We headed to the Congress Hotel for a group photo with the American Cancer Society. They had tons of snacks for us but as suspected, most runners refrained from "trying anything new" and avoided the buffet line.
After what felt like forever, the group began to head out for the start line. I lined up in my corral and really couldn't believe what was happening. The entire time, I felt as though I was lined up to run a 10k or something much shorter. Oddly, I felt right at home (or perhaps it is the power of denial).
LOOK AT THIS THING.
The first 5k took us out of across the river out of downtown, across the river back into downtown, and across the river again out of downtown! The crowds were very loud and despite all the runners, I felt like I had plenty of space. I tried very hard to reign in my pace because I didn't want to get too swept away.
Finally heading out of the city, we headed north on LaSalle through Old Town and into Lincoln Park Zoo. The crowds in Old Town were fantastic and Moody Church had an amazing sound system set up! I passed the Ben Franklin statue where I spent the last 5 months training and thought about how I wouldn't see ol' Ben for a while!
Good ol' Ben...how your steps tortured me with tri-cep dips
and 8-minute abs every Wednesday night
Continuing north, we entered Lakeview and prepared for the big turnaround back to the city. It was at mile 7 that an older gentleman collapsed on the path and was unresponsive. A number of runners were able to administer CPR while waiting for the course medics and ambulance. I nearly burst into tears because to be honest, it looked like they had lost him. **I'm happy to report that he was rushed to the hospital and is now in stable condition.
When you come up on the U-turn, you can hear the sounds of Boystown. The streets are lined shoulder to shoulder with spectators (including my cheer team!), drag show entertainment, drum lines, and more. I continued to make my journey back to downtown, leaving Boystown for the tree lined streets of Old Town.
The halfway point
And those tree lined streets disappeared real fast and the sun started to beat down on the runners. I passed the halfway point with my fourth Chicago River bridge crossing. With a smile on my face and roaring applause from my cheer team, I prepared myself for the next chunk of the marathon - the west side.
20k-25k aka is my leg already cramping?
The sun was beating on us the entire time but it was now that it began to take it's toll on me. Somewhere between miles 15-16, my left quadricep muscle cramped up and I had to spend time walking it off. Once I felt better, I began running again until I could feel the cramp creep up. Then I walked it off. Then again.
Did I tell you about the left leg cramp? By the way, my right leg has it now too! My temporary fix was to run as long as I could and to walk immediately once I started to feel the muscle twinge.
Run, walk, evaluate, repeat.
I pulled out my phone for the first time and texted John, asking to make sure we didn't miss each other on the course because I needed my emergency banana.
Had a little freak out because I thought I missed John at mile 17. Oh wait, I'm a half mile early. There they are! Banana, check. Alright. Cramps in both legs. Running-as-far-as-I-could quickly became a few minutes here and a few minutes there. Sometimes the run portion only lasted 30 seconds before my muscles locked up. At this point, I had consumed 4 banana halves and probably 10 cups of Gatorade. It was here that I realized I had no chance of making up my lost time and that my focus had to shift to finishing. Somewhere in between my mental strategizing, I went through the iconic neighborhoods of Pilsen and Chinatown. Pilsen was incredible and is actually where I ate 2 of those banana halves! Chinatown welcomed us with the famed dragon dancers and I tried to run a little extra for those photographers.
The communities of Pilsen and Chinatown
Wow. It's hot. Where are we on the course? Sox stadium is kind of far away? But it's also really not that far away. How far is far? At this point, I have been reduced down to running one minute, walking one minute. My legs were always teetering on cramping but the short intervals seemed to keep everything at bay. We made the final turn onto Michigan Avenue and headed north back to the city. Just two more miles.
There it is - right after mile 23!
The crowd support started picking up again and I knew we were getting closer when the barricades and police teams started to line the streets. The crowd starts to shout "800 meters to go!".
Proof that I was having a good time!
FYI guys - 800 meters is half of a mile. I'm not really almost done.
It's so small at this point but it is still half of a freakin mile. Suddenly I look up and we're at the turn to "Mount Roosevelt" and I know that there is only a quarter mile life. Up the hill I went and once I took the final turn, I could see the finish line just a tenth of a mile away. I ran as fast as I could when I heard the announcer say my name, ignoring the tightness in my legs. Doesn't matter at this point, right?!