Though it's not completely clear from the header (and there will be more on that later in the post) this is my pre-race, race, post-race report for the inaugural Illinois Marathon.
My sister got to my house about 9 on Friday morning after several flight issues the previous day. The plan was to check out the expo early, run a few errands, then chill until dinner. So we drove to the expo and made our way to the floor. Having been to only one expo previously, I was a bit disappointed. Granted, the previous expo was at a much larger race (The Flying Pig), and this was the first year for this race, but I was expecting a little more. I did, however, get some info on a couple of half-marathons that I'm considering running in, so that's good. Not many (read no) freebies, and the goodie bag was mostly just info on other races.
So we got our chips, and headed over to get our shirts. When I signed up for the race, I must have requested a XXL shirt, because that's what my info said. When I showed the gentleman at the shirt pickup my packet so he could get my shirt, he commented "So you're one of the guys who wears these big shirts. I finally get to give one away." Thanks for the confidence boost there, buddy. So we were back to the clydsdale issue again, huh?
I did see a fleece vest that I liked at the booth for he local running store, but they had no XLs in stock, so they were nice enough to call over to he store and put one on hold for me. Again feeling really special about my size at that point, but whatever.
On our travels to the store, I noticed that one of the Walgreens had put up the following on their electronic sign : "Welcome Marthaon Runners." While they get an A for effort, their execution fell flat. We did, however, get much humor from our new battlecry "This is Marthaon!"
We ran a couple other errand, then relaxed until dinner with my family Friday evening. We were lucky enough to have had our cousin reserve a hotel room for us for Friday night so we could get up and walk to the start, so after dinner, we went home, helped get the kids to bed, I packed a bag and we were off to the hotel for the evening. By the time we got. To the room, it was almost 10pm because after putting the kids to bed, we had to make a detour to he airport where my brother in law had left his carry on bag when my sister picked hi
up. Luckily it was still there. So we got to the room a bit late and decided to start getting our stuff ready for the morning, when I realized I forgot my shirt back at the house. So one more trip home, pick up the shirt, back to he hotel, get stuff ready and then hit the sack. I think it was close to 11:30 when we finally turned out the light.
The next morning was chilly as we walked to the start. I was pretty much committed to wearing shorts with a long sleeve wicking shirt and a pullover. My plan was to dump the pullover with my wife and daughter at about the halfway point. There was some confusion about where to put our bags, but we eventually located the trucks and waited as long as we could to strip down. I saw my friend Doug (Zak from 99.1) and we chatted for a couple minutes before we headed off to the start.
Our plan from the beginning was to hook up with the 5:00 pace team (led by Pacer Tom) and stick with him through the whole race to come in right at 5 hours. He was very enthusiastic and motivating, and let us know that if we could see and hear him, he'd bring us in right on time. Never having run with a pace team before, I was looking forward to the experience.
The starting area was a bit confusing, with a mass of runners in the starting area. About the only thing that gave the runners some idea of where to line up was the different signs held by the pacers. The lines for the porta potties at the start was ridiculous, and I realized with 5 minutes before the start that a) I had to go to the bathroom, and b) there was no way I was going to be able to do that and still make the start of the race. So I held it. Until somewhere around mile 16. More on that later.
As we shuffled toward the start I remember thinking that it was a good day to run. I was looking forward to running with my sister (she had run a couple marathons previously), and looking forward to the challenge of finishing my first marathon.
It may seem a bit of a cliche, but the first miles went by pretty quickly. We fell in right behind Pacer Tom, and before I knew it we were through the first 10 miles or so, with things seeming pretty good. Kris was awesome, and would call out when it was time to gel, and we would check in with each other to see how the other was doing. I saw my friend Steve around mile 12, and a bit later stripped off my pullover in anticipation of seeing my wife and oldest daughter around mile 13. I saw them from about a block away and headed to their side of the street. I paused for just a second to high five my girl, and pass off the pullover to my wife. About a half mile later we saw our family camped out along the side of the road and they waved and cheered us on as we ran by, still on pace.
It was getting a little bit harder to maintain the pace by about mile 15 or so, and I remember thinking about the horrific 15 mile training run I had several weeks earlier. Maybe that started the negativity creeping in, because shortly after that point (really after I decided I HAD to stop and use the porta potty at mile 16) things started to get a bit worse.
First of all, it was becoming harder to keep up with Pacer Tom. I knew from his bio that he could run a 3:30 marathon, so pacing a 5:00 group was pretty easy for him, and he maintained a steady pace throughout. He would check in with the group from time to time, and it seemed that by this point, there were fewer and fewer cheers when he asked if his team was still with him. I noticed us slipping back from him a bit, but we could still hear him, so I thought we would be ok. After the pit stop, however, he was quite a ways in front of us, and it was really hard for me to start running again. Kris kept on encouraging me, and echoing the advice of her coach "No sassy talk" from the head.
By the time we rolled around to mile 18, I NEEDED to take a walk break. The distance was messing with me; nothing really HURT, my legs just felt SO tired. So we walked. And my sister kept telling me it was ok, that we were going to finish, and that was the important thing, and that the time didn't matter, even as I apologized for (in my mind) messing up her race. As we hit mile 19, we saw our family again, and we were walking. (This was a trend throughout the last part of the race; walk a quarter mile or so, then run for a half to three quarters of a mile). I felt like I was disappointing them because I was walking, but they cheered me on anyway. I learned later from my brother in law that as Pacer Tom went by my family, they mentioned that we had been with him on the way out, and he asked them "Is there even anyone behind me anymore?" So maybe I wasn't the only one having a rough go of it.
As I mentioned, the trend became to walk a bit, run a bit, and that seemed to work, as we got closer and closer to the finish. Step by step, mile by mile, we journeyed on. The miles went past, though not as quickly as in the beginning, and when we got to mile 25, we decided we were going to run the rest of the way. At that point, we could see the practice facility next to Memorial Stadium, and knew we were getting close. And we just kept running. For that last 1.2 miles we kept running. I know we were both exhausted and hurting, but we kept at it. Coming into the stadium was awesome, and hearing the cheering of the crowd gave us the energy to finish.
Let's talk about the finish for a moment. When Kris and I ran the Flying Pig Half Marathon together last year, as we approached the finish I picked a runner ahead of us and decided I wanted to sprint to pass him, just to finish strong. Now my sister specifically said that at the end of the marathon, there would be no sprinting. Ahem. So as we ran through the endzone, we ran together pretty much stride for stride. And then someone yelled into a microphone "C'mon, bring it home!" This was apparently the cue for my sister to start sprinting the last 50 yards. Um, excuse me, what happened to the "no sprint" clause? It took me a couple seconds to realize what was happening, and I sprinted to catch up with her. Hard as I tried, though, I couldn't quite catch up and she finished 2 second ahead of me. She's going to hear about that 1 second for a LONG time. Hear that, Sis?? A LONG time. ;-)
Finish Time - 5:14.06
Kris's Finish Time - 5:14.05
Oh wait, should her time go BEFORE mine??
All in all I'm happy with how the race went. Sure, I could have done better, but I PR'd, and my sister beat her PR by 26 minutes, which is awesome. The volunteers were amazing, encouraging runners every step of the way. The community came out to support the runners in a big way. I'm sure some people were inconvenienced ( I even saw one person chastizing a volunteer about being inconvenienced), but that's going to happen in any event like this. The course was good, the weather was great. Would I do it again? Run a marathon, that is...not right away, but probably. I'm looking at what to do next and considering my options.
Guess that's about it for now. I know this has been long, so thanks for sticking with me. I know there will be more to post later, so look for that. Right now I'm going to take a week off and road a bit. Then we'll see what's up.
Congrats to my Sis on her PR (and for finishing a second before me). Oh, and for winning the Kona lottery. You'll be awesome!!