I was unsure of how early to arrive at the start-line, the recommendation was 5:30am, 2-hours before the start. I knew that was too early since I was not doing bag check, plus standing for that long before a marathon didn’t sound ideal. I woke up before my alarm, sometime before 5am and made a small cup of coffee. I got dressed and applied a lot of Glide. I ate most of a sesame bagel, with nothing on it.
I decided to follow the same fuel plan I used for the Erie marathon, a month earlier since I found it worked well. I had pre-mixed 2 bottles of Maurten: one for in the hotel while getting ready, the second for in the corral. That is a lot of carbohydrates to take in (100g per bottle), and I don’t recommend fuelling this way unless you have trained for it. I used Maurten all summer, spent time figuring out how many grams of carbs would be ideal during a marathon, and fuelled my long runs accordingly. Aside from that I had 5 gels, Endurance Tap, to take every 7km.
It was raining when I woke up, a further reason I wasn’t eager to stand outside for extra time. I was very prepared for rain though, with a poncho, and lots of shower caps, 1 for my head, and 2 for each foot. As shown below, I was runway ready.
My walk to the start was a mere 800m, so I left around 6:20am and headed over to the race. Once there, it was an overwhelming sea of people moving in every direction. There was a lot of signage though making it easy to figure out where to go. They had security before entering the corral, but since I had no bag, it was very fast. I was able to quickly find the E-corral, which was pretty empty at this time. Immediately, I ran into two teammates, so we hung out until the start.
When I put my qualifying time in for this race, about a year ago, the time I used was 3:31 from the Eugene Marathon in May 2017. The pacers in my corral started at 3:35, which was over 10-minutes slower than my goal. I knew this was not the appropriate corral to be in, so I made sure I was right at the front. We began walking to the start, and saw the corral ahead of us start the race, there was only about a 15 second gap before we started. It was crowded, and the GPS was going wild, like I knew it would. I focused on trying not to weave too much and not worrying about the GPS and feeling the pace.
My plan for the first 5km called for a 4:55 pace, that was my only focus for this first section. I also knew my friend Jess would be cheering by the hotel which was around mile 2. I really didn’t know what my pace was, and I didn’t see a km marker until about 2km, where I tried to lap my watch to fix the GPS. Turns out that first 5km took 24:50, 4:58 average, a bit slower than planned. I saw Jess, easy to spot in a basset hound raincoat, waved, and smiled and carried on.
After the 5km mark, the pace plan was to increase to 4:50 for the next 16km, until 21km. This section of the course took us north until 8 miles / 13 km mark before heading back south. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the course or what was happening for this stretch. I felt like I was just “in the zone” waiting for the next pick-up. I can tell you that the spectators and support were absolutely amazing, but other than that, I don’t have too much memory, it’s oddly a blur. So many runners, so many faces in the crowd, so many cups and gel wrappers on the ground.
I took my first gel at 7km, another at 14km, and another at 21km. I didn’t drink much water, just small amounts, and not at every station. The weather was my ideal, overcast, but not too cold, very comfortable. It rained, I barely noticed. I felt strong and prepared. My pace for km 6-10 was 4:55/km, again behind what I was supposed to be doing. The watch thing was tricky and in spite of lapping at km markers to try and fix it, my watch still wasn’t lining up. I accepted this early on, and did my best to feel it out. Km’s 11-15 were on track, 4:50 pace, km’s 16-20 were back down to 4:54. I arrived at the half-way point in 1:43:17, a 4:54/km average. This was 58 seconds behind where I was supposed to be at the half-way point. I was aware that I was behind, but I didn’t lose confidence.
I focused on the fact that I was already half way there, and even better, I felt GREAT. I felt like I was just waiting to turn up the pace. After the half-way point, we headed west to where we had been the previous day for the Nike store. After 21km, my pace plan was to increase to 4:45/km, and hold this until 35km. Km’s 22-25 were 4:41/ km average. Yes, a bit faster, I was trying not to go beyond my pace, but it was hard. I really felt high-energy and couldn’t wait to pick it up. I also knew I needed to wait and avoid picking it up too early. I took my 4th gel at 28km. At this point, we began moving south towards Little Italy. Km’s 26-30 came in at a 4:43/km average. Still feeling super strong.
When I hit 30 I knew the race was about to begin, everything I had done up to this point felt like meditative junk miles. I was waiting to see that 30k marker. Km’s 31-35 were an average of 4:46/km. We were now heading south east. This helped even out being a tiny bit faster than planned for the previous 10km. I came through 35km in 2:49:25, a 4:50/km average. Still, I was behind, now by 1:05. I took my last gel at 35km and then it was time to get to work. We were heading south for a few more km’s before heading north towards the park and the finish. My pace plan was now to increase to 4:40/km for the next 5km. Km’s 36-40 were an average of 4:39/km, I was feeling good and excited. I was also waiting for this rumoured hill, unsure of exactly when I would encounter it. There was a mild incline on a bridge which I figured was the hill, it really wasn’t bad, barely a hill I thought to myself.
After the 40km mark, I was to go all out until crossing the finish. This was the most anticipated part of the race, because I was curious to see what I still had left. I ran the last 2.2 km in an average of 4:33/km. The rumoured hill was in there, with less than 1km to the finish. I could see the finish around the corner, I could see people being taken by the hill. I embraced it, embraced the temporary discomfort, peaked the hill, and sprinted to the finish.
My official time was 3:22:37. This was 41 seconds off (slower than) what my plan had me coming in at. I took 2:56 off my previous PB at the Erie Marathon in September. I finished feeling SO good. While I am happy with my effort in Chicago, I also know I have more in me. I cannot wait to run another marathon and see what I can do. Is it April yet?