My worst race ever? Hands down, that race would be the Chicago Marathon in 2011. This was one of the biggest disappointments of my running life, if not my whole life. I put my heart and sole (pun intended) into this race, into my training, and was just ashamed of the race I ran. Now, I can live with the results of this first one, chalking it up to inexperience and lessons learned. When I look back, I reflect on what I learned--and I learned a great deal from this race--both about running a marathon and about myself. I learned to respect the distance. I learned that I could run long distances. I learned how to get a grip on my intestinal issues. I learned that I had the determination to finish, no matter what I was feeling.
But I also learned that I needed to get a better grip on my nerves. That I needed to develop more mental toughness. I learned that I had to do a better job fueling if I wanted to run long distances. I also needed to train differently in the future, because this race broke my body.
I ran Chicago in 2011. As a runner for most of my adult years, I felt incomplete not having gone 26.2. It was important for me to add a marathon to my list of distances. I signed up for this race in February of that year, when the race opened for entries. There was no lottery yet, but the race sold out in about 5 days. Imagine that!
I made the decision to run for a charity, to help me stay committed. My friend, Sandy, whose son has Down Syndrome, asked me to run for her charity, UPs for Downs, which is a parent support group for parents of kids with Down Syndrome. Of course, I said yes. I had no trouble raising the minimum amount required. Actually, this was the least stressful part of my entire experience!
For training, I followed Hal Higdon's novice 2 plan. His training plans are free on the web and are easy to follow. I had a higher mileage base than required for starting the plan, and so I kept doing my thing, jumping onto the plan as the miles increased. I found satisfaction in crossing off each training run on the plan, and I was amazed and proud as I tackled each distance. I threw in a couple of half-marathons during my training and learned to really love that distance! Throughout my training, I learned a lot about myself and my body. GI issues, which I have always struggled with, really peaked as I increased my mileage. I began to figure out what foods really bothered me and what worked. I also consulted with my internist (a wonderful woman who gets me), and we discussed options to help with my symptoms. I decided to try a new antibiotic, off-label, which had showed some promise in women with my type of IBS. And to my surprise and happiness, the medication worked! Of course, I continued to avoid trigger foods, and without having to worry about pooping my pants, I was able to train more confidently.
Although all of my training was solo, I registered for a 20-mile training run, scheduled 3 weeks prior to the marathon, aptly named the 20 miler, which was a real confidence booster. My 20-mile run was on a beautiful fall day. I ran that race in 3:18. It felt great! I figured at the very most, my marathon time would be 4:30. I was ready.
The only glitch, as far as I could see was that the night before the race was my parents' 50th wedding celebration. The day after I signed up for the marathon, I proudly announced it to my parents. My mom informed me that she was planning this party for the night before. I thought to myself that I don't normally sleep well before a race, so what would be the big deal, right? And being at the party would take my mind off of pre-race jitters, too. Right? My Irish uncle even gave me an Irish blessing! What could go wrong?
The morning of the race, Sandy picked me up at 5 am. She likes to talk and chattered all the way down to the race, which helped keep my mind off my anxiety. I met up with the UPs for Downs team for photos. After that, I was on my own. I wandered around the area and hit the portapotty. A bad omen perhaps, the person who was in before me did something really nasty in there and the smell almost overwhelmed me. I was already nauseous from my nerves, and that just about did me in.
|It was THAT bad!|
|Yeah, I'm WAY back there...|
If you have ever experienced muscle cramps, you know the agony that I experienced. I have never had muscle cramps before that. We stopped to walk, and Sandy began massaging my calves. She also gave me a baggie of salt pills and instructed me to begin taking them. We continued on, and after 3 miles, she left me to return to the charity village. I pressed on. I saw people vomiting on the roadside. At mile 19, Pilsen, I called my husband in tears. I begged him to pick me up. He refused and told me to walk.
Which I did. If I saw a photographer, I picked up the pace and smiled. Then I walked. Chinatown was a blur. The worst part of the race is mile 23 to the finish. That stretch runs up South Michigan Avenue, and you think it is never going to end. You can hear the crowds as they build towards the finish, but you think you'll never get there.
Finally, I rounded the corner onto Roosevelt Road. There I spotted my mom and my sister and her family. I ran over to them for hugs and pictures. Then I ran up the final hill to the finish line. I staggered across the finish line and was handed my medal and a bottle of Gatorade recovery. I was done.
I met my family in the park adjacent to the finish line. I couldn't stand on my feet and I felt bad. I started sipping on the drink. Posed for pictures. And as I began to feel better, it all sunk in. I did it! I ran a marathon. Not the race I wanted to run. Not the race I envisioned. But I did it.
|I couldn't stand on my feet!|
But I did it. And learned a lot about myself along the way. And I can say I'm a marathoner...not one of those 5K marathoners, but a real 26.2 mile marathoner!
And my tummy didn't bother me once. So at least I had that!
|Another great someecard from my friend Penny|