Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chicago Marathon - it took a village!

I promised I would write something more eloquent about the marathon when my brain started working. I think it is healed now, one week later. 

Let me first say, it takes a village to run a marathon.  At least it did for me.  I trained for four months in a very consistent and quantitative way.  It was the most difficult training I’ve done in my life.  When my body was done running at about the twenty mile mark on race day, I summoned the strength of   my amazing village.  I thought about all the people who I love and who love me.  The ones who listened to my stories about ice baths and missing toenails and knew that every Saturday morning I couldn’t be counted on to do anything because I was out running somewhere – and that every Saturday night I’d probably be in pain, looking to eat enough food for a village, and definitely not be up for walking anywhere.   I met some amazing NEW friends along the way.  (And I got in touch with some terrific old ones.)  Flat out, I will thank my daughter Reid who was my number one cheerleader.  I love her.   

As for the race, I have nothing to compare the Chicago Marathon to, but I cannot imagine a better course, day, or city of inspiring people.  At every turn, there were MORE people, just pouring themselves out for you.  Imagine a MILLION people cheering for you.  You can’t right?  Until it happens, then it is awe-inspiring, pain-numbing, and mind-blowing. (PS I am somewhere in this picture!)

My stomach was a mess of nervous knots on the race morning. (I only slept 2 hours!) I had been dealing with some pain in my right knee.  I couldn’t even choke down a bagel.  I asked God to help me. Please don’t let me fumble on the goal line was my specific request. (I’m a football girl) I knew God would understand. On my ride to Grant Park, the driver said “Don’t be nervous. If you did all the home work, you’ll do fine on the test.”  I thought of those words several times over the next two hours.

After going through a very thorough but kind security check, I saw a group of 3 twenty-somethings who seemed fun and happy and I asked if I could join them.  I didn’t need to be in my start Corral G until 7:45am so I had time to kill and I didn’t want to be alone and contemplative. When I asked the kids where they commuted from that morning they said, “we came up from a small town in Indiana called Crown Point.” What! That is where I’m from!  It seemed like really good karma that we had hooked up.

I parted company with the kids at about 7am and checked my gear.  I had to pee so I waited in line.  While there, the public address announcer said there would be a thirty second moment of silence for the Boston Marathon bombing.  The crowd of forty thousand went completely quiet. I started to cry. It was a pretty serious cry, big tears, probably a release of all the emotion that had been building over the entire week.  I was surprised by this flow of tears but I just let it go.  It didn’t last long, and I didn’t want to lose the salt or the water – and I felt silly crying alone - so I dried my tears and headed to the start Corral.

In the start corral for 40 minutes I was super cold. I think it was in the low 50s.  I had shorts, a tank top and some arm sleeves on.  I was pissed at myself for not bringing something to shed off as everyone else seemed to have a jacket or sweater, or gloves.  With ten minutes to go, the guy next to me threw down an old fleece jacket and I picked it up off the ground.  He looked at me and said, “Seriously?”  And I was like, yup!  I also, unfortunately, had to pee again.  I saddled up to the 4:25 pace group  - that’s 10 minute miles over the 26.2 and got ready to start.  It took a while for the pack to move, but I crossed over the start line at 8:07am, shed the fleece and started to run.

The first few miles are a blur.  I know we were in a tunnel pretty early on then we ran over the Chicago River and there was such brilliance to the day that it hardly seemed real!  Running down the middle of the street over the Chicago River with gorgeous skyscrapers and sunlight.  (Note to self, try to get over to the pad they’ve lain out on the bridges as the grates are hard with the sneakers)

At the turn onto Grand Ave I was suppose to see my girlfriend Barbara and her girls, but there were SO MANY PEOPLE and I wasn’t sure what they were wearing. Somehow through all the noise, I heard Mindy’s voice, and I saw Kris, Mindy and Michelle standing on Grand!  Wearing their, SHARON RUNS FOR BEER hats!  They took the picture above, that’s right at the turn on Grand.  I was really needing to pee at this point so at the very first port-0-potty stop I went! No one wants to run when they need to pee.  And had to sprint ahead to catch back up to my pace group.  But after the potty break, I was revived!

I broke down the race into three parts: the North, the West and the South.  I will tell you the NORTH was fantastic.  It flew by.  I got all the way to Addison and my knee was great.  There were bands and fans and crazy fun signs (I thought you said 2.62 was one of my favorites.)  In Lincoln Park it seemed like every man near me ran onto the grass to pee!  I also saw my friend Meg and her son just as we turned to head south from Addison. Carson was wearing his red under-armor hoodie just as planned.

When we got down to Adams Street, the West section began.  Miles 13 – 20 are tough nuts to crack!  I knew I had some people to see in this section so that kept me looking forward.  At the half marathon 13.1 mile I saw, Kris, Michelle and Mindy again.  They were so awesome again wearing the beer stein hats and screaming my name like BANSHEES!  I took a sip of Coke and ate a Chocolate GU from Mindy.  They took a terrific picture of me too, and really I felt great with a time of 2.11 at the halfway point.  (still with my pace group and on target.)   I saw PJ at mile 18 and even though he was on the wrong side of the road and I had to run in reverse direction to get to him, I was so happy.  But from that point on the pain really set in.  My hips were on fire.  I can’t explain it.  It wasn’t the wall because I never felt like I couldn’t go, I just felt a lot of pain.  My right knee was starting to throb, so every Red Cross station I would yell out for a pack of Biofreeze.  I would rip it open while I was running and slather it on my knee.  It helped.

At mile 20 we turned to the South section of the course.  We were silly close to Comiskey Park at one point and I remember thinking, “is that even close to Grant park?  I think I’m very far from Grant Park.  Where the hell is Grant Park?” Thank god for Chinatown and the bands and the people with paper dragons and flags and dim sum who amped up the volume just when I needed it.  I saw the girls at 20.2, and I know I was looking rough.  They were still cheering and telling me I looked tough. All I wanted was to turn north.  I knew once I was heading north, I could make it.  But the roads kept going south!  

Finally MICHIGAN AVENUE!  Just run towards the tall buildings Sharon.  I tried to be mindful during this stretch.  I tried to focus on a few people and just reel them in and pass them.  Lots of folks were falling apart.  People way younger than me, people older than me, it was equal opportunity destruction.  My legs and ass were burning, that’s the only way I can describe it, but the thought of stopping seemed ridiculous. There were some really great fans on this stretch too.  There was a boom box playing the Rocky theme at one point and I cried.  At least it felt like I was crying, but I don’t think I had any tears.
 I took the red JELLO shot at mile 23. It was not a bourbon jello shot, but it was a perfect amount of sugar and had a strong taste of VODKA.  I only had 3 miles left.  I can run three miles while asleep.  I can run three miles in less than a half hour.  Holy cow, I’m almost done.

Just as I was about to turn off Michigan onto Roosevelt Road, I saw the girls a final time.  I was not expecting them, I was only expecting my mom and Reid and Peter at the finish line. Up the little, albeit mean spirited, hill on Roosevelt Road .  I was shocked at how many people walked on the hill, I mean, you can HEAR the announcer at this point.  And then I could see it.  And I looked so hard for Reid and my mom and Peter and I saw them in their TEAM SHARON shirts.  I even heard Reid cheer my name and that was the favorite part of the day.  And I cried again as I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:39 minutes.

They wrapped me in the blanket and I kept walking for what seemed like an eternity until I got to the runners gear check tent right near the fountain.  Lots of people were crashed at this point.  I just wanted to get my gear so I could call everyone and figure out where to reunite.  Surprisingly, I ran into the group of three from the morning.  They finished at 4:25 or so, not too too much ahead of me!  I was able to take of few pics which they were putting on Facebook and of course I asked them to take one of me.  They took this pic of me in Grant Park.  I’m a crazy hot mess.

My finish time was 14 minutes behind my goal pace of 4:25, but I wasn’t surprised or mad.  I felt euphoria and joy.  It was done.  Later I saw that I was 689th place in my age group, there were over 1600 women in my bracket.  All marathon runners, so again, nothing but happiness!

I was able to meet back up with our group in Millennium Park within about 20 minutes.  They had a 312 Beer waiting for me.  I drank three of them I think, and ate all the food in the pack that the post race team had provided.  I was really thankful for the sausage stick?  Weirdly satisfying. 

I can't thank all of you enough who were part of this.  It was an amazing ride.  Sometimes not pretty for sure, but other than giving life to my three little humans, the best day of my life so far.  Thanks.

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