This was my 4th straight Chicago Marathon and my 6th marathon, not including the 2 Ironman races I did. After running the Boston Marathon in 2:52:45 I had high hopes for this race. I ran well during my triathlon season and thought a 2:50 would be in the cards. For the last month and a half I had been being advised and coached by Scott Fishman and he put me through some TOUGH workouts that tested my fitness and my mind. But the workouts were exactly what I needed to be confident and in shape come race day.
The day before the race I talked to Scott and we came up with a race plan. He told me to shoot for running a 2:49 so I would have a minute “spare” time to make it to my 2:50 goal time. Our game plan was to break the race into 3 parts: the first 10 miles, second 10 miles, and the last 10k. The goal for the first 10 miles was to run at close to goal pace but if I was a bit over, no biggie. The second 10 miles the goal was to be at or just below goal pace which would get me back to close to goal time before the last 10k where I would give it everything I had and see what my body still had in the tank!
This race is great, it is in my home city, the weather is usually good and the crowd support is amazing. My parents, girlfriend, and even some students that I teach were there! So needless to say I had some people to impress!
I got to the race with time to spare and I sat down under a tree while everyone around me was nervously stretching, jogging, or just trying to stay warm. As I normally do, I had some old pants, sweatshirt, hat, and gloves that I wear before the start to keep warm then toss them right as the race starts.
The first few miles tick off and my legs are feeling good. I am making sure to go slow, then go a bit slower. It’s hard to hold yourself back in a race like this because the crowd and other runners are so excited. Made the quick loop around downtown before heading back north. And, as my race plan suggested, I kept my pace under control and did not do anything too crazy like run too fast. If one goes out to quickly in a marathon the last few miles will be BRUTAL and I learned that at my first Chicago Marathon.
At around mile 7 I saw the students and their parents but they were on the other side of the road so I only was able to give them an awkward wave. Lakeview is so loud it’s hard to hear anything which makes it so unique. I knew my girlfriend would be around mile 8 so I was on the lookout for her. I had gloves at the start and I wanted to give them to her, so thanks for being there!
More miles ticked off and the key for this season for me has been to only look at lap time during a race. This helps because I am only seeing 6-7 minutes on my clock so it makes it a bit easier mentally. I get to mile 10 and for the first time check my total time. I’m about 55 seconds off pace which is fine with me. I start to pick it up but not panic about the pacing. My legs still felt good so I knew I wanted to be patient and run my race. At the half marathon mark I am at 1:25:23.
At around mile 14 I talked to a few guys running and ask what they are shooting for because we had been running together for a while and pacing with others makes things much easier. So for the next 8ish miles we run together on and off. More miles tick away and that “amazing” feeling that comes at mile 20 is getting closer. I kept checking my pace chart to see how far behind I was.
I hit mile 20 and I know I have some time to make up. I think around 40ish seconds if I want to run a sub 2:49. I start to make sure I am hitting my splits at around 6:24ish then make my push at mile 22. As you can see from the kilometer splits I was able to pick up some time and really push the pace. The last few miles are really tough because you’re close but even with 2 miles left knowing I have 13 minutes of HARD running left is hard mentally. But I still try to stay in the moment and focus on my stride and keeping strong.
The tough part with the end of the race is once you hit mile 25 you see distance markers a lot. They have 25, then a one mile to go, then 800 meters to go, then 400 meters to go, then 200 meters to go. It’s nice to know where you are but it also sucks because 800 meters is still around 3 minutes! Also, and I say this every year, the last turn on to Roosevelt from Michigan Ave is just mean. I ran Boston and they had hills but this “hill” at mile 26 sucks. All you want to do is turn the corner and hit the finish but you have to go up an incline that on a normal day wouldn’t be bad but after a long, hard day of running it sucks. But I knew about it so I was able to plan it sucking. I look at my watch see I am going to make the 2:49 and just sprint it in. Boy it hurts but I know I’ll feel “good” once I am finished.
Hit the finish, grab on to a railing, then hear, “keep walking”. I keep walking and all I want is water and it seems like it takes forever to get to the water station. But it is over and I did it! I meet up with my girlfriend and parents then head out and eat the rest of the day, and I am still eating whatever I want because I have been strict the last few months. Either way the pain I feel in my legs today is totally worth it. I got my sub 2:50, I got my PR and now I get to rest!