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2016 Chicago Marathon Race Recap

I did it! I ran my THIRD MARATHON!

chicago-marathon-finisher-2016

Marathon running is kind of like having babies (I think? I don’t have kids, but this is what I’ve seen…) because the first marathon is a huge deal. Any marathons after that? Everyone knows you can do it and you don’t get that huge celebration (like the equivalent of a baby shower) beforehand. And that’s totally OK. Remember last week when I said that I wasn’t doing this race for the head pats, but was doing it for MYSELF? Well, that mindset made the 2016 Chicago Marathon my favorite of the three marathons.

I ran with the intention of giving the race my all. I ran with the intention of beating my time from last year. I ran with the intention of positive splitting. I ran with the intention of enjoying every second of the marathon experience. Most of these things happened.

Miles 1-11: I felt GOOD. Sara was volunteering in Corral D (I was in Corral H) and she cheered me on at the start 🙂 At mile 1.5, I saw Andy and our friend Tim, which was amazing! I tried to hold back in an effort to positive split, but I don’t think I held back quite enough. I felt so amazing and was having the best time; it was hard to reduce my speed so early on in the race.

I appreciated the crowd support especially at the beginning of the race. The crowds were so amazing and I took in every positive poster and comment. These kept me going during the hardest parts. Thank you to everyone for coming out on Marathon day. I know I say that I don’t do this for head pats anymore, but sometimes you need a bit of extra motivation in the middle of a marathon 😉

Miles 12-21: I got a side stitch of epic proportions at mile 12. I knew my coworkers would be at mile 14ish and I didn’t want them to see me looking like I was dying so early in the game. The side stitch slowed me down a bit, but went away after about a half mile, thank goodness. I got to the half at 2:14 and foolishly thought that I could keep up that pace for the second half. Oh, Mel, you silly person. Still, though, for some reason the middle miles of a marathon are always my favorite. I kept thinking “wow, this is one of the best days of my life!”

I was still going strong when I saw my amazing coworkers – I feel SO SPECIAL because they came out just to see ME. <3

At mile 16, I saw Andy, Tim, and Sara (finished with her volunteer shift). I high-fived them and was soooo thrilled to see my people! What amazing friends and boyfriend!!

marathon-friends

With some of my cheerleaders (Andy, (me), Sara, & Tim) at the finish. 

At mile 17, I SAW MY COWORKERS AGAIN! It was such a shock that they moved to another spot.

At mile 18, I saw MY FAMILY! They originally said they wouldn’t be able to make it, but with my cousin and me both running, they wound up coming to the race. I saw my aunt and then looked ahead and saw my dad! It was such a special moment that I will never forget 😀

I felt OK still at mile 19, but could tell that I was slowing down quite a bit. I got really hungry and Gu packets every hour or so + Gatorade at every station didn’t seem to cut it. Nothing satisfied my hunger. I was able to stay positive from 19-21, but again, I was definitely slowing down and experiencing some sore feet and legs.

Miles 22-26.2: I never truly hit a wall during this race (thank goodness because last year’s wall was absolutely MISERABLE), but I just kept on slowing down more and more. There seemed to be many more uphill portions at the end, which my Midwestern self does not appreciate, ha. The crowd support dwindled in certain areas at the end of the race and I kept thinking that I needed some music to push me through. At some points, there were bands and or songs playing through a speaker, but not as much as I would have liked. This made me regret not bringing headphones.

I kept thinking I’d like to finish the race in 4:40 and I had stayed way ahead of that pace group, which actually started a corral ahead of me, for most of the race. At mile 24, they passed me. And I didn’t even care. I reached a point in the marathon where I was giving it my all, and that’s what mattered most. The huge difference between this year’s race and last year’s was that I maintained a positive mindset even when running felt incredibly painful.

At mile 25, I saw my family again and realized that my uncle was also there! I must have been so focused on running the first time I passed my family that I didn’t see him. They were all standing in a gas station on the opposite side from where I was, but they cheered super loud. My aunt claims that I was smiling still, but I swear it was a fake smile LOL. I was in a lot of pain; the worst miles were definitely 24 through 25.

Once I saw that only 1 mile was left, I tried to really pick up the pace (as much as I could, which was not much, to be completely honest). I kept saying to myself “you’re going to be a marathoner for the third time. It’s almost over. This is really happening!” I wanted to walk sooooo badly, but I just kept on running (or shuffling, really) towards the finish line.

I crossed the finish line in 4:45:26, which is 5 minutes faster than last year!! This is still 13 minutes slower than my PR from 2012, but I’m REALLY HAPPY with my time. I gave the Chicago Marathon all I had and more. I’m going to consider 4:45:26 as my upper-20s PR, which means a lot to me. I worked hard in training and couldn’t possibly have done better. I pushed myself to the limit on Sunday and am absolutely amazed by what my body can do. My feelings about the 2016 Chicago Marathon can be described by this photo:

3-time-marathoner

My running buddy/cousin, Oksana, came through the finish shortly after I did. I am so proud of my amazing cousin for running her first marathon. We did almost all of our long runs together and I swear, without her, I would not have done as well as I did on Sunday. She motivated me to train smarter, harder, and more consistently. Plus, we had some epic conversations on our long runs, which definitely helped me work through some tough life stuff this summer. I never had a training partner and I see now that running together is always better than running alone. Thank you, Oksana, for an unforgettable summer of training!

marathon-cousins

This marathon taught me a lot:

  1. Finishing by a certain time doesn’t make or break the marathon experience.
  2. I have some of the best people in my life.
  3. I have grown as a person so much since last year’s marathon.
  4. My body is capable of so much and I appreciate it 100%
  5. This will NOT be my last 26.2, but it probably will be for a year or so. I am a marathoner. Distance running is part of who I am and I will participate in races until I no longer can.
  6. I respect myself so much more because I worked really hard for that medal. I think any physically able person CAN run a marathon, but I don’t think most people WILL run a marathon. Training is not for the weak and I love reminding myself that I am strong and dedicated. When the going got tough, I kept going.

Sunday was definitely in the top 10 best days of my life. Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a marathon after 18 long weeks of training. I can’t believe the race is over, but I feel so optimistic about what will come next. A marathon doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. The same thing is true about life. I run marathons because I like to set my life on fire. Maybe I won’t run a marathon in 2017, but I will be making other epic things happen in my life. And I just can’t wait!