep up my end of the conversation and wonder how much longer I’ll be able to keep the pace. I think we were at mile 9 when I asked if we were coming up on mile 12. My Garmin said we had 11.23 miles in…how frustrating! My heartrate is in zone 4 and I’m concerned, but I don’t want to give up. I pass Elvis again…now how did that happen?
At each water stop, I fall behind quite a bit and have to quicken the pace to catch up. It’s at this time I believe I lengthen my stride and the hamstring starts talking to me. Once I catch up, though, the pace isn’t slowing down. Now we’re progressively running each mile faster. Around mile 15, I’m ready to slow down. Now the pace is about 25 seconds faster per mile than planned and I am struggling. Can I do this for 5 more miles? BC had pulled out the metronome and it was funny watching people look around trying to figure out what the heck it was. Better than that, it made me focus on smaller steps and made the run go by just a bit easier. Another bonus was that when we had to split up for a while, I could always hear if he was next to me or behind me – so I never had to look. Just focus on keeping that sound nearby.
By mile 18, I knew I had it. No, it wasn’t getting easier, but I knew I was stopping in 2 miles. Just 2 miles! No problem. In fact, the last 2 miles were 2 of the fastest miles of the run! And though I seriously thought about continuing on to the finish, I knew that just wasn’t smart training. We finished the 20 in what was one of my strongest runs of the season. The heat was a factor, but didn’t seem to cause a problem. I was happy to stop at 20 and call it a day!