My Chicago Marathon (2022)😇😍🥹😛😁🥳🤩🥰

#mychicagomarathon 😇

Drum roll my friends! We ran Chi marathon, under some duress, but crossed the finish line with all parts intact! Praise God. So we’re rolling because I’m pleased, and since I’m usually hard on myself when running, that’s big. It wasn’t a PR but it was pretty good all things considered. I went in with great expectations and came out satisfied if not exhuberant. What a weekend! What a run! What a blur! A big shout out to the Chicago marathon events management team. They always put on a stellar event and this year was no exception. With forty-five years of practice, they’d better right! Since I took part in all three events: the expo, the 5k, and the marathon, I can safely claim the full marathon experience, and it was great; not necessarily my running on marathon day, but certainly everything else.

@ McCormick Place – Marathon Expo 😍

Volunteering at the expo on the Friday before the race was a great experience. And although I wasn’t in New York, I was at home with the running community because runners are pretty awesome beings no matter where you go. I’d often wondered what being on the other side of the marathon expo was like, and I was happy to find out it was fun and rewarding to be on the serving end of all the love and well wishes I’d received over the years. I was super grateful for the opportunity to welcome and direct runners to collect their packets containing their bib numbers and to pick up their t-shirts. Meeting new people on the volunteer teams was also a treat and getting to appreciate that some of them weren’t even runners but were just excited for the city of Chicago and wanted to be a part of this event that celebrated and showcased the best of their city. There were a few nationals from outside of Chicago as well as international volunteers, who, like me, wanted the full experience and we dived right in together. By the end of my shift, I was pretty sure I had welcomed the world, amidst a few running friends from New York, and more were still coming. With the expo in full swing and all the vendors with their gear and attractions on display, it didn’t take me long to realize I had to get out of there fast or my run the next day would be in serious jeapordy.

Abbot 5K 🥹
The New York Posse 😛

Saturday dawned way too soon and I had to be up by 5 a.m. and at the start by 6:30/6:45 a.m. as the 5K run started at 7:30 a.m. It’s Chicago, so of course it was chilly. I was prepared and wrapped up in heat sheets I had purchased for just the occasion – experience is a great teacher! After cooling our heels a bit and witnessing many shivers, we did away with the formalities and a surprising male rendition of the national anthem and were off. It was a fast and short one. It’d been a while since I’d raced a 5K so I was surprised, I don’t know why, that it was over so soon. I remember thinking, wow, folks are out here on this chilly morning to cheer on a 5K! I felt proud and grateful to be feeling great! The cheers and running through the center of the city, sans traffic, was a treat and then I recall hearing an announcement of some sort that we were coming up to Jackson Ave. and the finish line around the bend, and I thought, wait, I didn’t even see the mile 2 marker! Clearly, I missed it and crossed the finish line in 21:53 according to Strava. I really hadn’t intended to run that fast, it really kinda just happened and oh well it felt amazing! LoL. I celebrated with a photo, grabbed my medal and hat and got outta there. The rest of the day was a swirl of brunch with the New York posse in town for the race and then to a boat tour on the Chicago River. By the time I got home, I stayed with my neice just outside the city center, it was time to get the pasta going for a dinner of pasta, meatballs, and veggies. And there was cake too! Sadly, I passed out around 11 p.m. after my third helping, without the cake.

Chipping at the start..ready, set…😁

As is the pattern these days, I was barely asleep before it was time to get up. I’m really not a fan of eating at 5 a.m. but we do what we must and so oatmeal, bananas, and granola and nuts it was with a bagel with eggs on the side. I nursed the bagel all the way to the city but was careful to just nibble away at it until I’d had enough. Getting to Grant Park, where the race start was and seeing all the runners defiantly geared up in the chilly morning air in all sorts of coverings to stay warm but with expectant and intent faces gave me a sense of dejavu. It had only been two years, going on ten, since I was at my last marathon start line. The sense of jubilation and excitement could not be suppressed; it permeated the atmosphere and I was oh-so-at-home at its center. No mad rush this time, all was oderly with consistent and efficient movement of the crowds through the various gates, security checkpoints, and to their respective corrals. I had ensured that I was there with just enough time to get to the corral, join the bathroom line, and get in position to start. The efficiency of it all was mesmerizing given the 40,000 crowd size. I’ve always marveled that Chicago is the one marathon where I’ve always been able to manage the various steps so efficiently so as to get to start line with time to spare and feel ready to start. I even got to meet up a friend running in my corral, who ended up keeping pace with me for most of the race. My intention had been to run with the Nike pace group that was running with a 3:35 finish goal but I soon chucked that idea after seeing they would be keeping an 8 minute mile. I had decided from the night before that I was going to run a 7:45 pace. Ideally, you don’t decide that the night before a race but because I’ve been dealing with sciatic nerve issues the entire year, and my capacity/pace have fluctuated as a result, I had to be really intentional about my pace and staying attuned to how I was feeling on any given day. Hence the night before decision, which was really based off of how well I ran the 5K the day before and how strong I felt post run. I was ready to start conservative but strong and hang on for the ride.

Snaps from clips on the course 🤩

I’ll be honest, it’s rare that I ever do what I expect or even set out to do. For some reason or another, I’d say nine out of ten times, things change. And I’m ok with that as long as the change is good, but it isn’t always. I mean come on, life is just not that awesome; some awesome, just not all that awesome. LoL. So guess what, yours truly ran at the pace I sorta expected but because life just does it’s thing, I ended up with a progressive limp to my step after the half marathon point. In all honesty, that wasn’t so surprising as I was running at a much faster pace than my long training runs. I expected that my lower back would come into play at some point and was prepared to deal with the discomfort, well sort of anyway. One can never be fully prepared to accommodate pain and so I had already planned on pushing through. My hope was that I would get through most of the run before having to deal with it. So when I started feeling some back soreness around mile 13, I ignored it. I tried to lose myself in the cheers and was very disappointed to note that there were very little in the way of signs to read. In the past, I’ve always occupied myself with reading and admiring the funny, bold,  encouraging, and creative way spectators expressed themselves over the course of 26.2 miles. It has always been a high point entertainment-wise. Another Covid casualty? I don’t know but I missed it and as a result I couldn’t quite shift focus, except momentarily when I saw my niece, who, bless her, showed up three times along the course. I cherish the support. I kept the look out for my cousins who were out there somewhere in the crowds, I was sure, but never managed to connect with them until the finish. However, actively searching them out distracted me for some time until it didn’t anymore and by then overcompensating for my lower back issues was expressing itself in my right knee, which felt like it was on fire then. And that’s where, in my view, experience kicked in. In all my time running, in all the races, and in particular, the marathons I’ve done, they have created in me a tremendous capacity to see things through and finish well. All I’ve learned about pushing limits, digging deep, and finishing the course may have been for moments like what I experienced on October 9 and I am thankful for it all. By God’s grace and with a tenacity I can only attribute to experience, I sucked up the pain and managed, on the final incline and homestretch, to increase my pace and smile as I crossed the finish line in 3:27:24, only 13 seconds slower than my best time on this course some 7 years before.

Post Race – we did it 🥳

Whoo hoo! Even though I can’t remember much of the areas we ran through and what it looked like. Had I not run the course three times before, it would be really hard to describe anything. Sometimes pain can blur things and I can honestly say that the last couple of miles was all a blur. The faces, the course, the runners, it all blended into one. Weirdly enough, the only thing I could see crystal clear was the finish line in the final 800m. A friend later told me that she looked over to her left around mile 20 or so and was greatly surprised to see me. She called out and while I made eye contact with her and mumbled that I was in pain, I never broke stride or looked back as I ran past her. I remember it as part of the blur. After crossing the finish line, I knew well enough to keep on moving – albeit slowly – stopping is never a good idea as it can facilitate cramps among other things. So it is with good reason race officials shepherd runners through. They really don’t mean to be mean even though they’re also bent on keeping the area accessible to other runners coming through. Sometime soon after, I was able to locate said friend and another who shadowed me of sorts and as we hugged and congratulated each other and grimaced together for a photo, it occured to me that though the pain is real, what is even more real is that I/we can do hard things and we’re really only limited by what we tell ourselves we cannot do. One day I may not be able to run a marathon far less with an injury. But that, my friends, was not the day.

Family Reunion 🥰
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