Chicago marathon

Yesterday I ran my Fifth Marathon.

It will never cease to amaze me that running a marathon is an event that I can do, no matter how many times I do it.

The day before the race, Heather was extremely calm. I was kind of nervous, but if my “cadet” wasn’t nervous, I wouldn’t be able to show nerves as her “coach” and a friend who has done this before. I wanted to pump her, not potentially knock her down because of my own neuroses. Her calm was contagious, and I fell asleep the second when, on Saturday night, I hit the pillow with my head, relaxing and excited about what it should be.

My alarm was set at 4:30 am and I got upright at 4:23 before it even went off. We were supposed to leave the hotel at 5:30, and although I knew I probably didn’t need a full hour, it didn’t stop me to have a little extra time to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I blew up some T-Swift (apparently) on my phone and found solace in the pre-race ritual of preparing everything you needed to run 26.2 miles. I smothered an English bun with Nutella buns, banana jam (that’s my jam) and honey.

We met the rest of the 26 Strong Teams in the lobby and approached the park together for a bean racing photo. Heather and I ducked later to head a VIP tent, courtesy of a wonderful friend who works at BofA and hooked us up. The biggest grip on the tent was that it meant that the lines of baggage check were short. I rarely check my bag for the races, but being able to have flip-flops and a cozy shirt at the end was too tempting to pass up. Also on our table was the sun! We took that as a good sign. We did some stretching, I drank hot water, we used the bathrooms and started lining up at 7:30 at about 7:10. Toto, this is not a NYC Marathon.

Although Heather and I did not plan on running together, I wanted to be with her beforehand to assure her of any last-minute nerves / worries – and it was more fun to wait with a friend than to wait for solitude. When we talked about the race afterwards, she said she never thought she would finish, so she was calm enough.

Causal pre-race selfie.

We took off and during the first mile I still couldn’t believe I was running a marathon. Although I am obviously running a few now, I never want to lose what is a special achievement in running 26.2 miles. Honestly, feeling that I lacked training under my belt, I wanted to do my best to enjoy the sights and sounds of the race and enjoy the moment very much. I started the race with the THEO channel glued to my shirt and I smiled at everyone who greeted me.

View from the start

I started the race a little too much in my head, so I started chanting to myself, “You’re running a marathon! You’re running a marathon!”

When I ran the first first mile, I remembered starting with Liz in 2010 and thought about how far I had gone in my run since then.

My goal was to run somewhere between 4:10 and 4:20 – basically I just wanted to keep pace at 10:00. Jess told me to start conservatively, and I based my own mental plan on similar racing plans she had given me in the past: slowly the first half, pick it up in the second half, give everything you got in the last few miles. For the first few miles, I started over the low miles at 9:00 and even one mile at a distance of 9 km. LOW DOWN, THEODORE.

I saw Michel in the first few miles and we took a selfie together. My tail game is STRONG.

I tried to consciously restrain myself and slow down to what felt like a shuffle, but as I got closer to mile 10, I already started to feel some tension in my legs and hips, and panicked. Was it painful because it was running slower than my natural pace? My goal was to do 10-15: 9: 20-9: 30, and then drop a little more from 15-20 from there if I felt normal. After a run of 5-6, my duct tape began to stagger, and I spent a few miles clutching my chest, trying to glue the letters, but I finally tore them off.

I was so glad to see Emily And Emily at mile 11, and Emily made me stop for a photo. When I sent this to my mom, she was shocked that I stopped. I’m not PRing so I could at least get a little love from a friend. True story: I ran on the spot while her friend was taking this photo because I was scared when my feet bitten.

This first half went by so fast, and before I knew it, I was halfway there. I remembered seeing my mom at mile 12 last time and then seeing my watch. I wasn’t sure the time was right when I actually started, so I had no idea what the time was. The clock said 9:48, and it read 64 degrees. Shit. Two more hours and it was just warming up. There was zero cloud cover. The weather was perfect … for nothing but running a marathon.

After 14 years, I began to lose any mental strength that I directed at the beginning of the race. All I wanted to do was walk. I never felt pain in and of itself, but started to feel uncomfortable. I promised myself that I would not walk at all until I only had one-digit miles. At mile 16, I started walking through entire two-block water stations.

I signed up to post my race results to Facebook and Twitter, and I assumed they would update at 5K / 10K, etc. Since I reached about 18, I knew I would be around 30K, and that motivated me to keep going be strong for those who follow me at home. I felt like I was sending them a silent message saying that I was doing well at a high pace!

Up to 20 miles I really gave up mentally. It started to warm and everything felt tight. I stopped several times to stretch my tight calves on the curb. For 20-25 years my goal was to just walk around the water stations and run as much as possible between them, but there were definitely a few breaks for the walk. If I went and saw the mile sign, I would usually start running again. But miles 25, I wanted to do so badly that I forced myself to keep drawing.

Liz’s sign is all mine.

I saw Liz, Jenny and Shannon 25 miles away and was happy to run again and feel a little stronger. Somewhere in 25 miles, I was so overwhelmed by the emotion that I was about to finish another marathon. (Also, I stopped to think about how 25 miles actually fades away.)

I knew the finish was bad (evil), and although I felt it, I just kept on living. Those last 100 yards had nothing magical, and I smiled as hard as I could for these cameras, and tried very hard not to stop my Garmin at once so they could get good photos. I finished at 4:18, and I was honestly really set on training. And really, any day you finish a marathon is damn good!

The VIP experience in Chicago is VERY. After I got the medal, they ran my limping self to the tent where I hung up and waited for Heather. Once she was done, we had a good time, massaged, drank pumpkin beer and ate cheese. Life was perfect.

Heather ended me a little, and I’m so proud of her. Heather is a few years older than me, and she taught me a lot last year, so we were friends, and it was fun to turn the tables around and teach her everything I knew about marathons. At the end of the training, she overcame her injury, but persistently reached the finish line. At the time I was waiting for her (I couldn’t go back to the finish line and go back to the tent for safety), I realized that my mom was worried about me when I was running out of the race! One day I saw her go into that tent, I tried to run up to her and hug her in a big sweaty hug.

The next question I was asked after yesterday: how do you feel about New York? Well… honestly, I just take things one at a time. Today I can’t imagine running 26.2 again in 20 days. I have a couple of SoulCycle and Uplift scheduled this week, they’ll probably work again (SHORT!) On Wednesday, and Jess and I will figure out my long-term plan for the next two weekends before I get back to it again.

Some remarks about dressing, honestly more for me than for you: I had Honey Stinger at mile 6, half a margarita shot at mile 12, and then the other half at mile 18, half a banana at mile 20 (THIS MARATHON HIS FOUR BANANA THERE IS A REASON TO RELEASE.) And another Honey Stinger at mile 22. I had water in almost all the water stops, and in the final 6 miles there was a tiny splash of Gatorade. I started the race with a pocket bottle of water filled with Nuun and ended up dumping it about halfway through.

Thank you very much Saucon and competitor for everything from our publications, to our travels and hotels, to our friends this weekend, to the (semi-surprise) photo shoot on Saturday morning. (<- More TK about it!)