42.2km 5:38:14hr 8:01min/km | 26.2miles 5:38:14hr 12:55min/mile
overall: 29,985 / 35,558
gender division: 12,145 / 15,404
age division1,017 / 1,363
mile 0: start
It took less than 30mins to drive up to town, then 15mins to navigate around the road closures. I parked at Grant Park North, wanting to be nearby and in a car park that I know. By 6.30am I was in the Bank of America tent, which they laid on for customers. There was water, gatorade, bananas, cereal bars, bench seating and most importantly, private portaloos.
As I was walking towards the start corral, the sun came out. Lovely view of it coming up on the lake. It’s gonna be a glorious day. I had signed up with the 5:15 pace group (12mm) so I found my way there. Saw my colleague K, and we lined up together. She is injured and wasn’t going to finish the race, but I said I’d walk with her for a bit.
We were lined up so far behind that we could barely hear the national anthem and the announcements. Took about 18mins to get to the actual start. I did walk K for about 100m, then she dropped out, limping. It’s disappointing for her, to DNF on her first marathon, but at least she crossed the start line and it will be the start of a longer journey for her.
miles 1-3: the loop
This is the best part of the race. Legs are fresh, crowds everywhere, perfect for absorbing the atmosphere. I had my headphones but didn’t put any music on. I don’t often run without music, but I find I’m not missing it. Speedwise I was going slowly, with the sheer number of people it wasn’t feasible to run fast anyway.
Ran past all the familiar landmarks. My favourite shot from last year was in front of the Chicago theatre so I did the same shot this year.
miles 3-7: towards lincoln park
It got quieter up la salle into Lakeview. There was still lots of shade, running was comfortable. Mile 4.5 was where the supporters from the Moody Church were stationed. They had music and gave everyone a high five. I’m afraid to admit that I’m not sure which denomination the church belongs to (not Catholic, that’s all I can say) but they provided much needed encouragement at a point in the race for which I’m grateful.
Feeling strong into Lincoln Park. I remember last year I had to stop at the aid station near mile 6 to wrap up a blister. This year I stopped there again to tape up the KT tape which had fallen off. Didn’t last long. By mile 7 I’d ripped it off. It was also in Lincoln Park that I saw a guy running with an American flag. He passed me, so I sprinted past him to get the shot.
miles 7-12: boystown, sedgwick, back to the loop
Up towards mile 7 was by the LSD, where K cheered me on last year. I thought about her, probably back at the start watching the runners. Almost to mile 8 was the northermost point of the course where it turned back at Addision. Lots of crowd there.
And then it was fun for the next 2 miles. The atmosphere at Boystown can never be beat, lots of spectators dressed up, the ROTC troupe was there, it was like carnival. It was at that point that I lost my sunglasses attachment. I spent 10mins looking for it, but it was pretty impossible. Sad, but I had to continue.
Shady down Sedgwick, which was good. Japanese drummers provided support. The stretch down Wells was okay. I was trying to see if I was feeling ok. About 1/3 done and I felt like I had 2/3 in the tank. Sponges and something luxurious — I think it was the La Salle Street Church that had a sign out front that bathroom facilities were open to runners. Oh man!! Talk about not needing to queue up for the portaloos and having a real bathroom. I know I seem to be obsessed with bathrooms, but if you’re out for 5hrs constantly drinking, toilet breaks become strategic.
mile 13.1: halfway
Entering the Loop again brings back the strong crowd support, especially at the 2 cheer zones underneath Sears Tower. Cross Wacker and there was the 13.1 sign. HALFWAY!! Time was about 2:40. Slow, ah well. People were shouting “Spiderwoman!” close to me, and I turned around to see that yes, Spiderwoman was running behind me. She passed me at 13.1 and I stuck close to her until around mile 14.
miles 13-19: the hard slog
Ah. Mile 14. When there were hardly any crowds, the sun began beating down and for me, that was the toughest point. I realised that I probably didn’t have 50% in the tank and it would take some digging. Not the wall as such, but I slowed down a lot. I also finished my pack of chomps. I’ve been taking gatorade and water from every station, so energy-wise I was doing okay.
My friend M met me at between mile 17-18 where they were giving out gels. I took a couple and saw her next to a water hose. Ran through the hose, but she didn’t mind giving me a hug even though I was soaked through. I was feeling a little miserable at that point and seeing her gave me a push. Thanks, M.
miles 18-21: pilsen, halsted
Mile 18-19 was down a very hot Ashland. Most people around me were walking. Turning into 18th Street was a vast relief. The Hispanic neighbourhood of Pilsen was out in force, welcoming us. Lots of cheers, music and I got the BEST gift all race — an elderly lady at the side of the road gave me a cola-flavoured ice lolly (American: popsicle). It was absolutely delicious, thirst-quenching and gave me the energy to start running again. Thank you, Ice Lolly Lady.
And then, mile 20 came up. Instead of the wall, I got my second wind. People say a marathon is actually 2 races: a 20-miler followed by a 10k. As I reached the “second” race, I felt really positive. I can run 10k. I run 10k easy. I was going to make it.
miles 21-26: chinatown, the long way home
Feeling good coming up to Chinatown. The second hardest part of the course, between miles 22-24, wasn’t too bad for me. I found the 5:30 pace group and followed them for about half a mile before dropping off. I was watching the clock and realised that I probably wasn’t going to make 5:30 so I may as well conserve some energy. Coming north on Michigan I passed a few people, then slowed down somewhat in the South Loop.
mile 26: mount roosevelt
I read somewhere that coming up to the right hand turn at Roosevelt to start kicking because of the uphill incline. I felt nice and strong and managed to pass quite a few runners. Hopefully the official photos look okay too. I tried to keep my mouth closed and to look halfway decent whenever I see a photographer.
mile 26.2: finish line
200m, 100m and there it was: the finish line. I was almost sprinting to the line, and saw on my garmin that the time was 5:38. Exactly the same as last year. The iphone battery had died at mile 22, and I didn’t have a backup on the nike+. Not bothered. I know I’ll get my time from the official site.
It was a long walk down the chute. Got a heat blanket, water, gatorade, free beer, , banana, a pack of snack and an official photo. Headed to the BoA tent for more food, drink and to use the portaloo. Lined up for 10mins for another free beer. There wasn’t a lot of food available — hot dog, chili and gyro. None of which I fancied so I ate a whole pack of mini cereal.
volunteers, organisation, supporters
There are not enough good words in the world to describe how I feel about the volunteers. Fantastic, wonderful in every way. Every single one had a smile and a cheer for us. I stopped at every station except the last one and to see the mountain of cups with gatorade and water. And always someone clearing up. Like I said, wonderful.
The organisation too. There’s a lot of talk about moving the race back a week or two to avoid the heat. It got hot out there today, although thankfully it was dry. I’m sure the organisers will make the right decision. A race this size, there will always be someone not satisfied. For me? The organisation was flawless, from the expo, crowd control at the beginning and end, making sure there were enough supplies, aid stations were spaced out well, the results were out the same day. I have zero complaints.
The supporters. Wow. Hundreds of thousands on the street, cheering for someone they know or for complete strangers. I had a couple of friends, K and M, and it helped me a huge amount. I was told I’m really good at exercise. A complete stranger gave me an ice lolly. Kids waved at me and gave me high fives. At one point we were clapping with the music from a band at the side (can’t remember which song). This is why Chicago is one of the best marathon experiences in the world.
I finished my second marathon. Who would have thought? I don’t feel like a marathoner, but technically, I am. I think it’s because my time is so slow. Everyone I meet have been so supportive, because to finish is an achievement. I wear my finisher’s medal proudly. Tomorrow I will go to Niketown and buy a finisher’s t-shirt.
I didn’t get into London 2012 but I’m confirmed for Brighton the week before. I’ll train for that, and then I’ll have to be very disciplined and not sign up for more. It’s imperative that I focus on speedwork. Halfs are fine, but no fulls.
Finally, my thoughts go out to the family of Captain William Caviness, who collapsed and later died at the race. He raised over $2000 for charity and was a real hero. This year’s race should be dedicated to him.