Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 Chicago Marathon - Part 2

Part two of my marathon experience started at 4:30 am. My plan was to go to bed by 10:00 pm the evening before. However, I didn’t get home Saturday night until 9:00 pm (after leaving my parents restaurant for dinner). Then, because I’m a procrastinator, I decided that I should make a “2011 marathon” playlist on my phone. See, I had started doing this back in July, but about 1 week ago, I got a new phone. I was able to put some songs back on but never made a new playlist.

After playing with that for an hour, I decided I should at least make an attempt to get my stuff together for the next morning, since I had to get up so early! Finally 10:30 pm rolled around and off to bed I went!

4:30 came too fast! No normal person should have to get up when it’s still that dark outside! But up I was. I carefully put everything I needed to bring into a bag and crossed it off my checklist! I didn’t want to forget anything like I did for my 20-miler (where I forgot my garmin and my headphones!!).

5:15 came and I headed downtown. My plan was to leave at 5:15 to get to my parking area at 5:45. That left me enough time to walk to the hotel where my charity group was going to be at so I can take a team photo.

UPS for DownS Charity Athlete Team Photo
 A couple funny stories here.  Well, the grapes at the bottom?  There really is no good reason for that.  These were people from Australia that picked to run for our charity.  There was no good reason for the grapes.  They just said "We are going to have a 'grape" time" and " 'Raisin' awareness for UPS for DownS."  Cute!
The other funny story about this photo?  Well, I am smack dab in the middle near the top.  No, that's not the funny part!  Do you see that my body is slightly turned?  Well, we were joking around how horrible it would be to fall off and hurt ourselves right before the marathon.  The woman behind me grabbed my arm and said she wasn't going to let me fall (I don't know this woman).  I laughed and said thank you...and waited for her to release my arm.  And waited... She wasn't going to let me go!  So I joked, "I think it's awesome that you are still holding on to me!" hoping that might make her realize to let me go.  But no!  She said "I'm a mom!"  And continued to hold me for the entire photo shoot!!  I was actually annoyed but I wasn't going to say anything!...I wanted to say "Look lady!  Let go of my arm already!!"  lol
Back to the marathon!  After the team photo, I went back to the hotel to meet up with my running group (who ironically was at the same hotel as my charity group).  I caught up with them and had a nice time finishing getting ready for the know, bib on shirt, timing tag on shoe, writing on my arms!

Part of the 10 min mile pace group I ran with all summer.
 (Me, Kelly, Christine and our pace leader Jeanne...left to right)

On my arm to remind me to smile at every mile!
 Then it was time to go down to the marathon!  While running around trying to get to the start (I thought I was supposed to be relaxed!!), my trainer called to find out where I was and what I was wearing. Get your mind out of the gutters people!  He wanted to know what I was wearing so he could try to find me before the run!!  I kind of said where I was (I really wasn't exactly sure as it was SO chaotic)!  He said he was there too!  I was not about to look for him!  I had to find the start!  After about 20 mins and going completely out of our way, who do I run in to?  My trainer!  We were not in the same location when we talked on the phone!  How in the world did we come upon each other with ALL those people there!  So he gave me a hug and wished me luck!
My friend Kelly and I were going to start together.  We made a pact that if at any time either one of us had to slow down, the other one would keep going and not wait.  We were both running our first marathon and wanted to get as good of a time as possible.
Trying to get into the starting area was a nightmare.  We couldn't!  There were fences to keep runners in the street and spectators outside with only little gaps every now and again to let the runners in.  People were trying to hop the fence and we saw one guy get snagged and practically fall over the fence!  I was hoping he didn't badly cut himself!  Kelly wanted to hop the fence too.  I was a little hesitant.  For one, I was never good at climbing fences. Secondly, I just saw that guy fall over it!  We decided to wait as close to an opening gap as possible.  I told her once the line started moving, we would be fine, which is what happened.

After the start sounded, Kelly and I walking to the starting line
 And we were off!  Kelly and I kept a nice 10:15 pace to start out.  We run really well together while pacing ourselves!  We weren't going to listen to our music while running together so that when we really needed music, we wouldn't be bored of it by then!
I noticed there was a problem around mile 8.  The weather was too warm for a marathon (it was in the upper 60's and sunny by this point and would be in the mid-70's by the finish!  With pure sun!!).  So around mile 8, Kelly seems to be struggling a bit and simply says, "this is going to be a bad run day for me."  During our training, when one of us was having a problem on a long run, we referred to it as a "bad run day."  Well, I wasn't happy to hear that from her because we were only at mile 8!  I tried giving her a pep talk, "Take deep breaths Kelly.  Keep your head up.  Slow the pace if you have to."  She said she was ok but that soon she would have to back away from me.  My parents were going to be around mile 10 and asked if she wanted to try to hang in there until we saw my parents.  She said yes.  Finally around 10.5, we saw my parents!  My dad was almost too slow to snap the picture but he managed to!

Looking and feeling strong at mile 10.5!!

My mom holding the sign for me!
 Immediately after seeing my parents, Kelly put her hand out to give me five and told me she was slowing down.  I wished her luck, told her to stay positive and keep her head up and went on my way.  I didn't want to leave her but that was the pact we made.  I just thought it would be the other way around.  I always think Kelly is the better runner but as she told me around mile 8, I do better running in the heat than she does.  Throughout the whole marathon, my mind always thought of Kelly and hoped she was doing ok.
I felt really strong through the first half!  But between mile 15 and 16, I started to struggle just a bit.  My quads were starting to feel sore.  Also, by mile 15, I received a text from Dave (see my first post, he and Jodi were in from Ohio cheering on some friends of theirs).  Read Dave's blog and Jodi's blog to see how it is to be a spectator at the Chicago Marathon. 

Anyway, Dave told me he wasn't getting any of my runner tracker information.  I told him I was at mile 15.  He said he and Jodi were between 16 & 17 and they would look for me.  My parents also told me they were between mile 16 & 17 (in fact, they told me to slow down because they couldn't keep up!! Haha!!).  So I knew I just had to make it to that point to get some family and friend support.  My parents told me they were on the north side of the street.  Dave and Jodi told me they were on the right side of the street.  I wasn't sure if at that point the street went north/south or east/west.  I thought my parents were on the opposite side of the street from Dave and Jodi!  And they both said they were right over a bridge.  I stayed on the right side when I noticed the street went north/south and that people were on the east or west side of the street (thanks for nothing dad!!  haha!).  I didn't think I would see my parents because there were so many people around!  I took my headphones off so that I could listen if someone yelled my name!  And finally I saw them!

See me in the black?  In fact, I'm pointing and smiling thinking, "oh there they are!"

 Right after my parents gave me some water and wished me luck, I was on my way.  And not long after (about 10 seconds), I saw Dave and Jodi.  I ran over to say hi and they gave me a little hug and hopped on the course.  I was stunned.  I didn't know what they were doing.  In fact I think I said, "What are you guys doing? ... Are you guys running with me?"  And they said they were running with me to mile 18 where they were going to meet their other friends.  I was thrilled.  To this point, I had people that were supposed to come down and one was supposed to run with me but they backed out at the last minute.  So when Dave and Jodi jumped on the course with me, I was so happy! 
And in true runner form, they knew exactly what to say, "You are doing great!  Need some gu?  Do you want to listen to your music?  How are you feeling?  Are you smiling at every mile? (that would be Dave!")
By the way, I was smiling at every mile.  If I didn't smile at the mile marker, I smiled immediately afterwards.  I told Dave I needed to smile at mile 17 and he told me we passed it!  Ironic because for an entire week, Dave has been harassing (yes Dave, harassing!) me to remember to smile at every mile and the one mile I was with them, I forgot!  So I smile a little late and went on with Dave and Jodi. 
Mile 18 came and Dave and Jodi gave me a hug and got off the course to wait for their friends.  I was sad to see them go because my quads in my legs were starting to get angry at me!  Yes, quads can get angry at you!  So mile 18.5-19.5, I lost the mojo a little.  I started to walk.  I went to the bathroom.  I tried to mentally regroup.  I felt a little like I was quitting because I stopped so soon after running with Dave and Jodi.  But after 19.5, I shook it off.  I needed to keep running!
Originally my parents were going to be around mile 20, but they had a little mishap with the train and went the wrong way, so they texted me and told me they would be at mile 23.   By the way, in Chicago during the marathon, spectators all get around using the trains (aka "El" for elevated trains or Subway if it's underground).  My dad snapped a picture of the mayhem of the trains that day!

One of the subway stops.  The trains come pretty regularly so it's the best way to get around the marathon.
  From mile 20 on, my quads were so sore.  I don't even remember any other pain or even being really winded or mentally tired.  I just remember that the only reason I ever stopped to walk was because my quads hurt so bad!!  Also from mile 20 on, I'm not sure if I smiled at every mile!  I tried.  I didn't swear at the mile markers like I did during my 20 mile run so that's was a positive!
Coming up on mile 23 and I knew my parents were close!  I was going to stop, grab another water and regroup and continue on. In true form, my dad snapped a photo!  My favorite photo of my life!!

Mile 23!  I look like I'm rocking this marathon out!
 Seriously, I look like it's only mile 1 in this picture!  I think I'm going to have to frame this one!  I love it because it's near the end of the marathon and I have a huge smile on my face!  No one needs to know I was hurting and really not this happy at this point! Haha!!

My dad also took a video (which I have to get for you all) at this same point.  I did NOT know he was videotaping!  He's cheering and all I'm saying is "Do you have water?"  When they said it was in the bag and I didn't ask for water ahead of time, I responded "You should be prepared!"  lol.  Then I waved bye and off I went!  My cousin told me later she kept replaying that video for her family because she was shocked that was how I looked at mile 23!  She told me I didn't even look like I was tired!

Now, I had texted my trainer because he promised to run the end with me.  But after not receiving a text in a while (I knew he was running part with a friend of his), I figured I would not see him and I just had to mentally prepare to run the end by myself. 

Mile 24-25 was really hard.  I walked often.  My legs hurt.  It was hot.  I was done.  I knew the end was near.  I ran as much as I could. 

In Chicago, 90% of the runs end right after a bridge (aka hill).  It's the worse thing ever!  I was about mile 26 and here is the bridge (aka hill of death!).  I ran up half and started to walk up the other half.  So close to the finish, that was the last thing I wanted to do!  I didn't want to stop and walk!  So at the top of the hill of death, I took a deep breath, told myself I just had to round the corner and run the straight to the finish!  It took everything I had to want to start running again. 

There was no sprinting to the finish.  I didn't care.  Did a few seconds really make a big difference at this point?  No way!  There were signs saying 800 m, 400 m and 200 m (was there a 600 m??).  And at the 200 meter sign from the finish, there was a guy on the ground with medics around him.  In fact, throughout the whole second half of the race, I saw people down on the ground, going down, throwing up.  I didn't care too much about time at that point, I just wanted to remain upright!

And cross the finish I did!!  Yay!!  I smiled, I didn't cry!  I was happy I finished and I was now a "marathoner!!".  Then they put the medal around my neck and I almost lost it.  I almost started to cry. 

My original goal was to finish in about 4:30.  I knew that would be difficult and really wanted to try to finish under 4:45.  I knew my time was around 4:50.  Considering the heat, I was thrilled.  I didn't care!  I was under 5 hours.  When I started training, I just wanted to finish.  Then, I thought under 5:30.  Then I thought I wanted to finish any where in the 4's!  So 4:50 was just fine with me!

The way the marathon was set up at the end was horrible!  They had things blocked off to the spectators so it made it difficult to get to my family!  I've never seen a run set up like this!  I finally got to my parents.  They didn't have a lot of time because they had to get back to their respective restaurants but we talked about the run a little and posed for pictures in front of the signs that one of their workers, Kitty, made for me!

They left and I went back to the hotel to meet back with my running group and get my gear.  Everyone congratulated me on my first marathon finish.  Then I saw my friend Kelly.  She tells me that she did not finish and burst into tears.  I was shocked!  What happened?  Kelly is the better runner (in my mind).  She said she threw up at mile 15 and they put her on a stretcher, put in an IV and hauled her to medical. 

The one thing the marathon doesn't mess around with in Chicago is when runners are ill.  Especially when it's that hot.  I felt really bad for Kelly.  She said after they released her, they dropped her off right by the finish line where she saw people crossing (and she burst into tears again).  I hugged her, told her it was ok.  I told her it was better to be safe that sorry!  I said there are always other marathons.  I tried to say all the right things but I knew how disappointed and upset she was and I knew I would feel the same way if the rolls were reversed.  It had to be hard for her too because people kept coming up to me to congratulate me and I knew that made her feel horrible.  She told me how proud she was of me though and she was glad I had a good first marathon!

So sorry...there's more!

I talked to Dave and they were still waiting for their friends to finish.  I decided to head back over to where they were and wait with them.  I was glad I was able to catch back up with them before they left and to thank them again for running with me!  Running friends and blog friends are so awesome!

Unfortunately for Dave and Jodi, their friends no longer had their phones with them and had no way to contact them.  And with the way the marathon was set up, it was virtually impossible to randomly try to find someone.  After waiting for a while, they decided maybe they should go back to the hotel and wait for their friends there.  As I was walking to my car and only being gone from Dave and Jodi for 5-10 minutes, I hear "AMANDA!"  In fact, I heard, "There she is!  Amanda!!"  I look and it's Dave and Jodi's friends!  I was on the phone with my cousin, I told her I had to call her back and immediately told Deb and Mellisa that I just left Dave and Jodi and that I would call them.  I called Dave and told him I found his friends.  I walked back with Deb and Mellisa to make sure they found Dave and Jodi.  I gave them all hugs again and left. 

This was Deb's first marathon and she was running for Determination for Cancer in memory of her mom.  Mellisa had run several marathons before and has also done triathlons (can you say "great shape!!").  Deb was a little upset on how her marathon went, she finished later than she wanted and wasn't feeling well from a cold.  I think she did awesome!  I mean, she ran a marathon!  That's more than most people did that day!

I showered and went home.  I mean, I went home and showered!  lol.  Then my cousins picked me up to go to my parent's restaurant for my marathon meal!  I usually try to eat healthy and there are things there I never eat!  I decided to have...a mint chocolate chip shake, 3 hot wings and 3 poppers (it helps to know the owners!!), and a cheeseburger!  Delish!

Oh I forgot to mention.  You know how I said Dave didn't get my runner tracker updates?  In fact, no one got mine!  Later that day, I got worried, what if my shoe tag wasn't working!  What if it didn't register any of my times??  In fact, that's exactly what happened.  There were no results online for me!  It was as if I didn't even run the marathon!  I emailed the marathon peeps and two days later emailed them again.  They responded and said they were reviewing these on a case by case basis and would let me know.

I was pretty upset.  I knew I ran it.  I knew I finished.  I had the medal and the pictures!  And everyone kept telling me the same thing!  But I still wanted it to be official. 

I didn't think the marathon peeps (yes that's their name) would do anything about it.  So I talked myself into believing it was ok.  But Wednesday I got an email saying...

"Congratulations from Bank of America on finishing the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon! Your recorded finish time was 4:53:06 and you placed 21771 out of 35,628 finishers."

I was at work and was in a meeting and when I returned to my desk, that is what I saw!  I literary said out loud, "You have got to be kidding me!"  Then I almost started to cry!  If I wasn't at work, I would have!  I went and told my co-workers what happened and they could tell how happy I was.  They were thrilled for me!

By the way, I forgave my trainer for not running with me.  He did a great job training me and preparing me for the marathon (even when I didn't know it).  He's not my marathon trainer, he is just a personal trainer.  I just got lucky that he runs marathons and knew the proper way to train me so I was as prepared as possible for the marathon.

So my official time is 4:53:06!  I'll take it!  I had a great first marathon experience and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  I was thrilled that I felt as good as I did throughout the marathon too.  My half marathons are worse than that!  lol.

So it's official.  I will definitely do more marathons!  I wish I could do another one right now!  And a side note, my friend Kelly signed up to do a Grand Rapids marathon this weekend to try to claim her marathon glory!  I'll be rooting for her from afar!!

Now I just have to figure out my next goal and update the title of my blog!

A little side note, remember from last post that I was nervous and didn't think I could do a marathon.  I didn't think my knees would hold up.  I didn't think I could do it if my cousins didn't come down and physically help me do it? 

I realized that I could do it. I just had to put in the effort and believe in myself.  I never ever thought I could run a marathon.  I mean, really.  I never ever thought I would ever be able to do it and I was never going to even try!!  And I did!  I ran it!  And I finished.  The next day a friend of mine said my statement reminded her of a wizard of oz story...  It's as follows:

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?

Glinda, the Good Witch: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda, the Good Witch: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.


  1. Fantastic race report Amanda! So glad I had the chance to run with you for a bit and cheer you on. You look great in those pictures! So, when's the next one?

  2. Congratulations Marathoner!!

  3. Thank you!!
    Jodi...i really want to do another one but I don't know.

  4. Awesome blog!!!
    Man, that Dave guy must a been a big pain in your a**.....the nerve of him trying to get you to smile.

    Glad that we could help out. You did an awesome job....


    Guess what? You're a marathoner!

  5. I think that's an awesome time Amanda - especially because of the weather!! Congratulations!!

  6. So so proud of you, Amanda!!! You officially ROCK!!!

  7. Way to go!!!!! I am so proud of you. You've been working so hard. I can't believe that picture... you def look like you're at mile 1. Rock on lady.

  8. I just read this post and it brought a tear to my eye. You really are a great friend! And congrats again on an amazing race! I can't wait to take steps with you on April 28!! :)

  9. Thanks Kelly!!! :-)

  10. I just came across this post via a link from Kelly's blog. WOW, so inspiring! Congratulations!

    I am training to run Chicago this fall, which will be my first marathon. In the meantime, I am trying to reap as much advice as I can from the experience of others like you. I absolutely loved the Wizard of Oz story, as well as the plan to smile at every mile. =)

    Great job and thanks so much for sharing!