Chicago Marathon Race Report
Well, here it is. The race is finally here. Just six days removed from a hard 15k race, why not fly up and race a marathon? I’m an idiot.
Goals: “A” goal- Sub 2:59:00, “B” goal- 2:59:59, “D-“ goal- finish.
Actual finish time: 2:51:20.
Training: Admittedly I’m in much worse shape than last year, have modest long runs to my name leading up to this marathon, have trained only in crappy Florida weather, and have raced a lot the past month (two 5k’s a 10k, and the 15k on Sunday). As a result, I had a mindset of going out with my running friends and enjoying the race. I didn’t really do much over 75mpw, but was pretty consistent hitting runs over 10 miles. The biking injury two months ago is really the lingering factor for the lower fitness. Nothing really marathon specific other than mileage for training at all in the past couple of months. I didn’t really set myself up for success, but who cares! It’s the Chicago Marathon!
Before the race: Chicago is amazing. I’d move here. Took 2 days off of running on Thursday and Friday, then ran 3-4 miles on Saturday morning and walked around the city and the expo quite a bit with Drew. I wanted to walk a lot, so I wasn’t annoyed walking 7 miles the afternoon before at the expo and around the city. Seeing Chicago was worth it. I was thankful that Drew was willing to spend time with me. Drew is an amazing runner so I tried to pick his brain a lot over the course of the weekend now that I had a venue to talk specifically about running. It was nice to shoot the shit with him as well. As a group, we decided to shoot for a 2:59, but only two of us actually committed on going for that pace on the day of- Drew and myself.
Race day: Slept fine, woke up and had cereal and coffee. No jitters. It was an odd experience staying with a group of marathoners the night before (there were 6 of us). Everyone has a different prep method, so it was interesting to see what made them all “tick” the night before/morning of. I slept on the couch and so I noticed all of their wake-ups, jitters, and bathroom breaks through the night. The weather was great- mid 50s, light breeze, no humidity. 40,000+ runners is an incredibly amount, so getting to the start line which was a mere mile away took about 35 minutes. Finding a bathroom was hilarious. We just decided to make our own bathrooms- oh well, so is the life of a runner. Drew and I lined up right in front of the 3 hour pacer which was about 22 seconds behind the pros/start line. We were shooting for a 2:59 @ 6:49-6:50 pace. I wanted to put a little pressure on myself to finally run a negative split for a marathon so I wanted to hit as close as possible to that pace for the first half. I’ve never come close to a negative split on a marathon, so I was playing with fire a bit here in my honest opinion.
Fueling: I decided to switch it up a bit. I cramp a ton in the marathon, so I decided to not do any GUs or Gatorade for this one, but instead stop and walk every mile or two for water and then eat gummies throughout the race (totalling about the energy from 2 GUs). I’d say I had about 12 gummies, one every mile or two starting at mile 8 and then just water from mile 22 onward. This was a good choice and worked very well.
Miles 1-13.1: What a blur. As everyone states, your GPS just doesn’t work well in the city, so I manually logged the miles and ran by feel for the pace. Incredible scenery, great spectators, easy running, focused on form (knees up, smooth knee drive, eyes forward, relaxed and tall form) and just enjoyed it. The sights were incredible and consuming, the buildings towered above, and the feel of the city was all-encompassing. I wanted to interact with the crowd like in Boston, but this wasn’t that type of crowd it seemed. They were friendly and motivational, but that’s about it, but that’s okay as I could easily find a million other things to focus on. Drew and I passed the time trying to hit splits and talking every now and again. We hit the half 16 seconds off our goal split which is pretty impressive.
1st Half splits- 6:54, 7:01, 6:46, 6:42, 6:48, 6:49, 6:39, 6:43, 6:48, 6:50, 6:51, 6:47, 7:01, Half @ 1:29:14.
Mile 14: Here I asked Drew if he wanted to drop the pace down to 6:45, and he said yes, so I lowered it. I saw Christina and sped up in front of a large group to say “hi” and spoke with her for a bit. I suppose I kind of let it go from here. Drew had mentioned for me to go if I felt good, so I reassessed from there and then just decided to run what felt right from there.
Miles 15-26.2: I have never passed so many runners in my life. It was a cool feeling. I felt almost giddy for the next 10+ miles. Egocentrically, it was nice to not be one of the walking dead shuffling/walking along like the majority of runners around me. It was the first time out of the 4 marathons I’ve done where I didn’t fall apart by mile 15, let alone be gliding along faster than the first half. Mile 24 was the only weird blip. I’m not sure what happened there other than I just let my form get sloppy and/or fell into the pace of those around me. Either way, I recollected myself and was able to drop the pace back down without an issue for the end and was flying the last mile. I was sad to see the marathon end and kept running for a bit through the finish line. The announcer even singled me out and said, “Wow! Number 760 coming through looks like he’s ready to run another marathon!” Selfishly, I really appreciated that comment, as I felt I could keep going and had hoped I actually looked the part.
2nd Half Splits- 6:34, 6:19, 6:11, 6:11, 5:55, 6:10, 6:06, 6:06, 6:10, 6:27, 6:10, 5:40, Finish (1:10ish). 2nd Half @ 1:22:06 (minus 7:08).
Finish time: 2:51:20.
Final thoughts/takeaways: Even if it’s true that I’m not hitting my potential, negative-splitting just feels a million times better to be going the same or faster in the second half and/or end of a race. I passed 1,020+ runners from mile 14 to the finish and didn’t get passed by a single one, moving from 1,430th place to finishing 410th overall and almost 8 minutes ahead of my “A” goal. A 7+ minute negative split is obviously not racing correctly as a much more modest (or even) split is ideal, but it’s the concept and the confidence I will take from this to know that I can finish a marathon without cramps, pain, losing form, or slowing down that usually accompanies a marathon performance. This marathon was a blast, I celebrated with friends and walked around the rest of the afternoon taking it all in.