Friday, October 12, 2012

2012 Chicago Marathon Race Report

I ran the Chicago Marathon (HERE) as my first marathon, back in 2008.  It was such an awesome experience ... the crowd support is simply phenomenal.  Over 1.5 millions spectators, lined along 26.2 miles of skyscrapers and constant distractions.  We ran through 29 neighborhoods - each very different - adding a different flare to each mile of the race.  I was excited to get my name in the hat for 2012, when I registered in February of this year.  Registration closed in less than a couple of days.  45,000 spots - just like that.

We stayed in Schaumburg, a suburb about 40 mins away on Friday and Saturday night.  The expo was Friday and Saturday.  The race was Sunday.  We planned to drive down to the expo on Saturday morning and then take the Metra Train down from Palatine (close to Schaumburg).  I recalled from my prior racing experience, that they ran extra early trains (4:50 am - yawn) for the marathon.  The train ride from Palatine was less than an hour.
We headed down to the expo around 10:30 on Saturday morning.  We found some parking for $10 closeby and walked over to the convention centers.  I love seeing all of the excited runners with their swag bags, wearing compression socks and running shoes - getting ready for race day.  We found the location for packet pick up and I got my race bib, checked my chip and then got my race day tee shirt.

We walked around the expo for hours ... seriously, like over four hours.  I didn't have the kids with me this time, so we took our time, browsed, shopped, tried samples, filled up my swag bag with even more swag.  I even got the chance to meet up with my friend, George for a bit.  We took lots of cool pictures.

At the Nike booth, they always have tons of cool and exciting things.  This year, you could scan your race bib on their wall of video screens.  Everyone's name popped up with different marathon sayings.  Pretty neat stuff.  They also had the "Nike wall" again this year.  Instead of having each runner write inspirational sayings - they had all 45,000 names listed on a wall in alphabetical order.  This wall was looooong and it wasn't easy to find your name.  Finally I found me.

We left the expo and headed back north to Schaumburg.  We had a 6:30 dinner reservation at Maggiano's.  But we were hungry and I knew I wanted to get some sleep.  So we stopped at 4:00 and sat down to a good meal of carb-loading.  I ate a lot of bread from the bread basket and an entire plate of butternut squash ravioli.  Awesome
I went back to the hotel and at 5:30, I took my Tylenol PM, set out my race outfit for the next morning.  The alarm was set for 3:45 am.  I fell asleep by 8:00 and was woke up by nose in the hotel room next door around midnight.  Classy.  We were up for awhile before dozing off back asleep.  The alarm went off shortly thereafter. 
3:45 am - rise and shine - time to run twenty six point frigging two!
We checked out of the hotel and drove fifteen minutes to the Palatine train station.  Stood out in the cold and runners were coming from everywhere to board the train.  When the train arrived shortly after 5:00 am it was pretty full already, after a few stops north of us.  We found a seat and paid our five bucks for unlimited stops.  I ate breakfast on the train. 
We got to the train station and both bathroom lines were long.  I sat in the foodcourt and talked to two ladies from the area for awhile.  Then the Boyfriend and walked towards the startline. 
The temperatures were in the upper 30's at the start and were going to be in the mid-50's at the finish.  When I ran it four years ago, it was in the upper 80's at the finish.  An entirely different experience.
I love the block long water stations -- simply amazing stuff.  We ended up ducking in a bakery to use the shorter restroom lines and headed across the street to the staging area.  They weren't letting family/friends any further.

I gave him hugs, took some pictures - and then, of course I had to go to the restroom again.  Friggin nerves.  It was 7:30 and the first corral of elite, faster runners and charity runners was off.  They were going to close the second corral in fifteen minutes and then we were off at 8:00.  Darn it.  I rushed through the see of people and darted for the port-o-potty lines.  There were about ten people in line for each.  The corrals were full.  Some lady and I were snickering about how we could be up before 4:00 and now were rushing to get to the startline.  I ran in the restroom once it was free, ran out and they announced that the start corrals were CLOSED and that if you weren't already in your spot, that you would have to start allllll they way at the back. No friggin way.  My watch said 7:42.  I rushed to Corral G and the volunteers were looking at bibs and letting people in.  Thank God!  I entered and listened to the music that was playing.  Looked around at all of the different people running with me - something like 140 countries represented.  So many languages being spoke.  And, soon it was 8:00 and we were off. 
The Boyfriend was going to meet me around mile 2 and then again just after the half marathon, around mile 14 and possibly at 17 and then near the finish line.  That's it.  This course goes so far north and then south, that it's hard to follow your runner, if you are only on foot.

I was hoping for a 4:15 and was going to need to pace myself.  There is so much excitement and entertainment along this course, that it's easy to go out to fast.  And, that's what I did.  We zig-zagged through downtown the first couple of miles.  I passed mile 2 and was distracting, looking for the Boyfriend.  Nowhere to be found.  The crowds were 4-5 rows deep on both sides.  He didn't see me either, despite my amazingly bright outfit.

We headed north a few miles and through a more quiet neighborhood.  It was nice and the crowd were still awesome.  The signs were the best.  I always think they are hilarious and give them the thumbs up.  I love making eye contact with the spectators.  I love smiling and letting them know how much they mean to us out there.  The best part is when the smile back.  I didn't have my name written on my shirt, so I didn't have any "personal cheers", but it was fun to hear random folks cheer me on, when they could tell I was having a fabulous time. 
We headed through several awesome neighborhoods, tons of music dancing.  Sometimes I forgot I was running.  My first 5K was 26:58 and my 10K was 54:01.  I was on pace to go sub 4:00.  OMG.  I needed to slow down.
I continued to listen to the crowd the first three miles, then I turned my iPod on low.  This way, I could still hear the crowd and when the entertainment was happening, I could hear that too.  It was a great mix.  
I carried my handheld waterbottle, and had four gels inside.  There were twenty aid/water stations, that had an entire street block with water first, then lemon-lime Gatorade (I hate lemon-lime).  I had water in my bottle and would run through every aid station for a cup of Gatorade, sip on it, and toss it.  Then sip on my water.  Twice I also grabbed water to fill up my bottle.  I never walked through the aid stations - always moving.  The mounds of cups are amazing.  They use rakes and brooms to constantly clean them up.  The Chicago streets are super sticky from the Gatorade and your shoes stick to the ground.  Gross, but cool.  There was only one station with energy gels.  I didn't end up consuming everything in my pouch.  I think, because it was cool and I was also drinking the Gatorade.

My half marathon time was a whopping 1:57:11 ... my fastest outdoor half marathon all year.  WOW - slow down, Jamie.  I saw the Boyfriend, around mile 14.  And then I started to slow down.  My right leg was aching.  The area behind my knee kept buckling.  But, I pushed on.  The skyscrapers were gone and we were now in the open sun.  It was a bit warmer and comfortable.  I rolled up my long sleeves.  People tied their sweatshirts around their waste, sported tanks and some men went shirtless.  I was comfortable.  Around mile 16, I started getting a side stitch.  Either too much Gatorade or I had gone out too fast.  Maybe both.  I ran through that the next four miles.  I ran through the leg pain too.  I was compensating with my left leg, which made my ankle sore.  But, I never stopped running.  I just slowed waaay down.

I saw the Boyfriend around mile 17-18.  We ran through China town which was sooooo awesome once again and the other ethnic neighborhoods.  Just like 2008, the smell of the Chinese food and Hispanic food made me nauseous at this point.  I found myself listening to my tunes a bit more at this point.  I never hit "the wall" but I wasn' feeling it as much as I was the first half!

The running pack was spreading out a bit more.  We weren't totally on top of eachother anymore.  I liked the fact that I wasn't constantly dodging people anymore.  But, it was definitely more crowded than other races.

Hmmm ... I don't know how he could have possibly missed me in a see of 45,000 runnes at mile two?!?!  Of the 45,000 registered runners, 37,000+ crossed the finish line.

We took a turn and started heading north again.  I was doing calculations in my head (the mind doesn't work so well after 3.5 hrs of running!).  I knew that I wasn't going to cross that finish line in under 4 hours.  But, I was still going to be within my goal of 4:15.  Fan-friggin-tastic!  I found myself picking up pace (maybe in my head!) the last three miles.  I actually related to a shirt a lady was wearing "I may look like I'm walking; but in my mind I'm running.".  I might have laughed out loud.  Some guy passed me and said, "we've got this ... two miles to go".  Did I look like I was struggling?
I decided to put a smile back on my face. And, focus on the finish line, instead of my right leg.  The crowds were getting larger and I could hear the finish line. 

I ran up that one and only hill at mile 26 and took a left turn towards the finish line.  4:10 was approaching and I was speeding up.

I ended up crossing in just of 4:11 and was happy and smiling!  (See anyone else smiling there??)  And, surprisingly, I wasn't happy to be done.  Was a little sad that the finish line was there and all of this was over.  I stopped to get my heat blanket and then my medal.  My legs stopped working and my lower back was in terrible pain.  All that running and now I could barely walk the mile+ to the family reunion station.  I stopped to get my photo and the guy asked me if I ran, because I looked great.  I told him, that my body didn't feel great but that I'm still smiling.

I walked through the finishers chute ... which took FOREVER (ok, about a half hour) and found The Boyfriend waiting for me next to "J".
We hobbled back towards the train station.  We tried to catch the 1:30 train.  Out of everyone, we ran into my friend, George on the way back.  He was having a tougher time walking that me.  We slowly encouraged eachother the 10-ish blocks to the train station.  We missed the train by three minutes. We hung out in the food court with other runners.  I really wanted some Chicago pizza and the one pizza place was closed.  I opted for a McDonald's fry (mmm...sodium), a large Diet Coke (mmm...carbonation) and a half Cinnabon (mmm...frosting).  Not exactly a cupcake and Diet Dew, but doable.
I just ran my fifth frigging marathon!

4:11:28 Finish
1:57:58 Half
14,406 / 37,392 overall
4,229 / 16,747 women
833 / 3,094 age group


  1. Congrats! You made me just want to run another one.....Maybe I am a little crazy!

  2. Wow, Jamie. This is awesome! It sure gives me the encouragement I'm needing to jump on the running train. Can't wait to start my journey with you as my coach...funny how far we've come, huh? Great job on your 5th Marathon!!

    :) Brenda H.

  3. So proud of you!! You beat your goal and finished looking like a flipping fashion model :)

  4. you look fantastic!!!! ur smile is by far ur best accesory! what an accomplishment. I can only hope for an experience like this in my first one. congrats! AMAZING TIME!!!!!

  5. Congratulations! Well done! 4:11 is a super time. Rest well!

  6. Very cool. Congrats! Now I want to run Chicago! You make it sound so awesome!!

  7. Congrats!! That guy who encouraged you at the end just wanted to talk to a pretty girl. :)

  8. Great job!!! Your race pics look so great. Congrats on a great race!

  9. Congratulations on a great race!!! Glad you were able to hit your goal time.

  10. Yay Jamie...wasn't it a great day to race. i finished in 4:12:41. Totally perfect day!

  11. Congrats on 5 marathons! That is awesome.

  12. It's always amazing how you can run and run and run to complete the marathon but once you hit the finish line it is SO hard to walk!


  13. Congrats! Perfect weather for a fast time

  14. Awesome, awesome job! I had a college friend that ran Chicago also, so it's nice to hear perspectives from both people. Great work. :)

  15. Great job!!!!!! Such an inspiration!

  16. Great job!!!!!! Such an inspiration!

  17. Wow! Way to go killing your goal!! That's awesome!

  18. Congratulations. I hope to see you at Santa Clarita next month.

  19. Congratulations. I hope to see you at Santa Clarita next month.

  20. Just awesome! What a great job! And the best outfit I've seen in a marathon ever :)