Chicago! Land of Opportunity! Might’ve made that up, but it got the ball rolling. Just got back from the Chicago Marathon and there’s lots to tell. Let’s back things up a bit: exactly 15 days before the race we started checking out Accuweather for the preliminary weather report. Nice! 50* and clear skies. As the race approached, the weather was all over the place, so we gave up. All told, it was unnecessary worry. Race day came and the sky was clear. Clear and 31 degrees…as in -2*C. We headed out of the hotel in our gloves, hats, and 55-gallon trashbags for warmth. We looked like a black, shiny Grimace.
Colin and I were in Corral B, starting in a reserved area for the top 5,000 runners. That means we’d be chased by 35,000 people! Talk about motivation! We got special treatment by “qualifying” in a previous race, and not on our good looks like you probably assumed. Understandable. Our goal for the race was 3 hours 30 minutes. My previous best was 3:37 and Colin’s was 3:43, both from last year’s Marine Corps. We saw the 3:30-pace group (8-minute/mile) and decided to stick with them, no matter what. Early on we focused on staying with the group and keeping warm. Starting in downtown we got to run through the enormous buildings. Unfortunately about half of the first mile is underground, effectively incapacitating all GPS watches and throwing off any reliable splits.
Luckily, we chose a hotel right on the course, so Ev and Brittany were able to fall out of the hotel to see us at mile 1.5. They could scurry 3 blocks over to mile 2.5, and then run inside to stay warm. Yay fan support! (Note: After the race, they said we looked like crap early on. We blamed it on the cold.) Speaking of fan support, the entire 26.2 miles reminded me of the finish line of other races. There were just so many people cheering the whole time, even in the semi-Ice Age weather. The first 7 miles took us from skyscrapers to the burbs up by Lincoln Park. To this point we were both feeling strong, but I pointed out that we should be feeling strong after only 8 miles, with another 18 to go.
On our way back into the city Colin and I found we were getting a little too far ahead of the pace group. We took the opportunity to refill water bottles around mile 10 by walking the water stop and reloading. By the time we were back up to pace, the group was only a few steps in front. The pace group was less than consistent early on, which worried us a little; not so much that we’d be going too slowly, but more that we didn’t want to use too much energy early on. I guess they felt our fears through some running ESP because they started hitting their splits.
We saw Ev and Brittany again at mile 12.5 for a much-needed boost! From there we hit the half way point at exactly 1:45, which made me a little more nervous considering our track record of finishing long races (read: fall apart and struggle to walk…). Into Greektown we saw some generic-named restaurants, Agora-this, Zeus-that. It was actually the quietest part of the course as we got out near Malcolm X College. Colin dropped back again to… get more comfortable, while I stuck with the pace group. He actually caught up pretty quickly, around mile 16. If I remember correctly, not much happened until mile 20, when Colin said that we can wait about 2 miles to see how we’re feeling and maybe pick up the pace.
BAM! Felt like I got hit in the face with a 2-by-4 by the ridiculous crowd support entering Chinatown. For a second I thought we actually ran into the REAL China based on the number of people. I estimated there were anywhere between a few thousand and 1.4 billion people cheering us on. Well that was all the motivation we needed to pick it up.
From mile 21 until the finish, every mile split got faster. We realized that’s how you’re supposed to run a race, and not do what we did in Nashville. The miles (for me) went 7:53, 7:48, 7:47, 7:42, 7:29, 7:28. Yes, I was able to finish the race with two sub-7:30 miles. Makes you wonder if I had more in the tank. Well stop wondering. I didn’t. During this time, Colin took off on me. I could see him the whole time, but I couldn’t make my legs go fast enough to catch him. He ended up finishing 34 seconds ahead of me. In order to minimize his victory, it took him 12,448 seconds and it took me 12,482 seconds. Virtually identical.
I finished in 3:28:02, a full 2 minutes ahead of my goal and 9 minutes faster than my previous best! Wow! Amazing! Out of sight! Tubular! Radical! Colin finished in 3:27:28, an unheard of 16 minutes faster than his previous fastest time. The race was great, the weather cooperated, and we both did exceptionally well! Next on the docket is likely the Miami Marathon at the end of January.
2009 Chicago Marathon:
|Average HR:||Didn’t wear HR Monitor|