Chicago was marathon number 3 for me this year and number 6 over the last two years that I’ve been doing this. Last year around this time I was running around the streets of New York trying to run a qualifying time to run in Chicago this year – luckily enough I managed that ??????. You see – it’s all happened a bit by accident this marathon thing. My first marathon in London 2018 was for Multiple Sclerosis and on the run up to that I applied for the NY marathon ballot and was lucky enough to get in! My plans to run in London quickly turned into London, NY and I threw Edinburgh in too! My luck in 2018 hadn’t run out – I was then lucky enough to get the club place for London 2019 – and this led to me running a qualifying time to run in Boston 2020, my next foreign adventure!
Anyway, back to Chicago – I arrived a couple of days before to do the usual pre race things – pick up bib and take a few pics! It was cold, wet and windy on the Friday before the race, however the forecast for the race was a wee bit better but still to be really cold for the 7:30 start! I laid all my kit out on the Saturday and had a quiet day downtown on the tour bus with not much walking around.
I was up around 4am for race day. That sounds early but I was still more or less on UK time so it felt more like 10am! My usual porridge brekkie and a short bus and train ride had me down to the bag drop and changing in Grant Park for 6am! Only issue was it was really cold, around 2 or 3 degrees so difficult to keep warm! I had every piece of clothing on that I had taken down and was still shivering. I decided around 6:40 it was time to get ready and as it was a little warmer, but still cold. At this point I’d decided to run with a base layer and my Harriers vest! This all changed around 2 mins from the start when I decided to take my base layer off – all a bit of last minute panic!
The elites were off at 7:30 and my wave around 6 mins later. I wasn’t quite sure how quickly I was going to aim to run, maybe aim for 3:15 which would be 3 mins inside my PB, however as the race started I set off well under my 4:40/km pace – more like 4:28!!! Therein lies the story of what would unfold around mile 21…I had been injured for a few weeks over the summer and wasn’t quite sure where I was at with training and fitness. Maybe the rest would have done me good? Maybe my stamina would still be ok as I’ve been marathon training for the best part of 2 years? Would marathon number three this year take its toll???
The race itself was going well for a couple of hours – it’s a relatively flat and fast course with great support all the way around. Big wide streets and lots of space to move around. I was through half way around 1:35! This was looking more like 3:12/13 than 3:18! Way too quick, but I was committed now, I still felt ok and there was only 90 mins to go! Oops! Around mile 16 there was a 3 mile stretch into the very strong breeze! This wasn’t fun! The turn out of this couldn’t come quick enough and as we approached the turn I knew I was in a bit of trouble – my legs began to feel sore and shoulders felt tight and heavy too. I dug in and tried to adjust my pace and goal – maybe 3:15 was still possible? As the miles ticked by it became clear that 3:15 was becoming 3:16, 17, 18…..
I could see downtown and Grant Park appear with a mile or so to go – I picked my pace up a little and as I turned into Grant Park I could see the finish, maybe 100 meters to go….I could see the finish as my PB ticked over on my watch … 19 seconds outside my PB! Ahhhh – the feeling of disappointment was mixed with pain and elation! Kind of weird! 19 seconds!! I know I should have ran to my 3:15 plan but in the end, I’ve no regrets I went for a really quick time, maybe a little outside my current capability but I left everything out there and I’ve learned (again!) about the challenge of running 26.2!
Chicago is a fantastic city and the race was brilliantly organised and very well supported all the way around. Ideally it would have been a little warmer and less windy on the day – but it’s rarely ever perfect running conditions. A great piece of advice from Dave on my Facebook post – marathons are a 20 mile warm up run and a 10k race at the end! This is advice I need ?
As I mentioned earlier, Boston Marathon in April is next for me. I’m also running Berlin Marathon next September. For those of you that follow this kind of thing that means I’ll only have the Tokyo marathon to run to complete the ‘Big 6’ (London, NY, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo). In the meantime, it’s winter training and more hills, trails and gym for me! I’m sure I’ll see you around at the Grand Prix races through the winter and hopefully some training nights if I can fix my schedule and plans!!
Thanks for reading ??????