Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Race Recap: Chicago Marathon

It has been 10 days since the Chicago Marathon. The race I had been training to complete for the past five months of my life. So much of my focus and effort was, with reason, on preparing for the race. I wish someone would have prepared me for post-marathon life. Now that I am not training for a race, I feel just a little lost with what my fitness goals should be. I'm crazy enough to even miss my late night runs on the track!

The week before the race I was in Canada for a conference and that was probably the best thing to happen to me because I was forced to taper. Kind of hard to run every day when you've only packed two workout outfits, right? I was still anxious about the race and my ability to complete the race. Things started settling for me when I went to expo on Saturday and picked up my bib. I was actually going to run this race! The night before the race I did the crazy thing of estimate my time. My goal had always been to finish under 4:30, but that night, with the numbers I saw, I realized that under 4:15 was within reach and, if I really pushed myself, a 4-hour marathon could be possible.

Even with that, I woke up race morning with the idea that 4:30 would be my goal and anything under that would be the sweetest cherry on top of this magnificently long victory lap. I did not make it in time to get in my corral (G) because Cati woke up early and was not too happy about me leaving to run a race, but I was able to hop in on corral H.

I started running at 8:18am and told myself that what mattered was how I felt, not the time on the watch. I saw my family in that first mile and was cheered on the rest of the way by friends and family through the Motigo app (best. app. ever.). Looking back, I remember the first half of the marathon so much better than I do the second half. I did the first half in 2:02 and was so proud of this time. Here I was, running comfortably and happily knowing I still had 13.1 more miles to go, and I still managed a 2:02 half marathon. This was just the bit of encouragement I needed to get through what I felt would be the hardest part of the race for me: miles 13.1 through 20.

Like I said, the second half of the race is a blur. I remember running, but I wouldn't be able to tell you where I ran, what I ran past, who I took water from, or the faces in the crowd. Once I hit mile 20, the mental pep talk began: 6.2 miles more to go, 60 more minutes of movement. That pep talk continued for every subsequent mile. When I saw the mile marker for mile 24, I almost lost it. I wanted to cry, explode, yell, anything to release the sense of pride that was building up in me. I WAS DOING IT. I WAS TWO MILES AWAY FROM BEING A MARATHONER.

Those last two miles were the most emotional miles of my life. Just thinking about those last two miles brings me to tears. I worked so hard, I sacrificed so much, and I worried even more and I was so close to seeing the payoff of all that work, dedication, and commitment. I kept telling myself to keep it together because I didn't want people to see me and think I was in pain and falling apart. I mean, I was falling apart in that the old me who thought she couldn't was crumbling away to make space for the new me that knew she could.

Crossing that finish line was amazing. It took every ounce of my strength to not stop right then and there and sob. I was so proud. In the days after the marathon, I likened the experience of running and completing the marathon to being pregnant and giving birth. The months of training were like the nine months of pregnancy, full of hope and preparation. Then running the actual course was the labor, a mixture of feelings and sensations. Crossing the finish line was the birth and that medal the baby. As with my births, I recall the feeling of being there and experiencing all the pain, but I cannot remember specifics for the life of me or remember just how bad the pain was during labor. This is exactly how the marathon was for me with fuzzy details and a real out-of-body experience.

Once the running stopped, it was as if the pain of the previous 4 hours rushed to my legs. I had heard others talk about lactic acid, but I was not expecting that kind of pain. I could still walk (although I was afraid to sit down), but any other motion seemed like murder to my legs. I tried to numb my pain through free Goose Island Beer and talking to my Instagram friends. I think what really helped me was the mile walk home. What didn't help was the giggling girls who seemed to only want to jump, climb, and sit on my sore legs. The day after the marathon was the worst on my legs, but the soreness subsided after three days. I waited longer to run (7 days) because I wanted to soak in the finish and take a break from the intensive running.

I finished the marathon in 4:07:32. So much better than I ever imagined for my first marathon. I finished with a smile on my face and with deeper connections to Chicago and the running community up here. I still prefer the 13.1 distance, but there is something so magical about 26.2 miles.

This post is long enough, so I will end things with saying that I cannot wait to run my next marathon! For more on my running follow me on Instagram @thecookierunner 


Gianna said...

Congratulations! so amazing to see your months of hard work come to fruition, you ROCKED that marathon!

Debbie @ Live from La Quinta said...

I loved reading this! I got emotional just reading about your thoughts and feelings during your race! 4:07 is an awesome time for a first marathon! (or a second, third, etc :-) ).