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 🥰

The Brooklyn Half Marathon in pictures

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to stand and bike along on the sidelines of the RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon. And surprisingly, I had a great time not running! Lol. I’ll admit, very often when I’m on the sidelines of a race, I impatiently wish I had opted to run instead. Not this time! No Siree. I was quite happy with my lot and was very loud and, if I may so myself, hard on the runners out there trying to get them down to the beach before the sun came out. Starting out to a foggy morning did a little to keep the heat down for a short while before the humidity came to stay along with waves of runners.

Lucky for me, I now live in Brooklyn  and pretty close to Prospect Park so I was able to ride out to a predetermined point on the course, on Ocean Parkway, and cheer on one of my friends before the tidal wave of runners hit. From that point on, everyone was everyone as I couldn’t identify anyone and they just kept on coming. It’s been a minute with the races aside from the fifth avenue mile last year, which I ran and the nyc marathon, where I volunteered at the finish line, I hadn’t been out on a course cheering much. It’s another part of the running world that I love and now cherish. But I’ll be honest, that Brooklyn run is a beast all of the time. In all  my years running in New York, I’ve not heard or seen different. First off, the weather is almost always a miss. It’s either freezing rain, windy, humid, or hot. It never disappoints and it didn’t.

Costumed Runner on the course

I have run the Brooklyn Half four times and each time it was quite the beastly experience. LoL. So much so, I’m convinced I won’t ever do it again. And that has nothing to do with the organization and execution of this race as it’s among the best by local organizers, New York Road Runners (nyrr). My experience is mine and largely based on my dislike for the latter 6 miles of the race, which is a pet peeve of mine as it relates to a lack of variation on any course. The last six miles of this race is run on Ocean Parkway, a usually busy and main traffic thourafare that’s a straight, dead run to the popular Coney Island beach with its attractions. Dead because there’s nothing to see and no shade, just an endless roadway without any seeming variation or end. My past experience has been everything from humid to montonous and anything in between. I was out there biking and cheering and I didn’t feel any less angst. And so my yells to “come on, stay with it, yes you can, you’re halfway to the beach” were from a real place. I was once in those shoes feeling like, what the heck did I get myself into, and I really didn’t think anyone on the sideline could relate though I appreciated their encouragement.

Closer to the Island aka Coney Island

The truth is there was a lot more happening out on the course this time around with spectators and volunteer participation. As a result, there were a lot more presence to be seen and even interactions to be had should one choose to. This adds a bit of variation and decreases monotony in the instance of live music and dancing or even music boxes and funny cheer cards to read at various points as well as sprinkler stations and spectators giving out random things like candy or wet towels. It all adds up to the “race experience” and is always greatly appreciated by runners. That said, biking was much easier and I am grateful for that perspective and the opportunity I had to bike down to the finish and back up while cheering runners along. The beach looked pretty inviting and I’m sure it was a welcome sight and feel for many runners that day as they entered Coney Island. It was always the best part for me!

October Ran Away🍂🍃🍁

Whoosh and just like that it’s gone. Blame it on the wedding, which by the way was a blast, I hardly got time to say hi before the month became a not-too-distant memory. And that’s only because I won’t let it. It’s not everyday a first time planner of sorts throws a bit of a destination beach wedding and everything goes off without a hitch! I mean come on, that’s a month for the history books. Excuse the back patting, I’ve already given God all the credit so I figure it’s ok to tap myself some. Hahaha.

Really though, wow November! You’re upon us. But whatever does that mean for running? Well, not forgetting that we had big races in October with the boston and chicago marathons and london a little before that. Seems we’re off to a running start with everyone’s favorite marathon (I’m taking some liberty here) happening the first weekend of the month. Yeah baby, that’s right, the Big Apple will be doing their share of running with the nyc marathon, celebrating 50 years, on November 7. Whoo hoo! Happy anniversary nyc marathon! And, come rain or shine yours truly will be at the finish line welcoming runners with their “aw shucks..look what I did” cheeky grins.   As it pertains to race-day weather Sunday looks pretty good with a cool 55°. We should be so blessed with minimal to no winds for an awesome spectator turnout and many PRs.

I imagine after a year and a half of no races how anxious running folks must feel for various reasons. A group from my run club as well as a few other friends are running so I’m hyped about that and the opportunity to cheer them on and shout them down. Also, I’m volunteering at the finish..hoping I get to hand out medals but really I’m up for wherever help is needed. I’m just so chuffed – as the English say – to be part of this awesome experience and celebration. To see our city streets flooded once more with runners of every description promises to be a treat like few others. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people, have fun, and just get out and about and back to making our city a safe running haven again. I’m here for it friends!

With a smaller field size this year, and the smallest in years, of 30,000 runners, chances are it will be a smoother, more enjoyable experience as it’ll be less crowded on the streets. We do expect and hope that New Yorkers and visiting folks will turn out the spectator crowd especially in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. In recent years there has been nothing quite like the spectacular crowd support in those areas. The marathon starts in Staten Island and meanders over the Verazzano bridge into Brooklyn, then over the  bridge into Queens, onto the Queensboro bridge into Manhattan. Then it’s over the Willis Ave bridge into the Bronx, then into Harlem and back to Manhattan to end in Central Park. It’s quite the 5-borough tour of New York City and a real rolling treat to newbies and veteran runners alike. At the very least, it’s a do-it-at-least-once type of run and then as many times as you can get away with! LoL. A bucket list item if you will, if bucket lists are still a thing. I don’t know anymore, I feel like we’re living in a new reality with new expectations and new boundaries and what once was is no longer a sure thing, only it’s getting kinda old. Anyways, no morbid thoughts allowed especially on the eve of this momentous racing comeback for our city and indeed the world this year. Great expectations is more than a book around here; we’re believing for awesome weather and amazing running. Good running to all runners! See you at the finish line. Be there or be missed! 😉

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 546 other followers
%d bloggers like this: