A Word of Thanks and Chicago Marathon Recap: Practice Makes PRs

Before I recap this race, I wanted to send out a few words of thanks:

As I reflect on my recent marathon experience, I can’t help but feel overcome with a great sense of gratitude and support. Having started training with Chicago Endurance Sports (CES) about a year and a half ago – I never imagined the times that I have been throwing down this fall would actually be a reality. I joined to meet people, being new to the city, and it truly has changed my life.

This marathon will also go down as the season of superstars – at least in my eyes. Yes, I had the opportunity to pace a ½ marathon with a female Olympic contender (Lauren Fleshman), sit on a panel of experts with Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor, speak on the main stage at the expo and even get interviewed on 670 AM about what to do post-race. And while all those experiences were ones I’ll never forget, it was pacing a pack of amazing people all summer long that really, truly has changed my outlook on running.

The Great 8s after our last long run of the season
The Great 8s after our last long run of the season

While racing for me is a constant internal struggle with ‘can I do better?’ and pushing myself to be the best runner I can be, pacing provides me the opportunity to help others meet their goals and gives me a sense of reward that a new PR could never provide. I am so fortunate that CES has afforded me this opportunity. To the ‘Great 8s,’ you have no idea the courage and strength you all have and your positive energy and support of one another really helped fuel my run on October 12th. Running with you all this summer has been a complete pleasure. We toughed it out – through down pours, the heat, and some injuries – we overcame with smiles on our faces. We laughed, some of us cried, and we triumphed.

Great 8s, this race is dedicated to you – thank you for being an awesome group to have the chance to lead all summer long. And to CES and the rest of the Chicago running community – for showing the world what a top-notch city we are.

Now – the race report:

When I woke up the morning of the race, I wasn’t feeling great. Something felt off. Without jumping into details, let’s just say Paula Radcliffe’s 2002 Chicago Marathon started in a very similar way. I thought, “if this is the worst thing that happens today, I’ll be ok.” Lucky enough for me, it was.

Pre-Race at the CES Race Day Resort
Pre-Race at the CES Race Day Resort

I considered a cab to the start but then opted to take the El to share in the experience with other Chicago runners. With my super fan (thanks, Mom) next to me, we made our way to the CES Race Day Resort – something I’m so grateful for as it offers a warm place to change, food, post-race massage and a meeting place for friends/family. We could feel the nervous and excited energy the minute we walked in. I finished my ritual pre-race breakfast (peanut butter, bagel and a banana) and applied my pace tattoos – one arm with a 3:10 and the other with a 3:05 goal times. 3:10 was what I was claiming was realistic, 3:05 was my stretch goal. I felt confident I could reach 3:10 – but 3:05 was only if everything came together, or so I thought.

As I made my way over to the start with some of the Great 8s, I started to get really excited – maybe too much – I now had to pee and those port-o-pot lines are not fun. It was 20 minutes to the start. I decided to test my luck and ended up listening to the national anthem in line. I finally got to the start of the line as they announced the corrals were closing. I just made it and had to sprint to the corral to find the pacer that I would intend to run with for the rest of the race.

Smiling away at about mile 6-7
Smiling away at about mile 6-7

I opted to go with 3:05 – ignoring advice that I start out conservative and then speed up on the 2nd half. Well I stayed with that group for all of a minute. Soon I was closer to the 3:00 pace group than the 3:05. I felt good. I looked at my watch and noticed the first 5 miles were done at about a 6:45 – 6:50 min/mi pace. What?!? I knew I could do that for a ½ but not a full. No way? Or maybe I could? I felt strong – not like this pace was a struggle. I maintained that pace for the next 15 miles. When I hit the half way mark and just under 1:30, I met up with some friends from CES/Fleet Feet’s Racing Team. It was so nice to see some familiar faces. By the time I hit 20, my legs felt ka-put. But I told them to shut up and kept pushing through. Endurance wise I knew I was there – just needed the legs to back me up. I dropped to about a 7-7:15 min/mi pace for the last 6 – but still felt strong – even on the dreaded incline during the last ½ mile.

As I crossed the finish line at 3:03:36, I raised my hands in the air and could not control my emotions. I started to cry. Having beat my ‘stretch goal’ I could not be more ecstatic. From the days when I couldn’t even break the 12 minute mark in a mile in gym class, I am reminded of how far I’ve come – and it’s very much in part to CES and the Fleet Feet Racing Team. I owe this PR to you and truly believe in the process. In the various presentations I’ve given this summer, I’ve consistently said – practice makes PRs. All those speed workouts, tempo runs, long runs and shorter races have led to this and I can not thank you enough for the constant encouragement and support.

Post race smiles (and beers)!
Post race smiles (and beers)!

So now, it’s on to the next challenge – a 50k in December followed by the Boston marathon in April. And maybe – just maybe – a sub 3 hour marathon is in sight. For now – I’m enjoying some relaxed runs and much-needed R&R.

Special thanks to friends and family who came out to support – whether in person or virtually – your well wishes and kind words are what continues to fuel me.

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