Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Chicago Marathon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

On Sunday in Chicago I was fortunate enough to take part in my first ever marathon.  This year marked the 32nd running of the Chicago Marathon and there were some great stories to come out of the event, from first-place finisher Dennis Kimetto, who set a new course record of 2:03:45, to the incredible story of the final runner to cross the finish Maickel Melamed, the Venezuelan runner with muscular dystrophy who finished the race nearly 17 hours after the starting gun went off.  Stories abounded throughout the race and everyone has their own to tell.  This is my story.

After filling up on spaghetti and meatballs (and Guinness) at Maggiano's for dinner, and then getting to bed as early as I could on Saturday night (10:00-ish), I woke up bright and early just before 5am without the assistance of my alarm.  As with most pre-race slumbers, there weren't many Z's to be caught.  I had already laid out all my gear the night before so that I could go about my business as quietly as possible without waking up the others.  As a nice surprise, Michelle got up with me and decided she would walk the mile and a half to the start village at Grant Park.

Bib & Gu's Pinned and Ready to Go
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Bundled up in the Hallway with my Throwaway Sweatshirt

I grabbed a banana and a water at the hotel and we stopped in at Starbucks so that I could get some oatmeal and a coffee as well.

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Oatmeal and Sumatra, Nice Way to Start Race day

Michelle and I made the walk to the park and were surprised to see how alive the city was already at 6:00…there was plenty to do on race day!  Michelle snapped some pictures of the volunteers getting the water stations and medical tents prepped and stocked for the race.  Thanks to all the volunteers for their support, they were terrific.

I said goodbye to Michelle at the park and made my way over to Corral B.  There were plenty of port-a-potties set up so I was able to take care of business (a couple times) while my nerves played havoc with me.  I was just all pent up energy waiting to go…I think I need to come up with some sort of pre-race formula to keep calm and focused next time.  When the time came to head into our start corrals I somehow managed to see Declan from Stop Running Dad! just a couple people ahead of me.  We managed to say hi and share a few quick words before he was carried off in the flow of people, and you will be glad to know that we exchanged the most awkward handshake/fist-bump/no-wait-a-hand-bump bwahahahah in the history of mankind (seriously Declan, WTH was that???)

The corral was packed…we were jammed tighter together than any race I had ever taken part in.  When the gun went off it still took over 2 minutes to cross the start line despite only being back in Corral B.  There was no relief at all from the crush of people until almost 5K into the race.  My first mile I felt absolutely trapped and it took me 8'22" to get that far, very slow for me.  My legs wanted to go but the throng of people made it impossible.  There were some people zipping in and out weaving their way through the crowd but I wasn't comfortable doing that so I bided my time at a frustratingly slow pace.

Miles 1-3 -- 8'22", 7:13", 7'00"
The crowd thinned out marginally after the first mile, but enough to let me get up to a better pace.  Once I got going I saw a few people I knew…I gave a wave and hello to Skinny Runner and also cheered when I saw Doctor Dribble in his Bulls jersey dribbling two basketballs down the middle of the road.  Just before the 5K mark I saw Michelle, Rhoda and the kids cheering me on.  Kennedy and Jackson had made a sign for me and they were all going nuts on the sidelines.  I crossed the 5K timing mat at 22:59, good for a 7:24 mile pace.  I wasn't far off where I wanted to be (7'15" per mile), but I had some work to do to catch up to the 3:10 pace group.

Miles 4-13 -- 6'40", 6'55", 6'52", 6'44", 6'50", 7'10", 7'00", 6'59", 6'59", 6'43"
This is where I made my push to catch the 3:10 group.  Shortly after the 5K point I saw Declan again and we gave each other some encouragement and parted ways…that was the last time the entire race that a saw a familiar face.  I was running really strong now and enjoying the scenery as we ran through Lincoln Park and all the way up to Addison (just a block or so away from Wrigley Field) and heading back downtown.  I loved the return trip south as I enjoyed running through some great neighbourhoods I had never seen before including the beautiful Old Town.  Looking back at these splits, I was running too hard.  I knew it too.  I tried to slow my pace as best I could but easier said than done with the adrenaline of the day.  I hit 10K at 44:17 and was really cruising at the halfway mark at 1:32:33 (7'03" per mile)…if you do the math you'll see I was now running with the 3:05 pace group, which sounds good but should have been sounding warning bells.

Running Strong Over the First Half

Miles 14-20 -- 6'49", 7'09", 7'17", 7'18", 7'17", 7'26", 7'31"
After passing the halfway point I was still feeling really good.  I put up a 6'49" 14th mile, but that would be the last sub-7 of the day.  My pace started to drop but it was still quite respectable.  It was around this point running through the western portion of the course that I started to notice people going past me for the first time.  I took another Gu and tried to keep my now-slower pace steady.  I was still on track for a fantastic finish time.  For those curious (probably no one) I was hitting every other water station and downing a cup of Gatorade, and I took a total of 4 Gu gels during the day at 5/10/15/20 miles.  I had a 5th Gu but I couldn't stomach any more of them at that point.  I crossed the 30K timing mat at 2:12:38, a 7'07" pace…still on track.

Miles 21-23 -- 7'42", 7'45", 8'08"
Here's where the legs started to pay the price for all those (too) quick miles.  My pace was dropping and I couldn't really stop it.  Mile 23 brought my first 8+ minute mile since the crowded first mile.  I was fading and didn't really get to enjoy the great crowds that were out supporting us, including a dancing dragon in Chinatown.  The spectators for this race were incredible, as the entire course was lined with cheering fans…unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  I hit 35K at 2:36:30 and my overall pace had dropped to 7'12", which would give me a finish time of 3:08:47, but with my pace dropping the way it was I knew I would need to dig deep and step it up to get 3:10 and a Boston Qualifying result.  With 5K left in the race I was officially entering new distance territory, and I was officially going for it.  Giddyup!

The final 5K, fading but determined.  At least I still had my shoes on.

Miles 24-26.2 -- 8'40", 9'10", 8'47"
I was going for it…my mind was made up.  I had come this far and my goal, while slipping away, was still achievable.  I picked up my pace for the last 5K.  Except I didn't, because literally the first step I took when I upped my pace resulted in a huge knot in my right hamstring…something I had never experienced while running before.  I knew Boston would not be happening today and I had to just commit to finishing as strong and healthy as I could, which meant slowing things right down.  It hurt…my legs, my pride.  But I was proud.  I had nothing to be ashamed of.  As I made my way back up Michigan Ave to Grant Park I thought I heard my name a few times but didn't recognize the faces.  Turns out the family had made it to the finish area to cheer me on again.  It was thinking of them that got me through that last 5K.  i popped the earbuds out once I knew I was done and just enjoyed the last little bit.  I had done all the training I possibly could have and reveled in this moment.  I was honestly on the verge of tears so many times during the race…from the very first moments really…but I knew as soon as i saw my family at the finish that I was going to sob.  I crossed the line at 3:15:29 and I was officially a marathoner.  I held back tears and made my way to the reunite area to see my family.


I met up with Michelle first in the reunite area where I gave her a big hug and just let it out…it was very emotional for sure.  Then we left the park and we met Rhoda and the kids where I gave them hugs all around.  I was so happy to see them all and thanked them for being there to share this moment with me.

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The Hug That Makes it All Worth It

We walked the mile and a half back to our hotel (Jackson on my shoulders wearing my medal with pride) where I cracked a beer, called my family back home in Canada, and had a shower.  Then it was off to celebrate in the way the CheapRunners always do…FOOD!!  We hit up Lou Malnati's for some Chicago-Style Deep Dish and it was everything I hoped it would be.

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I had come just short of my stretched out 'A' goal of a 3:10 BQ time, but I beat my 'B' goal of 3:20 by almost 5 minutes and I couldn't have been happier.  I learned so much from this race and I know what I need to do now to get better next time out…although my next time out will be the Disney World Marathon in January which I'll just be running for fun!  Sunday was a great day, honestly one of the high points in my life.  To think that just 13 months earlier almost to the day I ran my first ever race…a 5K…and I came within a 5K of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  Unreal.

Thanks Chicago for such a great experience, I hope to run with you again!


  1. All things said and done, we had a great first showing for our first marathon! I've seen lots of FAST marathoners talk about their first showing, and we are at a really good stage if this is a sign of things to come!
    I'm jealous of your eating ability after the race! my stomach was off for almost 24 hours, i never did the post race gluttony!

    I'm glad I got to meet you!


  2. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!!! You crushed it in every way!! Sorry you didn't hit the BQ but you seriously rocked that race - a little pacing in the middle and you will be right there!!!!
    Loved reading your recap!!

  3. Haha, that looks about right!
    I agree, great first showing for both of us and valuable lessons that can only be learned with experience. Too bad you didn't get to indulge afterwards, the food was glorious. I've had Giordano's plenty of times, but this was my first time at Lou Malnati's...butter crust FTW!

  4. Thanks Kim, that's exactly how I felt about things too. I never went into this marathon expecting to BQ and I didn't even make that my goal until the week before the race (TAPER MADNESS!!)...but I now know that is certainly possible if i want to work for it.

  5. You amaze me! Congratulations, brotha! To say I'm proud of you just doesn't seem enough... Love you!

  6. what a great recap, congrats Mike!!

  7. Sonia the MexigarianOctober 15, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Congrats on finishing your first marathon! That's amazing. Great recap. I'm running my first one in Dec (CIM) and hope to make it under 5hrs (not speedy, but can hold strong). Recaps like this make me excited for the big day.

  8. Thanks SR, and congrats on your 51st marathon

  9. Wow Sonia, that's exciting! I was reading everything marathon related in the weeks/months leading up to mine...you end up living (and learning) through everyone else.
    Good luck with your training, I'll be following you along the way :)

  10. Congratulations! That's a heckuva finish time for your first marathon! Well done. I have no doubt you'll have that BQ soon. Keep it up.

  11. That's what I'm hoping too Glenn, just a little more work to do as well as learnings gained from the run itself. Thanks for the encouragement!

  12. Congratulations Mike, you're officially a Marathoner! . It's been said the marathon begins at mile 20, you held out until mile 23. Next time, my friend, next time.

  13. Thanks for welcoming me to the club Jeff...in a few months I'll be joining you as certifiably Goofy as well!
    I guess that next time out the goal will be to finish strong, but I'm happy with how the run went.

  14. Sugar Coated SheridanOctober 17, 2013 at 12:06 AM

    Congratulations!!! That's wonderful!!

  15. Thanks Beth, it was a wonderful feeling crossing the finish line

  16. Way to own it CheapMarathonerMike!! This post was incredibly heartwarming-I loved every second of it. I just know a BQ is in your future and I can't wait to cheer you on when it happens.

  17. I like the sound of CheapMarathonerMike, might need a name change :)
    Glad you enjoyed it, I had such a great time. I hope that BQ comes some day, but I have plenty of other reasons to run than just the time on a clock...that said I'll go crazy if that does happen!

  18. Well done! It was nice to meet you all on Saturday and I hope we can meet up in Orlando in January as well.