On Sunday, I ran all 26.2 miles of the Chicago Marathon in under five hours.
There are no words to define how happy and relieved I am that all of my hard work and training has finally paid off, but I’ll do my best to describe race day.
After relaxing, mentally preparing, and loading up on carbs on Saturday, I woke up on Sunday morning at 4:30 AM full of nerves. I was excited, but also feeling frantic about the race. However, after getting to Grant Park and meeting up with Ashley, Chris and Megan, my nerves turned into adrenaline and excitement. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the starting corral it was already packed, and we got stuck back by the 5:30 pace group. This, combined with the heat, contributed to my time being slower than I wanted because I spent pretty much the whole race dodging around people. It took 28 minutes to pass the starting line because there were so many runners, but that just made the excitement build even more.
I started out the race with Megan, who has had issues training because of her hip problems. We maintained roughly the same pace, so we decided to be running buddies. I saw my family at around mile 3, which gave me another big burst of adrenaline, and Megan and I were maintaining a 10:15 minute mile for the first 7 miles. Unfortunately, that’s when the temperature started to rise.
When the race began, the alert level was green, which meant good conditions for the race. However, soon the temperatures began to climb, and the alert level changed to yellow, and finally to red. I have to say that miles 14-16 were the most difficult I have ever run in my life. I was feeling fatigued, and the heat was really getting to me. By the time Megan and I got to mile 20, we had slowed down to roughly 11 or 12 minute miles, and the temperature had reached 88 degrees over the pavement. It was hot, we were tired, and we could barely keep running, but we willed ourselves to keep moving. By this point, many of the runners around us were walking or being guided to the medical tent. If not for the aid stations at almost every mile where volunteers handed out Gatorade and water, I probably would have needed medical attention too. Miles 20-24 were excruciating. I kept looking for the mile markers and thinking, “this can’t be right, we have to be at the next mile by now.” Finally, Megan dropped back at around mile 24, but I was determined to keep running, even when nearly everyone around me was walking. When I reached mile 25, I found my last reserve of energy and began picking up the pace for the finish. At the final hill at mile 26, I pushed myself as hard as I could to keep running.
When I reached the top of the hill and saw the finish line, I was ecstatic. I felt a huge burst of energy and sprinted the final .2 miles to the finish, passing people left and right on my way down. My friend who was watching said I looked like I was running as fast as the elite runner and Chicago Marathon winner Sammy Wanjiru, although I know that is a bit of an exaggeration, to say the least. Crossing the finish line was one of the best moments of my life, and in that moment I knew that I would run another marathon. There is truly nothing like it.
Of course, after the race I was completely exhausted, and I can barely walk today. After the race on Sunday I saw some people running near my apartment, and I literally felt sick watching them. I think I’m going to need a good solid week off of running, but I think I deserve it.
Below are pictures of me and my friends after the race. I ended up finishing in 4:56, which is slower than I wanted, but it was still under five hours, and almost all of the runners were off their pace due to the heat. Megan finished in about five hours, Chris ran the race in 4:35, and Ashley ran it in 4:25. She’s an amazing runner. Next time I’ll be faster. And yes, there will be a next time.