My Sweet 16

My Sweet 16

A week late but not forgotten –my race recap from the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

I’m beginning to think that running a fall marathon, while also being in school FT and working FT, brings with it some degree of clockwork.  It usually goes something like this: the week of the marathon I’m mind-numbingly busy with school and/or work, leaving me virtually no time to think about the race; the race comes with no real issue of trepidation or anxiety and thus, goes over relatively well (though it’s usually warmer than I’d like); and then, in the week or so after the race, when I keep thinking I need to write that race report for my blog!, things are still numbingly busy and, a week later, I finally get a chance to sit down and recreate the race experience.  This time was no exception.

Regardless, at the end of the day, the Chicago marathon was lovely.  Not horrible, not grand, but more than ok.  Just lovely.  Keep in mind that I hadn’t planned to run Chicago again until I was at least 40, mostly out of superstition, since every other time I had run the race (2007, 2008) it was hot as hell.  When Chicago Athlete presented me with a comped race entry, though, it was too good to pass up.  Plus, there’s something to be said for racing locally, especially when there’s a world-class event in your own backyard.

Going into the race, I was primed and ready and able to run a 3:35, based on indicators I had gleaned from previous runs and from a summer’s worth of speedwork sessions.  I hypothesized that if all went well—specifically, if both the weather and my internal organs (mostly those in the GI territory) cooperated, I would be good to go.  My organs did their part last Sunday morning (good job, guys!).  The weather, on the other hand, left something to be desired.

I knew, going into the race, that things would start to heat up from the mid-60s at the 7:30 race start to closer to 80 by about a couple hours in, when I figured I’d be more than halfway along and, unfortunately, entering the unadulteratedingly sunny back-section of the course.  My plan was to take the race one mile at a time and adjust things as I needed to.  So much of marathon day is beyond our control—especially when it comes to the weather!—so I figured that having this perspective would allow me to not only keep calm but really, to keep things in perspective.

In the minutes immediately preceding the start of the race, some of my training buddies and I managed to meet up in the starting corrals, but this was only after one friend got relegated to the open start for not having a bib (though her number was far lower than any of ours), after we were ushered from the massively-long port-a-potty lines because we didn’t have enough time to get into our starting places, and, barring a bladder debacle, after I managed to drop my drawers in public (and partially piss on myself, nasty!) because I knew that not going to the bathroom before starting a marathon was non-negotiable.

Aside these lovely pre-start antics, the race came and went relatively free of issue.  By about mile 4, after I had been hitting my 3:35 target pace, I realized that things felt far warmer than the 70 degrees that the thermostat read, and combined with a total lack of wind (I’m pretty sure the first time I’ve ever run in the city in a total absence of air flow!), the 3:35 wasn’t mine for the day.  Slightly annoyed that I was, I just decided to have fun with the race and people-watch for the next 22 miles.  I saw two of my friends at the Addison turn-around, decked out in their larger-than-life foam cowboy hats, and throughout the race, I ran into many of my running and training buddies and former coaches, so it was like a little mobile reunion.  I looked for, but did not see, C at the Sears Tower, but he found me and taped me running past him on video.

As the race continued, I was still enjoying myself and making the best of what the elements had thrown at me that day, for I figured that having anything less than a “well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” attitude would make the remaining miles unduly painful and unpleasant.  It’s just a matter of perspective, I kept telling myself.  It was in these moments, especially, that I really began to think about the larger picture of running and of what it means to be able to run freely and safely in my hometown, a luxury not afforded to all.  These thoughts were humbling, to say the least, and really made me reflect (as much as I could, anyway) on the sheer gratitude that I have for being able to run in my city—and especially so, given all my social identifiers (my age, my sex, that sort of thing).  This introspection seemed especially pronounced to me, given my relatively new “+1” running status 🙂  I can’t help but think of the future.

At the end of the day, I ended up running the same time that I did in ’08 Chicago, another hot race, and at Sunburst earlier this summer, an even hotter and more humid race: 4:09.  I guess I’m consistent as a hot-weather runner.  Is the time my best?  No way.  My worst?  Absolutely not.  But in the larger scheme of things, I had fun, and I enjoyed the experience, and I stayed out of harm’s way, which is the most I could ask for on a day that the event alert status transitioned from “green” to “red” by the time I had started (and finished) the race.

I feel confident (now) to say that I want to hang-up my Chicago Marathon shoes for a while and explore other fall locales and marathons, but part of the experience of marathon training and racing is being open to the experience and, more importantly, making yourself vulnerable.  If we don’t put ourselves out there—in terms of shooting for a stretch goal or challenging ourselves to have a different perspective or outlook on an experience—we will never really know what we are capable of accomplishing, as I insinuated in an earlier pre-race post.

There really is something to the marathon.  As I quoted Douglas Wakiihuri earlier,

“There is truth about the marathon”

and if you’ve never run one, as he says,

“you’ll never understand it.  You’re outside of it.”

Happy Sweet Sixteen to me 🙂

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