Yesterday was the big day – I officially became a marathoner!  The Chicago Marathon was nothing short of amazing and still seems like some sort of crazy, surreal dream.  I can honestly say that I had the best run of my life yesterday as I made it through 26.2 miles fueled by the energy of the crowds (over 100,000!) and the beauty of Chicago.  Here’s a quick recap:

  • COLD start at 7:30 AM made me very glad I made a last minute outfit switch and went with a long sleeved shirt vs. my original plan to wear short sleeves + arm warmers
  • Started off on pace (goal was 10-10:30 minute miles) which is something I’ve struggled with – I’ve been typically starting off much faster and taking 2-3 miles to settle into my longer distance pace
  • SO MANY spectators!  It was amazing to have support for nearly all of the race.  The miles went by much faster taking in the variety of crowds and reading some pretty amusing signs
  • Having your iPhone die at mile 18 is a bit of a bummer (but I was expecting this to happen thanks to the iOS 6 update).  I successfully made it through my first ever run without music but I’ll admit, I did panic for a second there.  Was sad I didn’t get to listen to more of my amazing #CM12 playlist I had made the night before.
  • On the music note, having songs suggested by certain people or that just remind you of someone is awesome motivation.  I loved having a memory triggered by each song on my playlist – kept me going and feeling like I had friends & family there with me who weren’t at the race.
  • When you gotta go, you gotta go.  I lost a few minutes to a pee stop at mile 8 but hey, it happens.  I figure I lost 3-5 minutes with this when you factor in the dressing and undressing part (gloves, iPhone, fannypack, etc.) but whatever.
  • “There will be a day where you can no longer do this… today is not that day” – saw this sign several times during the marathon and it really hit home.  I’ve been using the phrase, “Running is a privilege” as a motivator for the past few months and it couldn’t be more true.  I feel beyond lucky to be able to set a goal to run a marathon (or a 5K, or a half marathon, etc.) and actually go out and do it.  It’s not that easy or even possible for so many others.
  • Have a friend at mile 25, trust me.  Seeing Molly right before the final push was exactly what I needed to dig deep and push it up “Mt. Roosevelt” (the one real hill on the course at mile 26) and sprint to the finish.  SO happy that I got to see her (THANK YOU, Molly!!) and it was the perfect end to the race.
  • While I told everyone I did not have a “goal time” and I just was focusing on finishing, I really did (it was 4:30).  I knew I’d have to push pretty hard to make this and it wasn’t exactly realistic given my lack of training – I’m very proud and happy with my finish time of 4:39:15.

And with that, I was done.  I was wrapped in a space blanket (aka something I have secretly always wanted), given my medal and handed a free beer – I was a marathoner, something I’ve boldly claimed I’d NEVER want to do.  If you had asked me even six months ago if I’d ever run a marathon, I would have told you that running 26.2 miles sounded completely miserable, but you know what, it really wasn’t.  Fundraising for American Cancer Society and being part of the DetermiNation team allowed my training and racing to be about something bigger than just me.  I’m still amazed by the generosity of my friends and family and together we raised over $1,800 for ACS (with an original goal of $1,000!).  The DetermiNation team was also such an incredible group to be a part of and the ACS tent at the race was SO well organized – from gear check to  a great post-race party with food and massages and the works – being welcomed back after the race and greeted with a high five was one of those moments I’ll always remember.  

Although I still can’t say I’ll run another marathon (the fate of my running career is still TBD – a little more optimistic from my previous decision to retire after the marathon), I can tell you that there really is nothing more satisfying than setting a big goal for yourself and then achieving it.  So go ahead, think big.   Don’t be intimidated and don’t ever doubt yourself – you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish.