The Road to my FIRST marathon: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I always knew that I wanted to run the Bank of America-Chicago Marathon as my first marathon. As a teacher, I LOVE DOCUMENTARIES. Call me a geek, but I love watching Spirit of the Marathon. Ever since I first watched this documentary I knew the Chicago Marathon would be my first marathon.

The road to my first marathon was a bumpy one. I had been running consistently for four years before I first decided to sign up for the marathon. I finally tried to sign up for the 2013 Chicago marathon in February. However, there was a glitch in the site used for race registration, so I was forced to enter the first lottery. I must have been lucky because, $175 dollars later, I was registered for the marathon.

Everything was great leading up to the marathon. I was living up north at my parents cabin, because I was teaching summer school in a small town. There was no internet, and barely any cell reception at this place. The cabin also only has four TV stations that come in through the antenna from the roof. Needless to say I did a lot of running done.

As the summer ended I was preparing to move to Eau Claire, WI to start my first real teaching job. One Sunday night, I was grumbling about going on an eleven mile run. My mom tried to be supportive, and asked if I wanted her to bike along while I ran. This was something new so I ultimately said yes. Running while someone is biking with you really is not the best idea; especially when you are on small, curvy, hilly, country roads.

At mile two of the run, I was feeling like I was on top of the world. I defeated some monster hills and was now running down hill. This was the part of the road where there was a dangerous curve and two cars were coming at me from two different directions (and FAST!). I glanced back and could hear the tire of the car behind me crunching the gravel next to the road. If I didn’t move over, I would be road kill. In an effort to not die, I dove to the side. My right foot stepped on a broken off piece of pavement. I heard the crunch of my bone breaking. Later that evening, I found out that I broke my fifth meta-tarsal and would not be running the 2013 Chicago Marathon.

It was Thanksgiving before I ran again. My family has the tradition of completing a Drumstick Dash before we chow down on delicious food. I completed the 5K much slower than I usually run, but I ultimately finished. That whole winter I started rebuilding my running base. That winter was a Doozy! My fifth graders had indoor recess for a whole month and a half because the wind chill was below zero. Running outside, was awful, so I was forced to run inside, at the gym. I call it the death mill. But by the time signup for the 2014 Chicago Marathon Lottery came around I was pumped to enter.

Two weeks after I found out I “won the lottery” for the second time, I got really sick. I had a false diagnosis of strep throat and was put on antibiotics. A few days later, I was getting worse instead of better. I had five large lumps on my neck and the back of my head. The only thing that I could get down was ice cubes. After two IV’s in my arm and lots of tears in urgent care, I was diagnosed with Mono.  This is the worst I have ever felt in my life! I remember laying on my bed just wanting to die, but not having enough strength to carry through with the plan. Slowly but surely, I got better.

Even though I now had a split time of two minutes slower than my original time, I continued to run a
few miles 3-5 times a week. I ran solely on how I felt that day. I did find that on the days that I didn’t run, I felt more fatigue.

As fall approached, I felt stronger and healthier. After everything that I had overcome, I was ready to dominate this marathon.

The weather on the day of the marathon couldn’t have been more perfect. That summer I had done many runs in high temperatures and humidity. I was so thankful that it was going to be a high of 54 by noon! The rain that the meteorologist had predicted was pushed off until that night and despite the wind, the sun was out and shining.

For this being a race of over 40,000 runners, I never felt the amount of people actually at the race. I got in line for the port-a-pot right away and found my place in the coral slightly before the first wave took off. Because I am turtle slow, I was in one of the back corals. This was a little frustrating because I felt a little disconnected from the start of the race. However as I saw the starting line, I was pumped up.

The first mile of the race, you run under this tunnel. I knew that my mom and college roommate, Alli, would be waiting for me just outside the tunnel. As I saw them, they started cheering, which caused everyone around them to cheer for me too! I was glad that I pinned on my name to the front of my shirt before I started. For the first 19 miles I had hundreds of fans cheering me on.

The first part of the race blurred together, but I was feeling good. We ran through some pretty sections of northern Chicago. The crowds were amazing and full of energy. At mile 8 there was a senior living center that had the patients looking out of the window cheering us on. This moment brought a smile to my face. My favorite had to be running through Boystown. There were gay men dressed in army pants, throwing guns. Also there were some people dressed up in drag that were cheering the crowd. One pretty lady said that she liked my leopard leggings.

I accomplished my goal of running the first half without stopping. At the halfway point I heard the most amazing thing from a lady. “Come inside and use our bathrooms!” Of course I took up that opportunity.

After I stopped to use the bathroom, I realized that my hip was starting to hurt. Every step there was a stabbing pain that dug deep into my butt. This made me worried. I had never felt this pain before, and it was only mile 14. Between mile 14 and 19 I completed a walk 1 minute run 4 minutes pace. I blasted my music and tried to ignore the pain.

At mile 19 I got to see my Mom, Alli and Uncle Pete again. Right before I spotted them, I decided to eat my cliff bar. As I approached my family, my mom asked me if I was eating a cookie. “I wish I had a cookie…” I though inside my head. I don’t really remember what I said to them, but I do remember breaking into tears two minutes after I passed them. I just wanted to be done and I still had 7 more miles to go. The last 7 miles was awful. I could barely run any more.

As I turned into Chinatown, I was transformed into a different world. For some reason this moment gave me clarity on what I had to do to finish the race. I needed to find someone… Anyone… to talk to, and get me through this hardship. Luckily I was able to strike up a conversation with this dietitian from Chicago. As I talked to her, the miles slowly went by. We had now slowed down to a crawl but every step I was closer to the finish.

Finally I saw that beautiful 2 and 6. My Mom, Alli and Pete were right under the sign. I attempted to run so that they could see me, but I think it looked more like a horse trotting with 3 legs instead of a girl running. Seeing them gave me strength to finish. As I turned the corner, I suddenly saw the only hill on the course. WHY WOULD YOU PUT THIS HILL RIGHT THERE? I made it up, and turned the corner to finally see the finish.

As I was running, I started choking up. I thought of all the things I had been through over the last two years. Finally I had accomplished this goal, and I was so proud of myself. The first thing that I received

after crossing the finish line-which I think marks me as a marathoner more than receiving the medal- was the amazing mylar blanket. As they draped this blanket around my shoulders, I really felt like a marathoner!!! As I received my metal, I felt on top of the world, I could do anything. Now I just needed to get back to the place to meet my family.

I said goodbye to my marathon friend on the corner of some street. I was so happy, and was even happier when Alli handed me a Dr. Pepper. What a great friend.

Looking back now, I am still proud of my accomplishment of completing my first marathon. Although it wasn’t a stellar performance, I know what I can do better next time to improve. I am a strong and confident woman who can accomplish anything. Seeing my students the next day, was the best thing ever. They were even prouder of me than I was of myself.