My Chicago Marathon race report isn't really going to be a race report, per se...it's best told in a few, fun, easy-to-swallow, smaller bite size stories. My apologies for the delay in posting. I like to get the words just right, and things in my neck of the woods have been crazy this week. So...here you go...enjoy!Note: Blogger is being stupid and not letting me upload photos...so I'll have to post marathon shots in a separate post later. Some are linked here in the meantime though! You can view my official photos from Marathonfoto.com here.The Nervous Stomach
Well, it wouldn't have been a marathon morning if I hadn't thrown up at least once before toeing the line. And of course, in true Barb fashion, I stepped up to the plate. After I woke up at 5:20 I knew that my traditional pre-run meal--oatmeal--was not a good idea. So I attempted to eat a bagel. I really got all of one third of it down. Of that one third...approximately one half of it came back up before even leaving the house (ew...I know). Upon freakage, my mum helped me get my breathing in check and helped me refocus my nervous energy. And soon, we were sent on our way. As we made our way to the parking garage, the nerves returned...as did all of the fluids I had consumed that morning. Yes folks, I was headed to the start line with about 2 bites of a bagel in my stomach and 26.2 miles ahead of me. This isn't new territory for me...but you bet yer behind I'm looking into some anxiety meds to ensure this never happens again.
Once we got to Grant Park and were surrounded by the droves of other runners, I was much calmer. I was able to scarf down a granola bar for good measure. Perhaps in the future I should just plan on my breakfast at the start line?
Before we knew it, we were in the corral all lined up and ready to go. I wanted to run the first half mile or so with Mike, so we positioned ourselves around the 5 hour pacers (yes, I was "that girl" but I wasn't in anyone's way...so it worked out fine). We saw clothes fly into the air like one giant strip show was going on. The gun went off and we waited in excitement and anticipation...and we waited...and then waited some more...for about 19 minutes. By the time we started, our Kenyan friends were more than 4 miles into the race. But we crossed the start line and we were off!Surreality
Starting the marathon was beyond surreal. Crowds were 4, 5, 6 people deep. So loud it was deafening. Adreneline rushed. Feet flew. Happiness tingled inside. It was really all happening. Months and months of hard work and sacrifice...it was d-day. DO IT day. I had no choice but to Git 'er Done!The thing I never believed could happen
Most of my marathon buddies have some crazy story of someone they met along the course who had trained for a few months but the furthest distance they had gone was something like 10 miles...or that they ran with someone who was in great shape, but had never tried distance running and were able to go out and do the full 26.2.
I didn't have one of those stories. ...until last Sunday.
Meet Alvaro. A friend I picked up along the course around mile 3.5. I noticed him a few steps behind me...when I'd pick up and run...he ran. When I slowed down...he slowed down. It really got reaaaally annoying after a while. So finally, I figured that if this dude was going to be on my tail for the next 20-something miles, I may as well talk to him.
Well...good ole Alvaro...bless his lil' heart...hates running. Hates it with a very strong passion. Apparently, he was running Chicago because the entire trip was free to him. And why not?! He's got two legs...
As it turns out, Alvaro's longest training run was 3.75 miles. He ran that distance twice. Yes. You read that right. Three point seven five times two. He was hurting by 8k. I pulled him through River North...through the Lincoln Park Zoo and all the way down through Boys Town with guys decked out in cowboy gear fulfilling the "Brokeback Marathon" theme. And somewhere, in a sea of runners, I lost Alvaro. He fell back during a water station. He had hopes of finishing around 5:45...which, as most of us know, is quite difficult on zero training. But as you may have guessed, dear, sweet, clueless Alvaro didn't make it to the finish line.
I checked online and his last recorded time was 25k. A guy who hated running and who hadn't even ran four miles went more than half the distance. I'm proud that he was able to cover that much ground. Maybe next time he'll train a little harder ;)The Chittie Race Crew
This little chittie ran the marathon. And this little chittie cheered me on--Angie
. I love this girl! The Friday before the marathon, Angie comes bouncing over to my desk at work with a gift bag full of Gatorade, Gu, his and hers matching Gloves for me and the OOSG and all sorts of other fun motivational goodies. And on race morning, she was EXACTLY where she said she'd be. I came running up to the LaSalle/Division intersection and there she was, all bundled up, jumping around and cheering me on. And then...on my way back into the city, she even ran with me for a good 7 blocks. What a rockstar!!
And who could forget the Chitties with their signs and the group of girls around mile 12?! They all rocked.Too Cool for Words
I don't think there is a whole heck of a lot that I can say about Mouse
. Seriously. This duo is so stinkin' awesome...even better than "super awesome." If that's humanly possible? They went bananas with their cameras and found handfuls of RBFers en route. I just wish I were able to come cheer them on during their upcoming races. I love 'em!!!The17 mile motivation
Leah was right when she said the worst part of the run was 14-16 over by United Center. The wind sucks. The crowds are thin to nonexistent. And the demons start to creep up into your head. It was borderline obnoxious. Lucky for me, a fellow blogger caught up to me...
So I'm running along and this woman comes up from behind me and is all excited and says "HEY! I read your blog!!" (It might be important to note that the back of my singlet said Running Jayhawk) Now at this point, I'm starting to cross over to the bite me zone. I'm in an overall bad mood along this stretch and desperate for some company. I was excited to learn that it was the one and only Tri Insanity
. :) We ran for a few blocks and parted ways...but she really lifted my spirits out there. Thanks, hun!
Before I knew it, I was headed over the bridge to UIC and my eyes begin to frantically search for Christine
. That girl was exactly where she said she'd be. She runs me all the way to Racine and Taylor, just before the PowerGel Zone and is cheering me on the entire way. I'm excited to get updates on Mike and how strong he was doing. She waited out in the cold for hours to catch a quick glimpse of the two of us.The angel out of the blue
I entered the "bite me" zone pretty early in the race. I'd argue that it was around mile 16 when things started going downhill (and the split times prove that). My foot was killing me. My hip flexors were so tight and wouldn't stretch out no matter how hard I tried. I just got myself in a zone and kept putting one foot in front of the other. It didn't matter if I was walking....running...or even crawling. I'm somewhere around mile 19...in Pilsen...a fun, lively neighborhood with lots of DJs and folks cheering along the street...but I can't hear any of it. I am so intensely focused on how badly my body was aching.
I see a sign--my favorite sign of the day--that says "Your Feet Hurt Cause You're Kicking So Much Ass" and that quickly becomes my mantra. It literally makes me laugh out loud like a crazy person for a good five minutes. I'm edging insanity. Eyebrows raise and funny looks are being shot my direction.
Clearly, I'm struggling.
And out of nowhere, Dawn
appears. Nevermind that I was completely oblivious to the fact I was going through a water station at that moment...but Dawn came from seemingly out of nowhere and in my mind there was this irridescent halo effect all around her...seriously...trumpets blared a glorious fanfare, the sun shone down and Dawn came with the gift of Gatorade. She runs up to me in the middle of the water station to hand me the cup. I down it, hear her cheer me on...and I take off running. I'm sure I didn't make it very far in that stretch of a run...but she helped fuel me on for the next few grueling miles.Parental Units Extraordinaire!
My folks...well...they rock. The entire race they were armed with tylenol...biofreeze...extra socks...granola bars, gu and gatorade...anything we could have needed they had. They were able to make it to three different spots to cheer Mike and me on. Personalized signs for us, as well as rooting for every last TNTer on the course, calling them each by name. I really don't know what to say other than I hope that Mike and I will one day be as cool as you (but not for a bit, so don't get your hopes up right now). Thank you!!!My Personal Cheerleader
I've decided that from here on out, I'm going to pay someone to push me through the last 5 miles of every marathon I run. My dear friend, and fellow blogger, Taylor
, is by and large, the MVP of the Chicago Marathon. There are no words to describe how infinitely awesome it is to have your own personal cheerleader pumping up the crowd for you. But...I'm a word person...so I am going to give this a valliant effort.
I'm trucking along close and I'm maybe a quarter mile from China Town and all of a sudden I hear "GO BARB!!!" and this crazy blonde girl is going nuts on the sidelines...granted, my brain is mush and everything is fuzzy...so it takes a few moments to register that it's Taylor and not some psycho superfan.
Tay comes sprinting up to me wearing a shirt that says "GO BARB" with an arrow pointing to the right (and on the back it says & Mike & Jon & Dice). She's armed with biofreeze spray and ready to take action should I need it.Taylor
ran with me from China Town and we parted ways at the bottom of the hill at Roosevelt (after which she proceeded to run up the hill next to me but on the sidewalk...what a nut!). The entire way, she kept me focused. When I started to cry from the pain, she helped brush it off. She got me to run when I really just wanted to walk. She sang to me all sorts of ridiculous rap songs and a few lines of "On Top of Spaghetti" before it became evident I couldn't tolerate that song with 24 miles behind me. She helped me do the math that seemed so impossible when counting down the final miles. And she got the crowds to triumphantly CHANT my name whenever we ran through groups of people. She really pulled me through that final stretch.
I am forever grateful to have such an amazing friend.
So Taylor, pack your bags...cause you're coming with me to all my future races. Biew, Biew!!!A game of chase
When things got especially tough out there, I did everything I could to remember Keegan, my patient honoree who passed away a few weeks ago. I thought about his mother, Mimi, and how strong of a woman she is and I remembered how Keegan was proud to be an honorary coach and would attend training whenever he could. He was a young boy, fighting a terribile battle with Leukemia, but chose to focus on the happiness in life instead of the pain.
I imagined Keegan running in front of me...beckoning me to a game of chase...or tag or red rover. I just kept on reaching for him. And at times I thought about how strong Keegan was and felt him pulling me along by a rope.
On my right wrist, I wore a bracelet that read "26.2 miles for Keegan" to remind me of why I was doing this. When things started sucking on the course, I clenched the bracelet and drew strength from it. This bracelet was what I had intended to leave on the course. And that is exactly what I did...The man at the top of the hill
By the time Taylor and I parted ways at Pinkowski Hill I had so much energy that I just took off in a bolt. I was so close. I could feel the finish line dangling in front of me. With every last ounce of energy in my body, I mustered my way up that hill. I focused on this gentleman who was standing right at the corner at the top of the hill, cheering with all of his might for all the runners on that final stretch. Several dozen yards back I could see his arms waving in the air, celebrating the victory right along with us. He was amazing.
I knew in my heart that someone who was that supportive and excited for us was deserving of my Keegan bracelet. I unsnapped it from my wrist and kept running.
As soon as I reached him, I stretched my arm out, smiled and handed him the bracelet. It was at that point where I realized that this wasn't just any man. This was the gentleman from the TNT Pasta Party the night before who thanked Mike and I for all of our hard work and training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The patient honoree from Georgia who came to cheer everyone on. One of the most genuinely grateful individuals I've ever met in my life.
At that moment, I knew my race wasn't just for Keegan. But for him as well. Along with everyone else who has been affected by these cancers. He was truly inspiring.The Last Point Two
It was everything I imagined it would be, and more. Out of nowhere, I had been given this insane energy burst. I picked it up and gave the marathon one final ass kicking. I pounded the pavement all the way to the finish, counting down the meters. What felt like a sprint, was likely an 11:00 pace, but I couldn't have cared less.
There was still a great crowd of folks cheering everyone on. I heard my name called out a few times. I got a lil' teary-eyed. I drained my last bit of jet fuel on the final two tenths and nearly collapsed upon crossing that coveted finish line.
Now, I know I'm not fast. And I may never be super speedy. But I knew I had dropped more than 40 minutes off of my previous time. And I was thrilled. I threw my arms in the air and smiled, proclaiming a solid victory over the distance.
All of the finish line volunteers were spectacular. A young school girl draped the medal around my neck and moments later I was wrapped up like a burrito in a foil blanket.
I couldn't walk. I couldn't think. I couldn't speak.
I stood there at the finish line for a few moments, holding back the tears, soaking it all in.
It was so much better than Phoenix.
Then I hobbled away with pride thinking about my next 26.2, in a way only a true marathoner runner could do.
Yes folks. I am finally declaring myself as a runner (something that for over a year I've had issues doing).A note of thanks...
I just wanted to thank everyone who cheered along the sidelines and from far away from all us runners this past weekend....my boss and his dog Jake at Mile 14...Coach Sarah from the 05-06 winter team in her megenta wig at mile 10...Elvis...my sister in Florida who obsessed over the Runner Updates all morning and all those who tracked us from home...everyone who called and left messages before, during and after the race...the whole RBF and CRU...to the random kids who went haywire for me and waived signs that said "Barb's Bringin Sexy Back" even though I wasn't your Barb
...the crazy UIC folks with who tried coaxing me with tequlia...the pretzel lady at mile 16...all the kids passing out tootsie rolls, lollipops and jolly ranchers...Elizabeth who waited forever and ever and ever for me to cross the finish line (love you girl!)...the 1.5 million spectators who lined the course...to all of the volunteers...and to the cheerleaders at Mile 20 who listened to Pink Floyd's The Wall
on loop for 5 hours at the makeshift wall on the course (I can only imagine how mind numbing that must have been for you).
Your spirit and energy really does make all the difference during the daunting distance. And I can't thank you all enough. I am humbled to have been in the company of so many amazing athletes and their supporters. Thank you, Chicago, for one heck of a marathon.