I’m still having a hard time comprehending that I ran the Chicago Marathon less than a week ago. I can’t believe that after all my hard work and training I was finally able to accomplish my goal. It’s such an incredible feeling!
Even though I can’t wrap my head around the idea that I ran a marathon, my body is certainly not done reminding me what I put it through last Sunday. Today is the first day that I’m not distractingly sore, and I hope to try to go for an easy run later. On Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday I was so sore that I could barely move. It was so bad that I couldn’t even sit down without holding onto something – I felt like my grandma! Another interesting thing about running soreness is that it becomes difficult to walk down stairs after a strenuous running workout, whereas walking up stairs is far easier. It took me a long time to walk down the stairs in my apartment for those first few days after the race.
Another post-marathon symptom I experienced was extreme fatigue. I took naps on both Monday and Tuesday along with getting over eight hours of sleep per night, and I was still tired. Thursday was the first day that I was able to stay awake all day without feeling exhausted, which was a good thing because I had two exams in school that day! Of course, I was also extremely hungry in the days after the marathon. On Sunday after the race I ate two bananas, two bowls of pasta and lasagna and bread. My body definitely needed to refuel after running 26.2 miles.
In order to recover faster, I consulted Hal Higdon’s tips on “Zero Week”, or recovery in the first week after the marathon. He suggests a program that is essentially a reverse of Taper Week, which involves carb loading for the few days after the marathon, as well as fueling up on bananas and yogurt which are easily absorbed into the body. He also suggests no running until at least Thursday after the race. I had no problem with waiting to start running again; my muscles were so sore that it was hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone go for a run.
Now that my body and mind are feeling better, I am ready to get back out there and start running again. As I mentioned in my last post, I think I am going to get hooked on running marathons after this amazing experience. Training is great mental and physical exercise, and the feeling of making it through the race and crossing the finish line is truly like no other.
Since this is my last post, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have followed my training from the beginning – your support really helped me stay motivated throughout the last few months and inspired me to finish the race. I also wanted to thank Eastbay for donating products to me – the miCoach in particular helped me stay on track with training, and the GU was vital during long runs and for the marathon itself. And, of course, I never could have finished the race without my faithful Mizuno Wave Creation 11 shoes.
I want to encourage all of you who are considering running a marathon to check out some training programs and give the idea some serious thought. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon doubting that I would ever be able to run 26.2 miles, but through sticking to my training program I was able to accomplish my goal. Running a marathon was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life – I highly recommend it. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, running a marathon changed my perspective on life.
This quote sums up my marathon experience as a whole:
I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible. – John Hanc
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.
On Thursday I went to Niketown, Nike’s huge store on Michigan Avenue, to scope out Nike’s 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon official merchandise that will be at the Health and Fitness Expo today. I know that it will be crowded at the expo with all of the participants there to get their race numbers and information, so I wanted to have some idea of Nike’s merchandise before attending the expo. When I got to Niketown, I realized that the two huge store windows were decorated with all 45,000 of the marathon participant’s names. Pedestrians were stopping to check out the huge list of names, and I joined a few fellow marathon runners in an attempt to find my own name on the windows. Luckily my name was at eye level, and I was able to find it fairly quickly. In a strange twist of fate, the man who was next to me searching for his name happened to find his name right next to mine!
One of the windows full of names. Yes, those are people's names on the window.
I was so excited to see my name on a list with top runners like Sammy Wanjiru and Irina Mikitenko. Obviously I am not as talented of a runner as these elite athletes, but I am very proud of myself for coming this far in my training. I never would have believed that I could run a marathon. When I tell people that I’m running the Chicago Marathon, so many say, “I could never do that.” The truth is that if you really set your mind to accomplishing this goal and your body is healthy, running a marathon is not only possible, but empowering. I know that I am going to experience the best feeling in the world when I cross the finish line on Sunday, and if all goes well I hope to continue running marathons in the future.
My friends and family have been sending good luck cards all week, and along with the positive messages I’m getting from my Blog followers, I know I have enough motivation to finish the race – so thanks for your support!
Taper madness is really starting to hit me with only four days left until the marathon. I am only allowed to run three miles today, four tomorrow, two on Thursday, and I’m required to take Friday and Saturday off. Even running 12 miles on Friday seemed easy compared to the long runs I have been doing lately. My three-mile run on Sunday felt ridiculously easy. I know that I’m supposed to be resting right now, but resting is proving even more stressful than running 20 miles at this point in the game.
On the bright side, the fact that the 12-miler and these short runs are so easy for me shows that I am ready for race day on Sunday. I know that I will be nervous this weekend, but my family and friends are coming to cheer me on. I’m hoping that my own personal cheering section on top of the huge crowds at the event will help me keep running to the finish line.
Of course, my finish won’t be nearly as dramatic as watching the elite runners at the end of the race. My parents and friends wanted to follow me around the course to cheer me on, but I urged them to stay in Grant Park to watch the fastest runners finish the race. When I went to the Chicago Half Marathon last month, I was in awe watching the fastest individuals cross the finish line, and I’m sure watching the top finishers at the marathon this weekend will be just as incredible. I’ve been researching the elite runners who are competing in the marathon, and I must say I’m intimidated. The first runner on the list, Sammy Wanjiru from Kenya, ran his personal best marathon in 2:05:10, and he broke the Chicago Marathon course record at the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:05:41. That’s sub-five-minute miles! The first woman listed, Irina Mikitenko from Germany, ran her fastest marathon in 2:15:15. Unbelievable. I almost wish I wasn’t running, just so I could see these amazing athletes compete. I’m hoping to relive the action through my parents; I told them to take lots of pictures and videos of the top finishers. I’ll make sure to post the pictures on my Blog when the marathon is over.
To view a full list of the elite athletes, click HERE.
Watch the video below to catch the action from last year’s Chicago Marathon and watch Sammy Wanjiru break the course record!
Although I know I can’t run as fast as these athletes, they inspire me to reach my personal time goal and remind me of why I chose to run the marathon in the first place. Being able to run first 10, then 15, then 22 miles and soon the full 26.2 miles makes me feel empowered that I can reach any goal I set my mind to. I finally know what it means to get “runner’s high”, and I’m sure I’ll be thrilled after I finish the marathon on Sunday.
The marathon is in just over a week, and I am starting to get nervous. I know that I can run the distance, but because I am being forced to taper off my mileage, I have a lot more time on my hands to obsess about the race. My biggest concern right now is making my desired time of somewhere between 4:30:00 and 4:45:00, which I will try to achieve by staying with a Nike Pace Group. I am also thinking about my diet for the week before the race, which will basically include a lot of pasta and other carbohydrates. It is more important to ingest carbohydrates than proteins the week before the marathon, because the body needs the energy that carbohydrates provide. As far as my running schedule, I have only done a five- and a seven-mile run as well as cross training in the last week, and today I am running 12 miles. I know that I am supposed to be saving up energy for the race, but I am still going crazy with all this spare time on my hands. At least taper time has given me the opportunity to catch up on some school work!
This past week, I talked to Megan, Ashley and Chris, who are signed up to do the marathon with me. Unfortunately, Megan is not sure she can compete, since her hip and her knees are still bothering her. She said she is able to do five or six miles about three times per week, but she hasn’t done a run over 12 miles in the whole time she has been training because of her physical issues. I feel really bad for Megan, because I know that if it were me in her position, I would be dying to run, but since she has hip and knee problems, it is probably unwise for her to risk her body to run the whole 26.2 miles.
Chris and Ashley are still planning on running the race. In fact, Ashley wants to sign up for the 4:15:00 Nike Pace Group! I think she’s crazy. I don’t think I could ever finish in that amount of time. Chris said that Ashley keeps pressuring him to join that pace group as well, but he also thinks that the 4:15:00 pace would be pushing it. Chris isn’t planning on signing up for a pace group, because I don’t think he wants the pressure of finishing in a specific time. My personal goal is to finish around the same time as Chris, and if I finish ahead of him, I’ll be really proud of myself.
My final piece of preparation has been creating a “26.2 Playlist” on my iPod to listen to during the marathon. Below are samples of my top songs for the end of the race when I’m going to need the most adrenaline. I can’t wait to play them on race day!
Sleigh Bells – Crown on the Ground
Santogold – Creator
Rise Against – Audience of One
Ratatat – Lex
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
Eminem – ‘Till I Collapse
Chiddy Bang – The Opposite of Adults
Arcade Fire – Wake Up
Let me know which song would be the best for crossing the finish line in the comments!