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Chicago Marathon and the Maniac

I had committed to running the Chicago Marathon back in March.  I had several friends both in real life and in the twitter sphere who were running, and I was looking forward to meeting up and running with them all.  This was the first time I’d been to Chicago, so I was also looking forward to seeing the city by foot!

The expo was fantastic.  I mentioned in my IMKY post that I love marathon expos.  This, being one of the premier marathons in the world, did not disappoint.  The nike run wall with the names of every racer was especially impressive.  I spent almost three hours at the expo, seeing friends and making new ones, visiting the lululemon booth and getting KT Tape on both IT Bands, and taking in the sights and sounds of so many runners gathering to do what they love.

Race morning I felt a little naked.  It was the first time I was in a race situation where I didn’t have to worry about a bike, goggles, and all that fun stuff.  All I needed was my fuel belt (another review coming soon), my nutrition, my glasses, and my vibrams.  It was nice, don’t get me wrong, but weird nonetheless 🙂

I wasn’t in a seeded corral, which was fine by me.  After Redman two weeks ago, I knew this was essentially going to be a fun run.  I had some time goals, but had a feeling that finishing was going to be the ultimate win.  We started out of Grant Park, just me and 45,000 friends.  My primary focus at the start was to not run too fast and not get caught in the adrenaline of the other runners.  I did a pretty good job.  I kept my pace at 9:00 a mile for the first 4 miles and felt good.  I could feel the pain in my legs a little, but it wasn’t debilitating.

The course absolutely lived up to its reputation.  Having only run this marathon, I don’t have much in the way of comparison, but I can’t imagine a better race to run.  You run through so many different parts of Chicago, seeing places you’d never see otherwise. Running from brownstone houses to little Mexico to little China, all the while with spectators screaming and cheering; I have very few memories that match what I experienced there.  There were times I was jogging while staring up at buildings and people.  It’s amazing I didn’t trip and fall over anyone 🙂

The first half of the race was pretty good.  At mile 10 I started feeling my left IT Band more and I slowed down, but I hit the half way at about 2:15, on pace for a 4:30.  At mile 14 I started really feeling my IT Band though, and started walking some.  I also noticed at that point that I was feeling blisters on my feet.  It had warmed up, not compared to Texas heat, but enough that people were spraying the runners every half mile or so.  Being in my vibrams, my feet didn’t get the chance to dry out.  Turns out I had two of the largest blisters I’ve ever had on my feet, and that is after running in my vibrams for a year at this point.

At mile 17, my left leg started really hurting.  I was determined to finish, but knew that the time goals I harbored were gone like the shade from the first half of the race.  I had to walk progressively longer increments, but was still able to run some.  At mile 22 I thought my IT Band was going to pop off my leg, and as I turned up Michigan Ave. my left leg started spasming.  I slowed down for a moment and stretched, gritted my teeth, and resolved to finish the race running.  I slowly shuffled for a few steps and had to walk.  I started again and picked up some momentum.  So many people were walking at this point I was having to bob and weave through them.  I kept pushing and moving at what must have looked like a fast walk, but I was going.  I made the final two turns and saw the finish line.  I crossed in pain, but I crossed running.  I finished in 5:30.  Quite a bit slower than I hoped, but I finished.

The secondary outcome of the race was that I qualified to be  Marathon Maniac!  There are many levels of qualification, but mine was running two marathons in 16 days!  So I am Marathon Maniac #2889! I’m so excited!

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