Saturday, October 16, 2010

Marathon Report (And Then I'm Done)

So, you've seen from the short report that I was frustrated and disappointed. I've had a few days now to reflect and to talk it over with friends, and I'm grateful to say that my perspective has changed.

(Feel free to skip the processing part and go straight to the highlights.)

All through the summer and my training, I've been treating the marathon as if it were another race, and setting my expectations --- of how I go about it, of my goal time --- accordingly. From that perspective I didn't run it "well": not only was I way off my goal time, but I also didn't run it "smartly," which for me means adjusting my goals to the weather, making sure to keep the entire first half conservative, and then checking in at every point from there on to see how I can push myself faster.

But this was my first time at that distance! I should not have been thinking of it as a race! For no other distance have I taken that approach for my first time out. It wasn't until my third 10k, for example, that I started to think about "racing" that distance, and I would say that I'm still only getting the hang of it. Why was I even thinking about trying to "race" the marathon?

(Because I'm a competitive little freak, that's why.)

So with that in mind...

YAY! I finished my first marathon! And I finished with an average pace that was faster than any of my races before last year, and faster than most of my long runs this summer.

YAY! I didn't overheat! I paid attention to my warning signs and took care of myself: walking at each aid station for water and Gatorade even when I didn't want to, taking my gels even when I didn't want to, and holding myself back once I knew I was at my safety threshold, even though I didn't want to.

YAY! I got to turn it on at the very end, for the kind of finish I like: strong and giving it all out there. With George Michael's "Freedom," my personal running anthem, in my ears, just like I'd envisioned.

So, some highlights of my 2010 Chicago Marathon experience:
  • Meeting up with some chatty marathoners on the train on my way down --- our chat kept me from getting too nervous.
  • Finding a quiet corner outside of Grant Park to sit down and attach my bib and timing chip, and to take in the beauty of the morning.
  • Crossing the bridge in Grant Park and looking at the Chicago skyline, I don't think I'd even seen it from that viewpoint before. Breathtaking.
  • Waiting to start and suddenly realizing what an amazing thing it was that I was there at all. I've wanted to run a marathon since I started running, sixteen years ago. I've even started training for one a couple of times before, but it was only at the end of last year that I felt like I could seriously take it on, that I had gotten fit enough and fast enough (and lean and mean enough) to run it with some pleasure, and not just as a one-time bucket-list crazy endurance challenge.
  • Being at the start line and praying to myself the e.e. cummings poem "i thank you god" (we pray the first stanza as part of Buddy's goodnight prayers) as a way to center myself, getting to the line "for the leaping greenly spirits of trees / and a blue true dream of sky" and realizing that I was looking up at an amazing blue true dream of sky right then. And feeling connected through that poem to all the parts of my life and to my loved ones.
  • Running through Lincoln Park Zoo, and the first twelve miles for that matter. Feeling like I could go on forever, that I was flying, but I wasn't worried because it felt effortless. And of course the gay rifle corps in Boystown.
  • People watching. I love watching people and listening to their conversations during races.
  • Seeing people I knew and having them call out to me. Thanks, Tara! Thanks, Barbara!
  • Favorite signs: "Your feet hurt because you're kicking ass," "Beer at end," "Pain is temporary, accomplishment is forever," and my absolute favorite, seen a few times on the course, "Run happy."
  • Then, once the heat hit me and we left the shade (for good, grrr), knowing that I was taking care of myself, as frustrating as that was.
  • And realizing that I could just make myself keep going, and make myself start again every time I stopped for water/Gatorade/gel/potty/just-because-I-had-to.
  • Knowing that I was keeping good form, even though I was tired and upset. And then later seeing the photos to prove it.
  • Running through Pilsen! Best crowd of the whole city.
  • Passing people. I love passing people.
  • Being able to push myself faster again in the last 10k, and then again in the last 2 miles, even though I was taking walk breaks and it wasn't as pretty as I'd been hoping for or as fast as earlier in the course.
  • Then making that last turn, pushing up that hill (I love hills) and knowing that the end was so so close and I was going to be able to push myself faster that last 100 meters even if I had nothing left afterwards at all.

And the best thing about the 2010 Chicago Marathon? Knowing that I have now run that far, and can do it again, and that my dreams of running x, y, and z marathons are possible and not me deluding myself.

Oh, and my final time was 5:03:09.


  1. I really, really enjoyed reading this post-race analysis.

    Sidenote: Frustration and disappointment after a race? Nahhh... that never happens to me!! ;)

    What an eloquent and thoughtful distillation of "YAYs" and highlights. I'm sorry to hear about the initial frustration and disappoinment with your performance, but it sounds as though your head is in the right place about it.

    To finish with an average pace that was faster than any of your races before last year is truly phenomenal and indicates that you have even MORE potential to come into and build upon. And from the looks of it, your execution of the race was a proper marathon-mix of intelligent, patient, and gutsy.

    Thanks for sharing an enjoyable report. :)

  2. I loved this post! I'm going to bookmark it and come back to it if/when I'm ever crazy/motivated enough to take this on. Any distance, it's a great reminder to be happy and grateful for what our body can do in that moment, something I struggle with.