Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Well, the Chicago Marathon is over!  I have so much to say about it and don't know where to start, so this will probably end up a little scattered, but I'll do my best.  And I'll also probably have a post every day this week on various events of race weekend (the expo, the pasta party, the recovery, etc.) but I'll try to keep this one to the actual race recap.

Summary/spoiler alert: I finished in 3:23:15!  A PR by close to 6 minutes and Boston Qualifier!

My parents dropped off Angela, Olivia, and I as close as they could to the starting area and we made our way through the security checkpoints.  The weather turned out to be absolutely perfect for marathon running, but the morning was rather chilly.  We were wearing clothes that we could discard at the start line and never see again - to be donated to a homeless shelter in Chicago.  Angela and I discarded our clothes right before entering the corral and a man with a vest that said "Clothing Donations" was on his walkie talkie saying "we are going to need way more bins."  There were mountains of sweatpants and sweatshirts all around.

We also waited in a really long porta-potty line...but glad we did so before the race.  Once we got settled in a spot in the corral, it was time to go within about 5-10 minutes.

The first 8 miles of the race flew by.  It was definitely the easiest/most fun hour-ish of running I've ever done.  Our goal was to start at 8 minute pace for 4 miles and then pick it up to 7:30-7:40.  I don't remember splits exactly, but I think the first mile was 7:49 so we said we could ease up a bit.  The problem was that we were stuck behind the 3:30 pace group which was huge and taking up a lot of space all running together.  So over the next 3 miles, we were still doing about 7:45-7:50 working our way up and around that 3:30 group, but still not trying to go too fast.

We saw so many people throughout the course - the first being Catherine and Matt around mile 3.  I almost missed them but luckily they saw us and called out...and I heard them over my awesome playlist of music which will be a whole separate post because obviously you need to know exactly what I listened to for 26.2 miles.

I think I could also write a decent amount on all my spectators and signs, so I will save that for later, but the important thing right now is that I saw my family around mile 4.5 for the first time and I was STARVING (I'll explain why when I write about the pasta party...do you like all my cliffhangers?) so I yelled to my mom to buy me a bagel.

Sure enough, when I saw them again around mile 11, my dad had the bagel for me so I grabbed half and ate it while running.  I took water at every water stop, and Gatorade at I think only 2 during the first half and every station the 2nd half.  Apparently when you lose a lot of sodium, your body essentially starts producing salt, so I had a white ring around my face when I finished.  I also took GU Energy Gel 3 times throughout the race - around miles 9, 16, and 22.

Angela and I didn't talk much throughout the race, but when we did, the conversation went like this:

*Pass a mile marker*
"We should slow down a little and save it for later"
"Yeah, we should"
*Pass a mile marker*
"We should slow down"
"Yeah, we should"
*Pass a mile marker*
"This is comfortable, but we should maybe slow down a little more"
"Yeah, we should"

But we did not slow down.  I personally am glad we did not...hopefully Angela feels OK about it.  I know it is best to run negative or even splits (or even slightly positive splits at the marathon distance since negative/even splits are extremely difficult at that distance), but I also knew that by the time we were at mile 9, I needed to just go with it while I felt good.  And I did feel really good.  Angela decided to ease up a little and dropped back from me around mile 15-16.

(professional photo by MarathonFoto)

Around mile 19, Mac magically appeared.  I was very surprised because he had passed Angela and I around mile 10, but apparently he made a bathroom pit stop somewhere along the way.  He and I ran together for about the next 2 miles until he started to fade back a little.

I was actually pleasantly surprised with how even my pacing was for all of the race.  Yes, I died off the last 10k, but not nearly as much as I could have (or did during my previous marathons).  I ran it pretty exactly according to my plan.  Since I knew I wanted to beat my time from the Columbus Marathon in 2010 and I knew my splits from that race at the 10k, half, and 20 mile marks, that's what I was comparing myself to.  I was 1:40 ahead of pace at the 10k, which worried me a little because I was afraid maybe we did go out a little too fast.  But actually, I remember thinking I was only 40 seconds ahead...not a minute and 40 seconds.

(professional photo by MarathonFoto) 

And it's a good thing I did think that because at the half, I was 58 seconds ahead of my first half of Columbus.  And knowing myself, if I would've thought that I went from being 1:40 ahead of pace to only 0:58 ahead of pace, that might've mentally screwed me up a bit...but what you don't know can't hurt you.

After we hit the halfway mark, my plan was just to make it to 20 as fast as I could, knowing that no matter what, the last 10k was going to be miserable.  I wanted to/thought I could be at mile 20 between 2:31 and 2:34.  My brain was shut down at this time, but I think I remember being there right around 2:32:00 - 2:32:30, which was 2 to 2 and a half minutes ahead of my Columbus pace.  I didn't mentally put that split into my head though because I thought they recorded a 20 mile split with the chip so I figured I'd look later, but I guess not.

(professional photo by MarathonFoto)

Where I started to really struggle was around mile 18.  I knew I had about an hour or so to go and knew I could do it, but that's where I did start to experience some mental doubt in how fast I could realistically do those last 8 miles...I went from feeling pretty awesome to not so great pretty darn quickly.  I made the decision to walk through the next water stop I saw and that I'd walk through each one after that, which is also exactly what I did in Columbus.

So I would run all the way to the very last Gatorade person at each water station, take that cup, and start walking while I drank it and then take one of the very first cups of water, drink what I could, and make myself start running.  I imagine each stop was about 30 seconds, but really I had no concept of time.  I once again surprised myself with the fact that I really did make myself start running ASAP after drinking my liquids.

The last mile was pretty much the worst thing ever, especially "Mt. Roosevelt," the small hill within in the final 400 meters of the course. By this point I really knew I was going to finish in a great time though, so that made me push throug that final mile. And I saw Aunt Bernadette  saying "you're doing it!" Because she knew I would PR.

And then I finished!!

 (professional photo by MarathonFoto)

So I have a lot more details I could share and want to share, but those will come later this week because I've done enough rambling for now.  Basically, the race went as perfect as it could have and my pacing was better (more even...not quite as much dying at the end) than I could've ever expected from myself.


  1. I tweeted it, but I'll say it again here: You are a runnin' fool. KILLED IT.

  2. Awesome! So happy for you!

  3. Great blog Colleen! Im soooooo happy you recorded all of your training and events leading up to the marathon, it will be fun to look back and read when the soreness is long gone and we start thinking about training for another one, (then ill go instantly to your uploaded photo of professional marathon photo #1 and reconsider, hahaha)