Chicago Marathon Recap: Running gains or pains?

@ Abbott Fitness Expo (Chicago Marathon’19)

Let me just start by saying this marathon course remains my favorite in all the cities I’ve run in the United States. From the start on Columbus Drive in the Grant Park area through its popular wide (I’m from New York) city streets and local districts just outside the city loop: Lincoln Park, University Village, Chinatown etc… and back to the finish in Grant Park it really is a beautiful course with all the trimmings of sights, sounds, and support. One couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day outside of the winds that picked up in the last few miles. No surprise there though, they don’t call it the windy city for nothing. Indeed, notwithstanding the wind, the weather was miles better than last year where it rained the entire time. This brought the fans out in their numbers along the route while sunshine littered the course. A good day for a marathon I’d say!

I’m afraid my back and knees wouldn’t agree. I mean, we had some fun out there during the first half. I enjoyed the crowd support, the pace was great, and so were the volunteers and fuel stations as per always. But man, it was hugely disappointing around mile 13 to feel my lower back caving to the pressure of the tempo pace I had been sticking to from miles 5 through 13. Up till then I had been ignoring the twinges in my right knee, hoping the other knee would remain silent. Unfortunately for me, with the start of those lower back pains, I had to yield to a slower pace and a couple bathroom breaks, which were more rest-my-back breaks, and slowly embrace the pains in both knees by this time, made much worse by my having to overcompensate for my lower back. By mile 18 I was in suck-it-up mode and was working on keeping a steady pace with minor interruptions for fuel – always sticking to the outside and picking it up close to the end of the line. I was aiming for no stops for two reasons: so as to minimize the pain and the length of time for which I was experiencing it, and yes, I was still keeping an eye on my pace. I figured finishing under 3:45 wouldn’t be so bad all things considering.

One thing I have learned over the years with racing and running marathons, and I think I’ve become good at, is adapting and adjusting a racing strategy. Experience has taught me that there’s a 50/50 chance on any given race day that I will actually run the race I had been training for. Because there are factors at play beyond my control such as the weather and, yes, God forbid injuries, one is always hoping and praying that all things being equal it will be a typical/ normal running day. However, if you know anything about typical/ normal these days, you’ve already realized that its no longer a thing. One must roll with the punches and play the hand you’re dealt to avoid being left somewhere at the side of the road eating the proverbial dust. Enough with the cliches, I’m sure you get the gist. That being said, I was prepared to let my body and how it felt that day determine the race I was going to run. Since I was well aware of my knee issues going in I figured I at least knew what, if any, my challenge would be. Imagine my surprise when the back issue popped out of seemingly no where. Only, on further thought – not while I was running but later on after the race, I remember the unfortunate instance of doing a round of heavy deadlifts at the gym the week prior, which had left me sore and pained. Days later the soreness and pain were gone and so was the unfortunate memory. But these things, left untreated, have a way of resurecting. And so that is just what happened.

At the end of the day, the why is less important than the how and the fact remains that because of my experience, training, and sheer determination I was able to suck it up and got to the finish line in a time I could live with. I often joke when asked “what if you don’t finish?” that it’s never a question of if, but when. I’ll endeavor to stay true to that philosophy and in the event I ever feel that I don’t have it within me anymore, I will bow out gracefully, 26.2 miles intact. For now, I can only hope these rolling hills of New York City will be gentler on me. I know what you’re thinking and in all probability you may be right – I’m hardly likely to fare much better here in NYC given the wide disparity in gradients of these two courses. Add to that my obvious disadvantage of being three weeks out from my last race with injuries and well it all seems to add up to one possible outcome right? The only thing is I’m sorta in the habit of defying odds 😉. Oh ye of little faith. 😊

The Buzz is The TCS New York City Marathon

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Every November, here in New York City, we celebrate Marathon Sunday, a legacy of deceased runner and race director of New York Road Runners (NYRR), Fred Lebow. The  New York City (NYC) Marathon is a stalwart tradition to NYC runners and New Yorkers alike. Indeed, it has become an event of international standing and is chief among its other counterparts: Chicago, Boston, London, Tokyo and Berlin, which together make up the World Marathon Major Series.

The Marathon is now in its 46th year and running stronger than ever with 50,530 finishing last year and 50,000 plus the year before that. This year a strong élite field and many sub-elite and competitive athletes will vie for a place among the top finishers while many others, like myself, will settle for raising money for a great cause, a personal record (PR) and a medal. Still others will be in it for the bragging rights, the glory of running on the world’s premier running stage, to make a statement, or, simply for fun. Whatever the reason, crossing the finish line at Central Park will be enough to place you clearly in the shadows of greatness and among the thousands that have achieved the title of NYC marathoner.
For months now we’ve trained for this, each race taking us a step closer to what, for many, is the ultimate marathon experience. Two more days and runners, 40,000 plus of them, will stand together on the Verrazano bridge, God’s willing, and seek to conquer the streets of New York; all five boroughs of this great city to the tune of one million plus spectators. I get the buzz; one would have to be severely incapacitated not to, but I’m a bit more tempered in my approach this time around. The first time I ran New York I was facing my first marathon; in two days it’ll be my seventh so don’t mind if I save the excitement for the course, it will serve to fuel my energy on those rolling streets. Also, I’m coming down from a Chicago-high, which leaves New York with a lot to live up to. Even so, I expect a great race and hope to run my best time here on my home soil – so to speak – actually my second home anyway. It will not be easy as this race is nothing like Chicago – no fast, flat course here – but consists of five bridges, lots of ups and downs and turns; New York City Marathon rolls. The offset is the nice weather we have been promised, the tremendous energy from the crowds and the amazing volunteers. Inspiration abounds on Marathon Sunday and you don’t even have to be a runner to inspire someone. Everyone plays a part in making this race a phenomenal experience for all. You, I know, will be there in spirit if not in person.

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