The Chicago Marathon 2021. It’s been a bucket list race for so many years, and three weeks ago I finally was able to toe the line. It was warmer than they anticipated, about 15 degrees warmer – yikes, 75 degrees start was not what I was hoping for. Still, I felt confident. I knew my fitness was there despite nagging injuries, I had run plenty of miles, and my Chiro and PT had helped me through it all. So my wave started around 7:45am and I felt great, I had to really hold myself back from going out too hard, the crowd was energetic and loud. The course just barely rolling – what a thrill.
10K in and I was in a stride still holding myself back trying to stay between the 3:25 and 3:20 pacers, for now. I knew I could keep this pace up no problem, the only hard moments were when the wind decided to gust in your face – it knocks your breathing off rhythm but I didn’t think too much about it. 10 miles in and while my legs still felt fresh as ever, something didn’t feel quite right, it was hard to place it. Was it my back, my leg that had given me trouble, was it the high temp and humidity forcing my lungs to work too hard? It was truly hard to pinpoint. The freshness of my legs, wanted me to keep going, my mind said I shouldn’t. So at 12.5 I dropped to a walk, called Jon on the phone and told him something wasn’t right. I was sad and confused, because I could have kept the pace up the whole way… but something had gone awry and I had to chose what happened next.
I walked 1 minute and then ran 2 minutes trying to loosen up my body, I was done by now no chance at coming back, but the decision to finish or walk off the course was another question entirely. Mindset is everything, I could live in the disappointment, but I could also embrace the atmosphere and the 11 or so miles I had left at this point. I did a body check to make sure I wasn’t actually causing damage to my hips or legs and pressed on. Smiling, chatting, breathing it all in. My legs were still fresh so as long as I circulated in a walk break to make sure I didn’t lock up I could run half miles at a time. Slowly (respectively – I realize it is still a nice clip to most) the miles ticked by. Jon was a rock, catching me at the points I needed it most.
I had fun the last 6 miles, when most people are just toasted my legs could still carry me with my steady clip. So down the last straight away we went and finally the finish line! I walked through feeling fine, until the 80 degrees suddenly caught up to my stomach, embarrassing! I sat down for a moment in the finish shoot (pretty far down, I wasn’t in the way) and quickly got told that I had to keep moving. That sounded dicey. So I breathed slow and steady to keep my stomach from actually taking me out and I made it over to Jon! In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have chugged the whole water bottle at the finish line.
We slowly made our way to the hotel and Jon stopped in for donuts that was just a block down. I didn’t feel like eating anything yet the donuts seemed like a great idea. Jon was so sweet to get a six count variety pack and I took small bites of each so we could try them all. It did not disappoint (shout out to Stan’s Donuts). We didn’t have as much time as we had hoped for since I finished about 45 minutes later than expected, so I quickly showered and headed to our last stop before flying out – Chicago deep dish.
OK, so I’m not a pizza person, however, when I traveled to Chicago in 2013 for a girls weekend we hit one of the iconic Chicago pizza places and I ate it up! This was not that. I am glad I had it, I still love true Chicago deep dish, but do NOT try to force it on your stomach a couple hours after a full marathon. It is not worth it.
The next couple hours were a blur, we made our way to the “L” and on to the airport. I talked to a nice older man from Maryland who had just finished the race as well. These young guns who had no idea what they were doing were sitting near us and asked us for running and fueling advice. Our flight was a few minutes delayed despite the flight attendant’s best efforts to make people board efficiently. I got upgraded at the last minute to Delta Comfort, which made Jon sad but my legs happy. Watched a fascinating documentary about the week after Princess Diana’s death, yes I am one of those people. Had a smooth drive through the city home; night time against the Atlanta Skyline is my favorite. My parents were there to greet us with pumpkin muffins and a sound asleep little boy. That adventure that really was 6 months in the making over, life moves on.
I would recommend Chicago to everyone. It’s an experience. A good one. I will forever look back and be glad I did it despite the result. But Monday started, I had a smiling boy that was so happy and surprised to see me, my work team didn’t care how I did, they are just forever impressed that I run marathons, I had so much support from my community. That’s a really beautiful thing about being a runner, you don’t have expectations added on from outside forces, it just gets to be you, and then when its over life is moving and people are with you through it all. A few days later I was in my kitchen eating ice cream and donuts with my friends and just happy to be there, thankful for the life God has given me.
If God is calling you – you can hold both, and they might have tension. You can set goals, step into the “yes’s” God is asking you too, but regardless if you hit a home run or strikeout, you did something and the people around you will spur you on for better or for worse.