26.2 miles is a hell of a long way...
...but I survived my first marathon in Chicago on Sunday, October 12. Although I didnít make my goal of breaking 4 hours, I can now say "Iím a marathoner!", and it sure feels great!
There are so many images and memories swirling in my head from yesterday. I donít know where to start. The feeling of energy emanating from the runners waiting for the start was simply awesome. The support of the crowds along the way was amazing. Iíve always loved visiting Chicago. Running yesterday gave me a whole new perspective and I love Chicago even more now.
Since my race and training predicted a 3:50 finish, I thought Iíd be conservative if I went out with the 3:55 pace group and reached halfway under two hours. During the early part of the race I ran in a sea of 3:50 and 3:55 pace runners who were wearing their pace goal on their backs that were supplied by the New Balance pacing teams.
I hit halfway 30 seconds ahead of goal, but I was worried because I really didnít feel like I could maintain the pace I was running. By 15 miles I knew that my 4 hour goal was unlikely. By 20 miles I pretty much decided that I needed to just keep moving and make it to the finish line.
Although conditions at the start were cool, the sun was relentless, and temperatures rose steadily to over 70 F. If there is one thing that slows me down, itís heat. If I could have predicted the warm-up before the start, I would have bagged any time goal and gone out a bit more conservatively. If it had been a cloudy day, I think it would have been a whole different race for me.
After 20 miles I started walking through the water stops. I started praying for the next water stop as I kept up my shuffle. Whose idea was it to put a hill at the quarter mile to go point? I managed to kick it up enough to finish running. I finished in 4:17:30.
There were a lot of memorable sights along the way. I loved all the personalized shirts. Two girls who looked like twins each wore shirts saying "She made me do this." When we reached a tree filled, grassy area on the first leg, dozens of runners ran off to relieve their selves. All I could think of was "those poor trees!" I certainly enjoyed the thousands of beautiful, athletic woman I got to run with. The course was a girl-watcherís paradise. I suppose it was a guy-watcherís paradise too, but I didnít notice -- except for one guy who ran by in the tiniest, animal skin print Speedo youíve ever seen. He got a lot of attention and laughs from everyone. As we reached the left turn at the northernmost point of the first leg, one guy swung out wide and did a nice skipping twirl to the delight of the crowd. Now thereís a guy who has a fun attitude towards running a race! A highlight for me was getting to run with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood of the Cubs. Yes, there were two guys dressed up in full baseball uniforms, gloves and all. They had the two Chicago pitching aces down, one with his pants rolled up with lots of socks showing, the other with the pants rolled down. I told Mark that he needed to take it easy in case Zambrano didnít get the win Sunday :-)
I wore a personalized shirt with a Cubís logo on the front, along with my name, and the words "Iím running for Ron" with the name Santo and a big number 10 on my back. I must have heard 10,000 people say "Go Tom, Go Cubs!" It helped me keep moving, for sure.
So itís over. Aside from a sore toe and achy legs, Iím feeling fine. Iíll take a few days off and maybe go for an easy run on Saturday. Until then Iíll just savor the feeling of accomplishing a huge goal. Iím a marathoner!
Tom . . . South Bend, IN†