What an experience! From training start last Spring to race finish on Sunday, my 2015 Chicago Marathon was different than any other.
After my 2011 race, I all but gave up running. With future personal records unlikely, I lost my motivation. I had no desire to put in the needed work. I was done. But early this year, thanks to a push from Troy McIff, an experienced marathoner and co-worker at Crown, I convinced myself that I had to run Chicago again. I was tired of seeing my weight slowly rise, my clothes getting tighter and tighter. Even mowing the lawn was getting to be a difficult chore. I needed to get back in shape. A Fall marathon would get me moving again. It was "make sure you're ready" or die on the streets of Chicago in October.
So I started with a few short, tentative runs. I quickly discovered how out of shape I had become. Even a slow, short jog to the Darden bridge and back had me huffing and puffing and forced to walk. Then, a few weeks into training I had a setback. A painful ache, never experienced before, forced me to take a month-long break.
As the injury healed, I started back, but forced to compress my normal long training buildup into a much shorter timeframe, I had to forget about any speedwork. I needed to put in as many slow, easy miles as I could without injuring myself again. I ended up with enough miles to run the distance, but I knew that this could easily be my slowest marathon ever.
So many doubts filled my head at the start. Had I recovered from those long runs so close together? Would my old legs hold out? Would temps in the upper 70s turn the last 10 miles into a terribly painful crawl?
I tried to find an easy, relaxed pace for the first few miles. They came in faster than I had hoped for or expected. A good omen? I feared I'd pay for it later. Still feeling good at 10 miles, I decided to slow for a couple of miles. I have always hoped to run the second half of my marathons faster than the first. Could this be the day? Doubtful, but I pushed the pace a bit after the halfway mark. After a couple of miles, I realized that trying to hold that pace would be impossible. I pressed on at an easier pace, taking short walk breaks at the water stops.
I expected to crash into "the wall" at any point. It never really happened. Perhaps it was due to alternating a couple of Ibuprofen and then Acetometaphine every hour and a half or so. My legs were getting tired, I was slowing and starting to walk more, but I could run when I set my mind to it.
I'm convinced that it is the mind that controls everything you feel in the later miles of a marathon. Pressing on requires a lot of mental effort, searching for motivation and surpressing doubts. I had dedicated this race to Sue's cousin Barb, who had lost her fight with cancer just days before. I don't know if it was strictly mental or a true miracle, but when I called on Barb for help, I felt an amazing change. My pace quickened and I actually started striding confidently. After a while, I slowed to a walk again, called on Barb and the miracle happened again.
As I approached the 24 mile point, I looked at my watch and realized that a sub-5 hour finish was not only possible, but probable. I had a half hour to go. Even with walk breaks I was maintaining a pace that should get me to the finish line with minutes to spare.
Amazed with how well things had worked out, I crested the hill on Roosevelt Road over the railroad tracks, turned the corner and that beautiful finish line was in sight. I shifted gears, started running hard and crossed the finish line at 4:56:55. Yes, it was much slower than many of my previous marathons, but it was faster than several. My long journey to the finish line that started last Spring was over. I'm sore, but happy.
Thanks to anyone who took the time to read this. I appreciate every comment of support before, during and after my race. Special thanks go to Rob DeLarm and Eileen DeLarm who let me stay with them Saturday night and gave me rides to the race and back to their place on race day. It has become a tradition that makes my race experience really special.