I woke up at 5:00 a.m. so that I could meet Charlotte in the hotel lobby at 6:00 a.m. I had a cup of coffee and then got dressed. I was too nervous to eat. I knew I should eat something, but I just couldn’t. The charity group that I ran for, Imerman Angels, had a hotel ballroom at the Congress Hotel, which was just across the street from the corral gates. They were taking a group picture at 6:30 a.m., so I wanted to leave by 6:00 a.m. because the Congress Hotel was a little ways from our hotel. David, Kayla, and Charlotte’s husband, Kevin, came with us. Imerman Angels had quite the pre-race set-up: music, breakfast, coffee, juice, water. Again, I was too nervous to eat, but I managed to get down a banana and some water. A couple of Imerman Angels staff gave us some words of encouragement, we got our picture taken and then it was time to head to the start corral.
Charlotte and I were in the second wave, which was due to start at 8:00 a.m. Once we got to our corral, I started to become more relaxed and actually started feeling hungry. Dang it, I should have grabbed a bagel or something to eat. In hindsight, if I had known that we had the long wait before the start that we did, I would have grabbed food and drink. As it turns out, it was about 8:45 before we finally crossed the start line!
I tucked away my phone and didn’t take any photos during this time, so I’ll just have to describe what it was like to wait in a corral with tons of people, all different varieties of age, size, and shape. Some people were wearing costumes, some people were from other countries. It was really inspiring! Charlotte did get a picture of us waiting for the start:
Finally, it was time to start! It was really chilly that morning and Charlotte and I were cold from the wait, so we decided to skip the run/walk intervals the first mile and just run so that we could warm up our legs and plus we figured the crowd of runners would start to spread out by then. After the first mile, we settled into :30/:30 run/walk intervals.
Guys, the course is amazing! The crowd support was incredible throughout the entire race! Lots of people yelling and cheering, holding up signs, blasting out music from local businesses and residences. I had to stop a few times along the course to dance; I just couldn’t help myself! It kept me motivated and was a good reminder of why I was there: to have fun!
Charlotte and I had a good pace going and we were really happy with how things were going. We were looking forward to mile 14 because that’s where our family would be to cheer us on. Here I am at mile 14:
Feeling really good at this point! After getting hugs, kisses, and high-fives, we were off again!
And then our family surprised us again at mile 16! That was cool! More hugs, kisses, and high-fives, and we were off again!
Throughout the course, we got to see lots of different neighborhoods: Little Italy, Chinatown, the Southside. But Charlotte and I agreed that our favorite neighborhood was the Hispanic district. Those people know how to party and cheer on back of the pack runners! Lots of music and salsa dancing. They were handing out free “tequila” which turned out to be water, but honestly I think that they would have given us tequila or beer if we had asked for it!
The volunteers were also great throughout the entire course! As a back of the pack runner, you always worry that things will be packed up and the water and Gatorade will run out for you towards the end of the race, but there was nothing to worry about here! Plenty of water, Gatorade, and gels at every mile, with music to pump us up and volunteers yelling words of encouragement!
At around mile 19 or so, Charlotte started experiencing some hip pain and she started to become concerned that she wasn’t going to be able to finish. She started to tell me to “go on ahead”, but I told her that I wasn’t leaving her, that we were going to finish this thing together, even if we had to walk or crawl the rest of the way. Although I never hit a wall or experienced any kind of pain, I’ll admit that after mile 20, things got tough. My calves were on fire, my legs felt like heavy logs, and I was just TIRED. My feet were burning. I just wanted to be done.
But I knew that once I got to mile 20 that I was going to finish. I just knew it. And that last 1/2 mile was glorious. Charlotte and I found a new burst of energy and we sprinted down that last stretch across the finish line – TOGETHER!
Our finish time: 6:15:29. We made it! We both cried and hugged. I was so proud of both of us! After all of the struggles we had throughout training, we were able to find the endurance and strength to finish a marathon!
We were given our medals and foil blankets and a cup of Goose Island beer. And then we just wanted to see our families. Because of security reasons, however, our families couldn’t be at the finish line and so we had to walk the short distance to the Congress Hotel, where our family would be waiting for us. The short walk felt like 10 miles. We were so tired and I don’t know about Charlotte, but I was starving and was looking forward to eating just about anything at that point!
Imerman Angels had a photographer post-race who took pictures.
The photographer took as many pictures as we wanted and would print them out. It was nice to have some photos of the event, especially since the official race photos are so expensive!
After having a slice of veggie pizza and a veggie sub, along with a Goose Island beer, I had a massage, which felt wonderful! Imerman Angels really took care of the charity runners!
My family kept telling me how great I did and I really did feel like I had a great race. I was so proud of how I did. I didn’t care how long it took me; I was just really happy with how strong I stayed, and how I did what I set out to do this race: I stayed relaxed and I had fun!
As we walked back to our hotel, I started to not feel well. I think my body was coming down from the adrenaline and after all of the calories I had burned, I think I just needed more food and fluids. Once I took a very long, hot shower, though, I started to feel better. We all took an Uber to a local pizza restaurant and although it was an hour and 45 minute wait, the deep dish veggie pizza was worth the wait!
You could spot all of the marathoners that night. We all had the walk: the oh-my-god-I-ran-26.2-miles-and-I-can-barely-walk walk. But we all had a glow. The glow of pride and accomplishment.
When we got back to the hotel, we said our goodbyes to Charlotte and Kevin because they were heading home early the next morning. We were so sad to say goodbye. I told Charlotte a couple of days later that not only did I gain another medal, I also gained two new friends on this adventure. Friends for life. Precious!
The next morning, I felt surprisingly good. I was moving around quite well and wasn’t experiencing much soreness. We got packed up and headed to the lobby. We were meeting some friends who were also there for the marathon for breakfast. Luckily, we caught Charlotte and Kevin as they were waiting for their car and so we got to chat and say goodbye one more time.
Post-marathon I’ve been feeling very, very tired and very, very hungry. I’ve allowed myself to rest this week, with no exercise, and I’ve been eating everything that my body craves (including Oreos the other night!) Tomorrow I plan on getting back on track with healthy eating and exercise, now that my body and energy level feels back to normal again.
This was my last marathon and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The training was grueling and I thought many times that I would not be able to finish. However, I ran the race with a great friend, I had fun, and I got to run through one of the greatest cities on Earth. I raised money for a great charity, too! It was an experience that I’ll never forget.
What now? I’m not really sure. I’m motivated by big goals. I’ll have to give it some thought. For now, though, I’ll just enjoy the post-marathon high and the fact that I don’t have any long training runs in my future!