Growing up, I never really knew anyone who ran marathons. Even when I made a few friends who were distance runners in college, I always kind of thought that it was just something you were born with. You know, some people were born able to run marathons, other people (like me) weren't. It's totally crazy, but that was really what I thought! Even when I started running seriously back in 2010, I still never thought I'd run a marathon. Then, this January, I decided that 2013 was the big year. I signed up with Autism Speaks as a charity runner with Team Up!, and I registered for the Chicago Marathon the next month. Yikes! Okay, I don't need to go into detail about my training--I've been blogging about that since summer! Fast forward to this weekend!
Friday I was off school early thanks to a late night of parent conferences Thursday, so I was able to head to the race expo downtown. I got some fun swag, a bought a great shirt, had some KT tape put on my left foot (ugh plantar faciitis...) that I later decided to peel off, and chatted with the coordinator from Team Up! Autism Speaks. This expo was totally awesome, and the booths were spread out enough that it never felt crazy crowded. After a super busy week at school, things started FINALLY sinking in at the expo--I would be running a marathon in just two days!
|Signing the wall of runners!|
My wake up call came bright (dark?) and early at 4:15am on Sunday. I wasted no time in getting dressed, eating a quick breakfast, and jumping on the L to get myself downtown. I met up with my running buddy Christy and her sister before heading over to our start corral. I was so glad to have Christy with me before the start--chatting with a friend totally calmed my nerves! We also met up with out other friend from running group, Jessica, before the start!
I swear, I would never have made it to the start line without these girls!
Crowds. Gigantic Crowds.
Frozen and ready to start RUNNING!!
The weather was super chilly early on, so I was reeeally grateful for my throwaway jacket, pants, and gloves. I think the whole time standing around in our corral I was mostly in denial--I was so distracted by being FREEZING that I didn't have a chance to get nervous! WIN! Before I knew it, we were off, running through the streets of the Windy City with 40,000 other people. Christy and I ran together and decided to start out running around a 12:30 average pace, sticking to the 5/1 run/walk intervals we trained with over the summer. Christy warned me that she gets excited at races and sucks at pacing herself, so we agreed I would be in charge of keeping us on pace. :) Challenge accepted!
|My parents snapped this pic of the elites running through Old Town|
|Thanks for coming out, Steve!|
|Big smiles--I'm loving this race!|
No matter how bad I feel a run or a race went, there is always a part of running where I am smiling from ear to ear. If running can keep me smiling like that, it will always be a part of my life.
|Having a blast with Christy|
My IT band was really bugging me at this point, and I was stopping to stretch more frequently when I realized that I had stuck two Extra Strength Tylenol in my SPI belt to take around mile 15, and I'd forgotten about them! I popped those babies at the mile 20 aid station along with my third Peanut Butter Gu of the race, washed it all down with some Gatorade and Water, and took off like a new woman. I swear, those Tylenol were a godsend. My legs felt better, and I was able to pick up my pace without needing so many stretch breaks. I booked it out of Pilsen and into Chinatown where the Chinese Dragon put a big smile on my face.
Shortly after that I saw my parents again hanging out in the IIT campus. This was the PERFECT time in the race to see them--it had been awhile since I'd seen a friendly face, and without my running buddy to keep me company anymore, it was a perfect pick me up.
I'm starting to look more like I've been running for 20+ miles at this point...
(This smile is only partially fake...)
As I ran up Michigan Avenue past mile 24, I saw my cousin in the crowd--I almost ran past her, but turned around to give her a big hug. At that point in the race, having a fan cheering for me was a god send. I swear it gave me the energy I needed to get to the finish! Before I knew it, there was the sign for mile 25, then the "1 mile left" sign, then mile 26, 800 yards left, 400 yards left, 100 yards left...I ran up that infamous "hill", turned the corner, and gasped for breath, tears hitting my eyes, when I saw the finish line ahead of me. I dug deep and gave everything I had left in me to sprint across that finish line.
|No finish line pics yet, so I borrowed this old one from here. It looked the same :)|
So many people crossing the finish line of a marathon look as happy as when I won. They have tears in their eyes. This sport is full of winners.
Thanks to the extra tight security in Chicago this year, my parents and I had some trouble reuniting, and I even had trouble finding my way out of the post-race party in Grant Park. My gear was checked at the Hilton hotel through my running group, CARA, but in order to leave Grant Park I had to walk even FURTHER away from the hotel. I swear, that trek down Michigan Ave to the Hilton, clutching my space blanket and water was the toughest part of the day! (That, and the steps down to get on the L later that afternoon...) I kept looking up at the flags for the hotel in the distance, swearing that they weren't getting any closer. But I finally made it there and was reunited with my parents.
The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.
John BinghamFINAL THOUGHTS
They say when you cross the finish line of a marathon, it changes you. I think this is partly true--when I stepped into the finisher's chute and accepted my medal, my space blanket, and my 312 beer, I looked around and realized that finally, FINALLY I was a marathoner. But I think there's more to it than crossing the finish line. Those months of training are also what change you. All of that hard work and effort leading up to this moment when I looked down at the medal around my neck and realized that I'd run a marathon. That training that showed me again and again that anything relaly is possible. I set distance record after distance record for myself this summer, constantly amazing myself as I stretched the limits of what I'd thought I was capable of doing. I learned something important this summer--if you are willing to set big goals, to have faith, and to WORK harder than you've ever worked before, really, anything is possible.
|Thanks Mom + Dad for being the best cheerleaders and parents EVER!|
I run because it's so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can't. But then you find your inner strength, and you realize you're capable of so much more than you thought.
The first child with autism to capture my heart when I was just a 14 year old babysitter...
13 years later and I am still blessed to be a part of his life!
Overall, the day was completely perfect. The Chicago Marathon was without a doubt one of the best races of my life--the course was fantastic, and words cannot even describe the crowd support. Seriously, you do not even know what good crowd support is until you've run Chicago. Our city sure knows how to do a marathon!! If it isn't already, put Chicago on your bucket list. And if you think you can't run a marathon, think again. YOU CAN.
Put all excuses aside and remember this:
YOU are capable.