Chicago Marathon Race Recap


I sincerely appreciate everyone who followed along on my marathon training, wished me luck for my race, and congratulated me on my finish. It felt a little bit like I took all of you on the journey with me. 

Marathon training took over our life for a while, and I definitely had a week of "marathon blues" after the race. It has been strange going from running four times a week, constantly thinking about when and where my runs would be, times and paces, and anxiety and anticipation leading up to traveling to Chicago... to being done and over. I have only run a few times in the last 3 weeks, and I miss being so active and running toward a goal, but I love not having to scheduling a long run in my weekend, and I like having my evenings free.

The night before I flew to Chicago, I reread the recaps I wrote of my previous two marathons, both in 2013 (April and December). In both of those races, my goal time was 4:30, the same goal time I had for the Chicago Marathon, and my times were 4:14 and 4:15. In both of those recaps, I broke the 26.2 miles into chunks of miles: feeling this way during miles x-x, feeling this way through miles x-x. Basically for both of my 2013 marathons I felt really good through the first 10 or so miles, just having fun, feeling good, and the miles went quickly. The end got hard obviously, but I beat my goal time and felt positive about how the races went. 

I tried to tell myself that my main goal for Chicago was to have fun and finish the race, and of course I wanted to do those things, but secretly I assumed that this race would be similar to the others. Realistically, I know that makes no sense. I'm 8 years older than I was when I ran those. I've had 3 babies since then. My life is so different now; my body is different. But I truly feel like I trained harder for this race than I have ever trained for a race. I ran more often, with more varied types of runs, and the majority of my training paces were at or better than a 4:30 marathon pace. I felt like a 4:30 marathon was a lock, if not (if I had an amazing day) getting close to or beating those previous times.

Some days as a runner, you're really feeling it. You find a groove, and even a hard effort isn't too hard. You look down at your watch and realize the time has slipped away, and you're farther than you thought. It's a good day to run. Other days, for a million different reasons or no specific reason at all, it just feels hard. Running isn't fun. It's work, and you never quite feel like your feet ever lift off the ground.

The long story short of this marathon recap is: my 2021 Chicago Marathon felt really hard. It just wasn't my day to show off all my months of training and run fast and have fun and feel like the miles (at least those first couple) were flying by.

We passed the start line, and I wanted to run slower than my goal pace, because my plan was to start off slow and get faster as the race went on. I wanted to finish faster than I started. 

And I did start slow. The problem was that the slow pace still felt fast, and it felt hard.

I passed mile 3, and I said to myself, "This is going to be hard. My only goal is to finish." At mile THREE of a marathon. Not good.

The miles did not fly by, and the whole thing felt like work. Several times throughout the race I tried to pick up the pace, and I honestly thought I was running faster, but looking at my splits, I really wasn't. I can't even break up my race recap into parts like I did the other two, because the whole thing just felt the same: hard, counting mile by mile.

The only time during the whole race where I felt like I was in any kind of groove was the last couple of miles. I did manage to get faster at the end like I wanted and came in with a negative split. A negative split for anyone who doesn't know is when you run the second half of a run faster than the first half. My first half marathon time was 2:22, and my second half marathon was 2:15. 

Finish time 4:37

I ran toward the finish line and heard them call my name! That was really cool. The guy was only calling out random names every so often, so it just happened to be me, and that was exciting. I crossed the finish line and got teary eyed almost immediately. I felt so proud of myself for doing this and so happy to be at the finish line and getting my medal.

I went through the line and got some food and drinks, and then I texted my family to ask what the app said my time was, because my watch was all messed up. When they said 4:37, I started crying again, but this time it was because I felt really sad. It probably sounds silly to say that I finished a marathon and then felt sad about my time. Just finishing is a huge accomplishment, I know. But I had been training for months and months, and I was so disappointed because I felt like my race day did not reflect the work I'd put in over all those hours of training. I felt super frustrated that it felt so hard the whole time.

So yes, I sat on the ground in front of Buckingham fountain in Grant Park in downtown Chicago, and I cried because I finished my marathon seven minutes slower than my goal time.

I won't lie: I spent the week following the race being mopey about those seven minutes. Jordan can tell you this is the truth. I just overall felt bummed. I'm sure I annoyed people. I was annoying myself.

But it's been three weeks since the race, and I can now tell you that I am able to see things in a much more positive light. First, although I didn't hit my main goal of 4:30, I did hit my C goal of 4:45. Second, I did finish the dang thing, and based on how I was feeling so early in the race, that's something I'm very proud of.

Third, and much more fun and exciting: my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, and baby niece were an amazing cheer section! They were able to see me 5 times during the race, take pictures and videos, and it definitely lifted my spirits. It was so fun to have them there! Jordan and the kids watched the live stream of the race at home, and they saw me cross the finish line and have my name called. And the rest of my family was tracking me and asking for updates. I am so thankful for such a supportive and encouraging family. I absolutely could not have done this without Jordan being so supportive of my running hobby.

Was it the perfect race situation where I crushed my goals and felt like I had a great day? No, it wasn't. But what I have been reflecting on over the past couple of weeks is that one race day doesn't have to define me as a runner. I can choose how I think about this race, and how I talk about it with other people. I can choose to stay disappointed in my time and how I felt during the race, or I can choose to be proud of all that I accomplished through this entire training schedule. 

I trained for and ran a marathon without getting injured once during the process.
I paid attention to my diet and water intake leading up to the race and didn't have any GI issues during the marathon.
I flew to another state to race in a world marathon major, and I finished in the top 50% of 26,000 runners.
I ran a negative split.

I remember setting a bucket list goal in 2010 to run a half marathon. It felt like so much.
And now I've finished my third full marathon. Thanks so much, again, to everyone for the congrats and the well wishes. I appreciate it so much. Definitely a weekend I'll never forget!

"In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that." 
— Fred Lebow, NYC Marathon co-founder

Laura Morgan said...

Who's chopping onions?! I'm teary-eyed over here. YOU DID IT. Thank you for explaining negative splits.

AnneMarie said...

Congratulations! That is such a huge accomplishment, and I think it's so valuable that you are able to honestly look at your disappointment with your time and examine the ways that you have grown as a person and as a runner. I think it is a huge testament to who you are that you persevered and kept going even when it was so hard so early on. Good for you!

karachris1 said...

I am proud of you. Not hitting goals we were work towards is HARD. Giving up family time, chore time, scrapbooking or whatever time to run is HARD. I think it is great that you allowed yourself to feel all those feelings and then shared with us. More raw truth in our society is needed. Mother of 3 and AMAZINGLY proud of you. Kara

tara said...

i'm so proud of you + happy for the update!
i found your blog when i was starting to train for my first half marathon (that i was unable to participate in because of some knee issues) and i'm encouraged and inspired by you. thank you for your honesty, and i hope you continue to be gentle with your thoughts toward yourself. well done!


ps: i did want to say that i'm sorry it was an "off" day, and that really really stinks.

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

Proud of you for running that race! As a fellow runner I understand being sad about the time. BUT you also have 3 kids and training for a marathon while raising 3 humans is incredible. I'm glad your family was there too!