I was so nervous the day before the Chicago Marathon that I actually thought I was going to throw up several times throughout the day. I was hanging with Shannon and my husband Stephen most of the day and I think they can both attest to the fact that I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t just running a marathon, I was running a World Major Marathon and for some reason I was putting all of this crazy pressure on myself.
Also, just to clear the air – I was also making a lot of excuses for why it had taken me so long to sign up for a full marathon. The truth is, I just never really wanted to. I didn’t even like racing until a few years ago, and I’ve been lacing up for over fifteen years. So, that’s the reason in a nutshell. No excuses. I just didn’t want to. And then I did.
I woke up Sunday morning feeling better than the day before. I had accepted that I was going to run it and so it felt like there was nothing left to think about. I couldn’t quite get all of my Picky Oats down, but I knew I’d be hungry so I brought a Honey Stinger waffle to eat with me while I waited in my corral.
Stephen walked me down to my gate entrance. It actually wasn’t as busy as I thought it was going to be, but once I left him (and my foil blanket – always save these, people!) at the gate I had to wait about an hour to use the bathroom. I met two really nice women in line who quelled my worries and were excited to hear that it was my first shot at the marathon. By the time I got into my corral, we had maybe fifteen minutes left before our wave started. I found Dodie lined up as well (it was hard to miss those Girl Code Spandos) and seeing a fellow Volée member reminded me that this was just another race, just another run.
I stripped off my clothing pretty quick before we started. I had a toss shirt from the 2017 Mud Hen Half Marathon and a pair of men’s fleece camouflage pajama pants that I bought on Target the day before. (They were big enough that I could easily slide them over my running shoes, and were only $14.99. I figured it was worth it considering how much the weather had changed from when I first packed!) I forgot my gloves in the hotel room but I’m actually really glad that I didn’t bring them along – I would’ve gotten rid of them quickly and I think having them in my Pocket Joggers would’ve annoyed me.
The one thing that I was aware of but unprepared for was the fact that my watch would absolutely not work for the first few miles. Everyone told me this and for some reason I thought they were exaggerating, or thought that it would sync up after the 5k. Well, no. My watch was off about 4 miles (Garmin thinks I ran over 29 miles) and never managed to sync up. I had no idea what my pace was the entire race…
This didn’t freak me out as much as it could’ve because my amazing coach Christina had the forethought to have me start paying attention to my HR months ago. So I switched my watch face over to HR and watched it all 26.2 miles. I stuck to my race plan (easy, light, smooth; walk the water stations) and couldn’t believe how even my pace was at the end. I was actually really proud of myself for that – She told me to trust the way it felt, and it worked!
(Speaking of pace – just to be clear – time is not something that really concerns me. I ran it a little slower than I thought, but I know what my mile, 5k, 5-miler, and half marathon times are… and sometimes I can be pretty speedy, other times I’m not. AND THAT’S OKAY. So for those of you who messaged me asking what my time was – I’d really encourage you to worry less about that and see the big picture. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.)
I felt fine for the first 5k, and then all of the sudden… my knees started to hurt. Like, really, really hurt. THIS freaked me out more than anything – I NEVER have knee pain when I run. The only thing that I can attribute it to is the fact that we spent most of Friday and Saturday walking – even though we tried to keep it low-key on Saturday we ended up getting more steps in than we had planned on.
Something that I’ve been practicing is inhaling and then sending my exhaled breath to relax the place that’s bothering me. Christina mentioned this to me via text a few days before the marathon, and it had come up in a recent yoga class. Breathe into the discomfort. So that’s what I did, sending a little love to my knees for the entire race. Because yes, they hurt the entire time.
I saw Stephen 7 times during the race. SEVEN TIMES! Husband of the year, honestly. I saw him at miles 1, 3, 8, 12.5, 21, 23 and the finish. I also saw the amazing Chicago Volée Birds at Cowbell Corner miles 17 and 24, and each time I saw someone it gave me new life. Seeing Stephen with his bright orange Goodr sunglasses gave me a little burst of energy each time. Seeing his face was half the fun – he would get weepy and ask me how I felt and tell me he was proud of me, every – single – time. It was really sweet.
So anyway, I’m running along with my annoying knee pain, seeing Stephen in the crowd… and around mile 9 I’m like, well shit, I have to pee. Bad. I knew the bathrooms would be crowded, but the lines were insane. At this point I had waited so long that I really didn’t have a choice – so I stood in line not once, not twice, BUT THREE TIMES because apparently I am the most hydrated marathoner there is. I toured those port-a-potties at miles 9, 17, and 21? (I think) and luckily made it to the end without having to stop again. I did carry my handheld the entire time (I thought for sure I’d toss it) but the volunteers were kind enough to fill it up for me, and so why not drink it? Having to pee is better than the alternative, so I’ll take it!
I got my Goose Island shot of beer at mile 23, and Stephen was luckily there to snap a photo. I wanted that beer so bad. SO BAD. It tasted like golden nectar as I drank it. I only had 3 gels but I was totally over them, and I had half a Honey Stinger waffle and didn’t really want that either. BUT THE BEER. When they handed me a beer at the finish I practically chugged it. Carbs, baby!
At mile 20 my Aftershokz died. This annoyed me because there battery life is supposed to be 8 hours and I was nowhere near that. I had listened to Lizzo for the first 15 miles (no, not joking) and had switched to my running playlist after that. During Halsey’s Nightmare the little buzz sounded and they turned off. I stopped by the sidewalk and pulled my phone out of my Flyout bra because I was certain something turned them off – but nope, they were dead. I was getting tired, and I thought… How am I going to run the next 10k without any music?
And then, my race mantra kicked in. “Be anxious of nothing and grateful of all things.” I heard Roberta Groner say this on the Ali on the Run podcast episode when she recapped her 6th place finish at Worlds in Doha. It really struck a chord with me, so I wrote it on my hand for the marathon. I’d flip the script every time I got nervous.
My knees hurt!
That’s because you’re crushing it.
It’s so windy!
At least it’s not raining.
My headphones are dead!
Let the cheering crowd fuel you.
So I pulled my Aftershokz off and started to listen to the cheering crowd. I wrote my name on my bib so people could cheer for me, and SO many people were shouting my name. It was amazing. In hindsight, I’m so happy that the headphones died. I was able to celebrate my first marathon and take in every sound, including my feet moving one step at a time. I’m getting teary just thinking about it – it was truly magical.
My BFF Nicole and I have this convo a lot about how we talk to the dead when we run. She actually brought it up first, saying that during her first marathon she asked a lot of relatives and friends who have since passed if they would help carry her. I’ve been talking to my dad on runs since he died, and when she told me that sometimes she talks to him too it reminded me that as runners we’re not above asking for help from anyone who might be listening. So around mile 22 I said a silent prayer that I wanted to finish strong.
People have asked me if I hit a wall – and I was prepared to, thinking it might happen around mile 22 or 24. Truthfully? I don’t think I did. I was tired, but by the time I finished… I probably could have run at least another 5-8 miles. I’m sure that sounds crazy, especially with how badly my knees were bothering me. But I was in a really good headspace, even to my surprise. I can be so negative with my self-talk sometimes – I am so incredibly proud that the switch decided to flip on race day. I just kept reminding myself what a badass I was, how far I’d come.
And so I left mile 24 behind. Then 25. Then 26. And I cruised into the finish line, my arms raised to the sky, thanking whoever was listening for encouraging me to believe that I could do it all on my own. Because – let me be really clear here – getting to the starting line took a village… My family, team, friends, coach, Stephen, and everyone who encouraged me along the way.
But the second I crossed the starting line? That was all me. I did it.
Stephen, Shelley, Mom, Christina, #dopevillage, Oiselle Volée, PA Volée, Nuun, Honey Stinger, Zensah.
I crushed it, y’all! x
Note: While I have linked to several of my favorite products in this post, they are NOT affiliate links. I literally have no idea how to do that and am more interested in just sharing stuff that I love. Enjoy!