The Chicago Marathon, my running sweet spot

source: bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

@ the start line          bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

Last Sunday 40,400 runners crossed the finish line in Grant Park at The Chicago Marathon. We weaved a determined and exhilarating path through the streets of Chicago, from the downtown area through the suburbs and neighborhoods, out to the medical district and back. Runners came out in their numbers, each wanting their moment of glory, some with personal goals, others as part of a collective effort to raise money for a favorite charity. Whatever the reason, we embraced the warmth, cheers and encouragement of over 1.7 million spectators and thousands of volunteers to cement this, at least in my mind, as the most superbly organized marathon event I have run thus far.

The New York City Marathon runs a close second to Chicago because of its phenomenal crowds and volunteers and because..well, it’s New York. I don’t for one second take for granted how challenging it must be to pull of an event of this magnitude in any city. We, runners, are just super thrilled that organizers of these racing events have the experience and know-how to make it happen and thus afford us these epic moments. Because this was my second time around in Chicago, I was prepared for am amazing race. I had such a good time last year even with a slight injury; this year I had no such encumbrance and felt that as long as I was well rested I would do well. While circumstances did not permit such ideal conditions – I missed my flight on Friday and got in Saturday afternoon, which is an entire blog by itself – for various reasons, many having to do with optimal training (no over-training this time), better rest, hydration and diet in the weeks leading up to race day – all somehow conspired to make sure I ran amazingly well.

bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

Chicago is a beautiful city with a diverse populace and a common passion, or so it seems – a love for running and the marathon. Because I always credit the success of a race in large part to its spectators and volunteers, I truly appreciated the huge turnout on both counts. I maintain there is nothing in the world quite like running down the home stretch of a race to the tune of a roaring crowd urging you on while suddenly hearing your name announced over the loud-speaker as you approach the finish line. That is one of the remarkable moments, and there are others, that we, runners, run for. That and the medal of course.

Like ever race though, this one was different and special. Foremost was my reason for running, I felt so motivated to run for the kids at St Jude’s to the extent that I kept up an average 7:45 min/mile pace for most of the race. My intent was to try for a negative split but I ended up running faster in the first half, then fluctuating a bit, then dropping down to a 8min/mile until mile 24 where I was able to up the anté and run my fastest time through the finish line. I finished at 3:27:11 – my fastest Marathon and a personal best. I was/am thrilled. However, like most type A personalities, I’m quick to see that I could have done better. Because I  was scared of running out of energy, for the first half and a bit beyond, I consciously reigned in my enthusiasm, which was probably wise, as it ensured I finished strong, but it’s also possible I could have put out just a little more, since at the finish I felt reasonably strong.

me @ around mile 15.5 in Chicago's medical district

me @ around mile 15.5 in Chicago’s medical district

Oh well.. hindsight remains what it is while I remain committed to improving that time. My next big race is the Boston Marathon in April while I volunteer at New York City Marathon next month. In the meanwhile before Boston, chances are looking really good for another race.

2016 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Medal

2016 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Medal

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Life Happens; Incidentally there’s Training, Marathon Fever, Boston Registration and 9/11 Memorial Tributes

blisstree-911

blisstree.com

Last weekend after two weeks of endless pain from having oral surgery done, I ran away to Georgia. I’ve always been able to retreat to the peachy state to re-establish a measure of peace and some semblance of balance in my life. Why run? Well.. figuratively speaking of course, since it was all I could do to get my thoughts together and I was on the verge of freaking the hell out considering my Chicago run coming up early next month. I tell you, not being able to eat and run nor sleep is no fun, but especially sucks when you’re smack dab in the middle of training. So here I am freaking out, wasting away ( losing weight), and I take off to Georgia to primarily attend a wedding and get a run in during my short stay. Sunshine, peace and quiet, friends, big roads and less traffic, wide open spaces, the Savannah River and the blanket of nature provided the necessary salve to my aches and pain. Returning to New York I find myself in Marathon city in the thick of training, Boston registration looming and Sept 11 memorial tributes.

Not surprisingly I came back on the mend after discovering the miracle of wine – I’m of the view it preserved my sanity. Back home, back in running form, and really I just dive in, back to the gym and back to getting Chicago ready. I’m working on bumping up my diet even though my mouth is still tender and eating is such a pain; but a runner has to do what she has got to do. Quite a bit on my agenda in the next couple months, there’s the Chi marathon, registering for Boston 2017 and volunteering at NYC marathon and of course training doesn’t stop as.. hopefully Boston’s up. All this as the weather cools down and we enter the training period I like the least. I will try not to anticipate that at this time.

We’re sweltering a bit these days but I’m not complaining, I’m gonna squeeze as much sunshine as I can out of these last fall days with the hope that it’s not gonna be too bad moving forward. So steamy days aside, where I just hunker down at the gym, it’s good getting back in the game and enjoying the vibes of the city. This is Marathon season and no city does it like New York as New Yorkers prepare for the largest running event of the year. It’s an exciting time to be in the city and to be a part of the New York City Marathon. But before that, I run Chicago and past experience does not lie. It was a phenomenal run and I plan on making that happen again.

While Marathon fever is in the air, New Yorkers are very somber this weekend with remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the City of New York 15 years ago. It’s a sad but also strong time for the city that will go down in history as a time when the state of New York rallied together to foster hope, community and support to all those affected that tragic day. We remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives then and subsequently in relation to those events. While all this is going down this weekend, I have my long run planned for later, which I always do in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. I’m reminded that I have the opportunity to run, which is more than they will ever have. I am thankful.

A Check-In with our 2016 Running Goals

2016-predictions-930x527

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you could spend the rest of your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland

We’re back in “running” business! It’s always a struggle to get runners to rest up, mainly because we’re too afraid of losing momentum. We often think that we will have to fight our way back in as the body can become quite use to being on vacation. There may be some merit to that but only to the extent that a break amounts to weeks or months off. Surely it can’t mean one will suffer a setback if he or she takes a well-deserved couple of weeks off? In fact, struggle or not, coming back from my two weeks off feels great and based on my running this week, its all good. You can breathe and rest easy now; two weeks will make you not break you.

Also, we can get ready for better running weather, for it’s May and we’re on the brink of summer – how did that happen? In any event, this is a good time to stop and reassess or check-in regarding our running goals for this year. Yep, the very same ones we were all excited and up in arms about around January 1st of this year. You’re totally entitled to a bit of guilt if you’re nowhere where you want to be, but know that it’s ok. You’re here, healthy (hopefully) and so happily you can give it another shot.

A big goal of mine was running the Boston Marathon so.. check – not the desired result – but it’s done. Even so, there are other races on my agenda, others I still have to do. What is interesting to note is that as I cross one item of my list, it actually has bearing on my other goals in a real way. Take for example Boston, I have now decided to run it again next year, to earn my medal this time, if my registration is accepted. As a result of this decision, I’ll try for a better qualifying time in Chicago this year. It’s a little crazy how it never stops with me; it’s as though there will always be another goal, another race. Maybe there always will be, but goals do many things, chief among them is to inspire us to give of our very best and even if we fail, we get up, stomp the dust off and try again.                                                          

In the upcoming months, (half the year is almost up, unbelievable), I have two, maybe three, big races and a few smaller ones while I have my heart set on a 5k and Half-Marathon PR. Additionally, I have a charity goal to fulfill which I will do at the Chicago Marathon. Because summer is usually an all-round hot time, I will be limiting my runs to fun, short ones with one destination marathon in July.                                             

I jokingly say that my life is a scatter plot, with my running all over the graph. But despite how it seems, it keeps me focused and happy – the world could go to pieces around me, as long as I’m running, it’s fine. LOL! I’m kidding! It’s really not that bad, just a tad bit crazy (my friends would say). Regardless, I’m no fine running example as I have fallen off the goal wagon a time or two. For yet another year, I’ve been terrible with keeping count of my miles while I can’t seem to start the tri program just yet. I try to convince myself that maybe I will in the summer but in the meantime between getting a handle on my health ( making sure I’m fit as a fiddle) and getting coached to improve my time, and working and keeping up with my volunteer activities, I’m a little stretched for time. While I’m not complaining, since that’s the way I like it, I would love time to slow down just a tad and maybe someone up there can add a few more hours to my days? Just saying.

Sick With Marathon Fever

imageHow many know it’s marathon season and that no where in the world do you feel it like here in New York City. The way I see it, it begins with Fall and lasts right through November though there is no official advent into what is in fact the most hyped running time of the year. This is due largely in part to the feature running event of the year being held here every November – the newly named, TCS NYC Marathon, a premier running event here in New York and perhaps the world as it is one of the World Marathon Major Series. In fact, it follows the Chicago marathon, which was two weeks ago and the Berlin marathon a couple weeks before that, all part of the Marathon Majors as well.

As a regular New Yorker, one can’t help but get caught up in the hype. The city lives and breathes running, its signs are everywhere: at the subway stations, in the shopping centers, the streets, on the air, everywhere. As a New York runner, it’s a bigger deal, with most runners rounding of their year of training with the run of a lifetime here in New York. Of course there are other marathons around this time as well, like the Philadelphia marathon, rock and roll Las Vegas, Marine Corp in DC and the Nike women’s marathon in San Francisco to name a few, and there’re even runners doing more than one of those. In fact, it’s not unheard of to run from Chicago to New York to Philly, not literally of course, but to take on those three marathons in succession. Whatever the reason, there is a whole bunch of running crazy going on; so much so, that you run the risk ..no pun intended..of company each time you go out for a run. Runners are everywhere: the parks, the busy city streets, the relatively quiet neighborhoods, the gyms, the outer boroughs – everywhere. The air is palpable and the feeling is infectious, everyone knows and a great deal care about the marathon. On Sunday November 2, it is expected 50,000 runners will take to the streets of New York City, accompanied and cheered on by thousands of spectators: members of the running community, family, friends, visitors and everyone else. If that is not in essence a celebration then I don’t know what is.  How to live here and not be a part of that? You either run, get run over, run out of town..kidding..mostly anyhow, or preserve sanity and health and, in the words of New York Road Runners (NYRR), get your run on.

Last year I had the privilege to run amid that 50,000 and what an experience it was. So good in fact, I’m back for more, though not running this time as I had other goals this year. This year I’m part of the spectator/volunteer crowd and think being on the other side should be quite something itself. It’s so cool that last year I ran in wave 2 of the orange coral and this year I get to be an Orange Coral Marshall; in case you couldn’t tell, I’m all about experiences and can I tell you, life is full of them and that is enough reason for living, loving and running.

In addition, I’m thick in the midst of all things running because I’m gearing up for Philly marathon on November 23. Training has offered me the opportunity to run all over the city sure, but it has also given me an insider’s view on how enthused New Yorkers are to this whole idea, rage, sport, fad -call it what you will- it’s real and like I stated above, likened to being caught with a bug, fever and all. Whether it’s 6am or 9pm makes little difference to runners out here, only the rain can cause a decline in their presence and even so temperatures must be low. As the marathon draws near, a week and a half away to be exact, a lot of runners are tapering down as training is pretty much done for this event, though I imagine the ones that are out there are just maintaining form now while others like myself are looking to the next run. In any event, that’s my rationale for the many I see daily on my runs in and around this fevered-marathon city. You can tell I love it here right..I’m the very biased, not-so-subtle aspiring New Yorker.

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