“The rewards of running a marathon can not be found on a stopwatch”
I started behind a guy whose t-shirt read that. I read it, pondered it, thought it was a really good message, actually considered turning my Garmin off right then and there.
I didn’t. Duh.
Let’s rewind 30 minutes. The corrals close at 7:20, apparently this year they became Nazis and CLOSED the corrals at 7:20. I got there at 7:21, I was forced to start in the 13 minute per mile group. Hugely inconvenient.
The first two miles were spent expending copious amounts of energy trying to pass 13 minute per mile runners. These runners tend to run in pairs, threes, or fours. They are an indestructible wall of 13 minute per mile humans that are impossible to pass. So much time wasted, because I was ONE minute late to the corral closing.
When I finally caught up to runners with 4:30 pace stickers on their backs, all was good. I was running, taking in the view, right, left, right, yadda, yadda, yadda. I stopped at the second aid station for some Gatorade knowing that the heat would continue to rise. It was already hot, I had wiped sweat off of my forehead by mile 3. I then stopped at the third and fourth aid station for more Gatorade. I wanted to be plenty hydrated, that’s reasonable, right?
Oh, HEY, remember my recap from last year, when I said I got a warm Gatorade bellyache? History repeats itself. My stomach started doing its churning-cartwheel-magic tricks again. By mile 10 I was trying to walk off a Gatorade bellyache. There was three porta-potty stops soon after.
As soon as I realized it was the Gatorade, AGAIN, I stopped taking it and only took water. Somewhere after mile 13 my stomach began to cooperate. But fear of how my stomach would react to anything prevented me, yet again, from fueling well. Before mile 13, I honest-to-blog considered just DNF’ing because of just how completely shitty I felt. This was my thought:
“I feel like shit and it’s hot out. I could DNF, healthy, and just do Rails to Trails Marathon in 4 weeks and it’ll be way cooler out, I won’t have to weave in and out of 20,000 people, and I probably won’t feel like shit. Is this worth it? I’m having such a rotten time. I hate everything about this.”
I honestly don’t know why I kept going. Mentally I had quit.
Mile 13-16 was a delirious, frustrating run/walk blur. Hate, stab, etc.
I remember feeling comforted by the mile 17 marker. Seventeen seemed safe, like I was already invested in this race, so just keep moving. Plus I had grown a bloated taper gut in the last two weeks, 26.2 miles would surely correct that.
After mile 17, the mile markers are a blur, but I do remember entering Chinatown. This is my favorite part of this asshole race. Before you enter Chinatown you’re running on what seems to be a quiet, forever stretch, and you turn and LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA there’s all this ruckus, cheer, and visually it’s just very cool.
I also remember thinking somewhere after mile 17, “Just a few more miles until I find Speedy” Speedy, is Josh, or better known as @SpeedySasquatch on twitter who said he would run with me for a bit at mile 23. He’s been ridiculously helpful with my knee injury from the beginning of knee injury. Running with him would be the icing on the sliver of Chicago Marathon cake.
When I approached mile 23, I took my ear buds out and scanned the crowds. Nothin. No Speedy. My heart sank, my legs got heavier. I put my ear buds back in and did some more heatstroke prevention walking. Something on my Garmin motivated me to start running again, so I did, and I finally spotted my marathon angel, Speedy. I ran up to him, “I NEED YOU”
Speedy, was, well, speedy, and hopped right onto the course. He did most of the talking, I gave occasional nods to cue my still being alive. He kept telling me I’m doing awesome, told me I’m running like a metronome. When we passed through an aid station he told me to keep running down the middle and he would be right back, he would reappear with 2 water cups, one to dump down my back, and one to dump on my head. Speedy is genuinely the nicest, supportive human being I know. If I started to slow down, he’d grab my arm and tell me nope, keep going.
Speedy took me as far as he could get without getting into trouble by race officials, he took me to where I had 800 meters to go. The 800 meters to go sign is at the bottom of an unfortunate hill at this point in the race. It took a lot of effort not to crawl up the hill. At the top of the hill I walked a few steps, looked at my stopwatch. Shit, no time to waste, GO.
Then I finished a marathon that I quit mentally at on mile 13.
I finished a marathon that I wasn’t sure that I could even do because I couldn’t walk my dog around the block without knee pain.
It’s too bad I wasn’t still behind the guy with the shirt at the starting line. But his shirt did make me consider what was rewarding about this training cycle.
It was rewarding to have the ability to DO IT, to BE ABLE to train for it, in January I couldn’t run 1 painless mile. I met Dean Karnazes, Speedy, Kristin and Jon at the expo, I spent the weekend with my good friends Tara and Matt, I laughed my ass off at Mr. HappyPace driving through downtown Chicago traffic and threaten stabbings.