Monday, October 10, 2011

Wait 'til next year......

I have SO much to say about the #CM11 Chicago Marathon.  I don't know where to even begin.  I suggest you grab a cold one.  Or some coffee.  A blanket.  Some energy gel.  Perhaps a banana. You might even want compression socks. This is clearly the longest race report for someone who didn't even run the damn race. 

This was to be my race.  MY marathon.  The one I do.  The one that makes me a marathoner. We all know my tired story by now.  I tried.  My brain quit.  I got injured.   I did not run.

This was my girls weekend.  College friends getting together at least once a year.  Used to be football games.  Then weddings.  Then just random places to go have fun.  In the last year or two these have turned into race weekends.  Funny how that happened since almost all of us never really ran.  Some of us met up for Chicago Shamrock Shuffle this spring.  We enjoyed a nice (but hot) race and had a fun time afterwards.  At this point some of us had already signed up to run the Chicago Marathon. Three of us and another's husband were planning on running.  As it turned out, three of the four of us had to drop out.  Injuries, conflicts, and just general lack of feeling ready were some of our reasons. So, sadly, this left one lone runner, Celeste, to our marathon.  Thankfully, this was her 10th marathon, so old hat for her.

Friday night we drank wine, caught up, drank some more wine, made race signs, and drank some more wine. 'Twas fun.  However, too much as one person was unable to get out of bed the next morning  So, we found it necessary to make yet another sign. 

On Saturday we headed to the Expo.  I was really worried that being here would make me cry.  I figured as soon as I got my bib I would lose it.  Oddly enough, I did not.  Instead I was kind of excited.  There were THOUSANDS of runners here.  You could feel the excitement.  It made me feel good.  If I were running I would feel scared.  This I know for sure.  I just missed seeing Ray here.  He tweeted that he was leaving Expo just as we were getting on the shuttle to leave as well.  I missed him. One of many missed meetings with him all weekend. 

Runners entering corral
Up early Sunday.  Walked with Celeste over to the race start to make sure she got to where she needed to ok.  It was kind of a mess as runners were very unclear where they could get in to their corral.  Lots of runners hustling to the start after attempting to enter in areas nowhere near where they needed to be.  I had planned on going all the way to the start area.  No, I was not running.  However, I did still have my bib.  So, I could get in the runner area.  However, it was so crazy there I decided to say goodbye to her before she entered the "if you aint running get out" area.  We would see her again in 26.2.  
runners head to the start by the Modern Wing of the Art Institute
45,000 runners start

Met up with the rest of the girls on the spectator side of the start.  Watching this start was beautiful.  A sea of runners, flowing like calm ocean waves......gently bobbing up and down as it  streamed by us.  The race started.  It. was. on. For as far as you could see in either direction all you could see were runners. Beautiful, strong, amazing...... runners.  It was spectacular. 

We had plans.  Plans to be uber spectators.  A little marathon got in the way.  We were able to jump right into a cab and get to the second stop for our day.  We had planned on just past mile 8.  However, my friend Lee, who was saving us a spot there, was stuck in a crowd.  It was crowded.  The runners were already running by in a steady stream.  We didn't want to fight our way to the spot.  We found a wide open spot about 1/2 mile away on Addison. I was worried all the people I gave my planned location to would not find me. I panicked a little. But, I hunkered down.  Pulled out my Do Epic Shit sign. This is when the fun really began.  The second that sign hit the air it started.  The smiles.  The laughs. The hooting.  The hollering. The "right-on" finger pointing to me.  The high fives.  The shouts of "Do Epic Shit!!!! WHOOOOOO!" All of this..... from the runners.   It. was. amazing.   Several yelled Una Runnnnnnner! or "Do you know Logan?"  It was great! 

I cannot tell you how awesome it is to have racers look at YOU and smile.  Most runners usually don't smile when racing.  They are focused.  Or tired.  Or struggling. But, when they passed me, the lips slowly turned upwards.  They got a glint in their eyes.  It was amazing.  To have that affect.  Some were extremely boisterous when passing me.  Yelling back at me.  Others, quietly smiled a modest smile.  I could only sense what their brain was really thinking.  Made me giggle.  

I was tracking quite a few runners.  Sadly, Ryan was just TOO fast and I never was able to get to my location before he passed.   Runner tracking always informed me he was already past my next location before I even left the current one.  I cheered him on from afar.  Thankfully, runner tracking let me know when people were past 10k.  I knew to judge their arrival time at my location.  It was great.  In the meantime I made many new friends with strangers passing me by.  I'm a little loud when I cheer.  I tend to make noise.  I scream.  I whistle.  I Whooooooo!!!! Loudly.  The runners heard me.  For sure. :D  I started to lose my voice.  And, I was only one hour into the race. 

So, one by one people I knew came by.  Thankfully, they all saw ME and came by ME and shouted!  TomBrian (Brian DM), Celeste, Casey,  Becky .  ALL of them stopping and shouting out to me!  I shouted back... even louder GOOOOOOO!   I was waiting around for Ray (Ray DM ) who obviously started further back in the corrals.  I waited as long as I could.  My friends waiting to get to the next spot to meet Celeste.  I finally had to leave my spot.  I'm positive Ray went by right after I left.  

When Lisa S.  came by she yelled hi and ran away.  Went a couple of feet. Came back.  Hugged me and said, "I need this.  This was SO what I needed.  Thanks. "  And, she was off.  I was tickled beyond belief that I saw her.  Lisa and I signed up together.  We sat on our computers until 1:30 am on that February night trying to get in.  We started training together.  We went on some hilariously funny runs together.  We were on different paths.  But, the same journey.  We both started to fail mentally at the same time.  Before we could pick each other up, I got injured.  I was out. Lisa was on her own.  Well, not on her own really.  I was with her.  Just not running next to her anymore.  She felt awful that I was not running.  We cried a lot over it.  She empathized with my sadness.  It helped.  But, I was not going to let her quit.  I was there for her on her long runs when she wanted to give up.  And, here she was.... running past me.  Running the Chicago Marathon.  I was SO happy. 

Next our plan was to head to Mile 15 to give Celeste the Gu we promised.  We had to PROMISE we would be there.  We did.  We weren't.  Our cab driver was clueless that the marathon was taking place.  Uhhhh, wtf!  We were trying to tell him the best ways to avoid closed roads and time after time he kept turning right into the race.  It was SO frustrating.  I was freaking out in the back seat.  I don't like to let friends down.  We were letting  Celeste down.  We decided mile 15 was out.  We started to try for 16.  Then that became out of the question.  17?  Nope, not that either.  We took a chance on 18.  We got there.  Flew out of the cab.  Ran to the side of the race in a nice spot.  Started cheering immediately.  We were back in business.  I started seeing some familiar faces from the first stop.  They started seeing me again.  I got lots of "it's YOU again!"  "I'm still doing epic shit"  "I'm not feeling very epic anymore". Several pointed out to their running partners, "There she is again"  Within a very short 4-5 minutes I spotted her.  Coming around the corner.  Celeste.  Oh. My. God.  We made it.  Late.  But, we made it.  I hollered out to the other girls.  Gu out.  We were ready.  Whooooooo Celeste!!!!!!! Apologies all around.  She didn't seem to care.  She got her Gu.  She got our faces.  She was off again. Kicking ass.   The girls and I looked at each other.  Eyes wide.  Phew, that was VERY close.  Our next plan was catching her at the finish.

One of my favorite parts of the race was at mile 18.  This little boy, about 3 just stood on the side of the road, more inside the race than by the spectators.  He just stood there.  With his arm outstretched.  Awaiting some high-fives.  I loved watching the runners turn the corner, see this little doode, smile, high five and run on.  It was so cute! 

Runners looked a lot different at mile 18 than at 7.5 (duh).  They were obviously hot.  They all were parched.  People were definitely starting to struggle. People were starting to cramp.  It was a bit hard to watch.  I was hot.  I was only standing there screaming, holding a sign.  I was behind them all the way.  I wanted them all to do well.  By the way, holding the sign did turn out to be more difficult than I imagined.  My arms started to hurt.  My shoulders were really sore.  My hands actually fell asleep and I was finding it very hard to hold the sign.  But, one look at these runners.... really, Andrea?  Suck it up cupcake. Hold the friggin' sign.  Scream your ass off.  In fact I was screaming so loud that one doode came around the corner ran right up to me and said, "Just so you know, I could hear you all around the corner.  Thanks!".  <smile>

Lisa N.  had a few people she was following.  So, we stuck around to see if we could catch them.  She saw some at 7.5.  But, based on tracking we might be able to catch another here.  We cheered.  More familiar faces.  More smiles.  This time I got some thank you's.  More high fives. Lots more high fives.  A couple of ass pats (thank you!) from doodes saying, "I saw you the first time, this is great", "I needed this", etc.  I even got some hugs.  Most half hugs.  But, I got a huge full on one.  Tom came by again. I cheered.  He went on a few feet.  Came back.  Gave me a huge ass schweddy hug.  It was awesome. Thanks pumpkin!  Brian was next.  He was looking a bit warm as well.  But, soldiering on.  Imagine my surprise when a smiling Ashleigh came flying by.  She had a, uh-hum, timing chip problem so her tracks never came through for me to find her.  I was SOOO happy to see her.  She looked great!.   I didn't see any other Daily Milers here.  But, Lisa did see one of her runners.  So, off we went to try to get Celeste for her finish.

We started walking a straight line toward the lake front and the finish line.  We were looking for a cab, but finally realized this was not going to happen.  So, we walked the few miles.  Because of this, sadly,  we did not see Celeste cross. I think we were standing on a bridge over the expressway when the text came in.  Whoo-Hoo Celeste finished.  And, finished strong I might add.  Not a PR.  But, placed her  5711/35660 overall.    1158/15419 for women  166/2161  in her age group.  Not too shabby.  SO proud of her.  Later that day she told us she was retiring from marathons.  She was done with them.  Huh. 

When we neared the finish I saw the final push towards the end.  Chicago races have a cruel way of adding in this bridge to many of their races finishes.  It is a killer.  I cannot even imagine it after 25. 5 miles. Julie and Lisa headed to meet up with Celeste. I stayed back to try to catch Lisa S. finish.  In addition, I love watching the finish.  Love watching people make that final push to the end.  Seeing their faces.  Knowing that they DID this.  It gets me every time.  I saw dads pick up their kids and run with them in their arms.  I saw teens jump the fence and sprint in with their moms.  I saw race officials practically drag a few people over the line.  But, finish they did.  I saw many couples grab hands, run together, finish a dream.  Many were taking pictures.  Of US. The crowd.  It was great. 

Lisa in blue, black shorts
I kept looking down the street.  Hoping to see Lisa.  She wasn't there yet.  Then, there came Lisa.  I saw her all the way down the street.  She was running right along the fence where I stood.  I screamed her name.  She looked.  She blew me a kiss. I started to cry.  I screamed some more.  I watched her cross the line.  I couldn't have been prouder of her.  She did it.  Hot damn.  She did it.  PR'd her last Chicago Marathon of a few years ago by one hour.  Yes, she had a faster goal in mind.  But, in these conditions, a PR is a fantastic achievement in my eyes.  Hell, finishing is an achievement!

I stuck around to watch other DM'ers make it in.  I saw Tom.  I saw BrianBecky came flying right by me, smile on her face.  The girls were waiting for me.  I had to leave.  But, I was still waiting for Ray.  I had missed him ALL weekend.  I couldn't leave.  I started to leave about five times.  Each time convinced he was right around the corner, I stayed.  Finally after getting yet another text from the girls I had to leave.  I walked away. Reluctantly. I walked out of the bleacher area.  Walked about 2 minutes.  Ping!  In came a text.  Ray King had finished.  And, I missed it.  Oh, Ray, I tried SO very hard.  I'm sorry.  I know Chinatown was not kind to you.  I'm SO proud you soldiered on.  You, my friend, are a marathoner.  Be proud. 

I am SO thankful I saw all the people I did.  I am so very proud of you all.  Of what you accomplished.  I know some of you are not happy with your time.  But, under those heat conditions you should be thrilled.  It was NOT easy. 

I had SO much fun holding that sign. Claire(Claire DM) also had her Do Epic Shit tee on.  She reported feeling the same mad love making people smile.  So many people came up to me and took my picture.  One racer took it and posted it to Facebook while standing in front of me!  ha! Lisa and Julie teased me that I should have written my phone number on the sign because they have never seen that many hot guys.... talking to me no less!  Duly noted for next time! Runnrgrrl saw me twice and screamed DO EPIC SHIT!!!!!!!  both times she passed me. Many runners told me at 18 that I had the best sign on the course.  Wheeeeee!!!!  I can't even describe the joy I felt making the runners feel good.  It was such a good feeling. I wish you all could feel what I felt.  It was a complete honor to cheer them on.   So many runners have told me since that I was the highlight of their race.  Man, how cool is that?  But, seriously, runners,  YOU, were the ones who made my day.  Thank you. 

I thought I would be sad this weekend.  I was not.  I was SO happy.  However, when I awoke on Monday I felt a bit different.  I was sore.  My shoulders were sore.  My shin hurt.  A lot.  We did a lot of walking over the weekend.  It hurt then.  It hurt more on Monday.  It made me worry.  That I may never run again.  Celeste was in better shape than me for crying out loud!  But, also, the fact that I didn't run finally hit me.  I got a message from Lisa S early in the morning.  She told me that I was the first face she saw in the race and the last face she saw before finishing.  It made me cry. It made me happy. But, it made me cry.  For the first time it hit me that I didn't experience the race.  As a runner.  I didn't see this coming, but it came.  A few hours later our friend living in France called to find out about the race.  She talked to me about me not running.  She was giving me a little pep talk about how proud she was of me.  How I had transformed myself into a new person. How I would run that marathon one day.   I cried again.  Not sure why.  I think partially because I knew she was right.  And, partially because I knew this journey of mine, halted for a minor mental meltdown and a major injury shutdown, was not yet over.  

The girls started to get ready to leave each other.  As she turned to get into the car to leave, the now marathon retired Celeste turned to me and said, "If you run Chicago next year I'll run again."  :D

So, there it is.  2012 Chicago Marathon.  I will be waiting for you.  Will you be waiting for me? 


  1. Greatest post by a non-runner ever. I'm on my third beer. Totally worth the read and the buzz. :)

  2. Loved reading this, and I hope that when I get around to running my first Marathon, there are people like you in the crowd that will make me smile.

  3. I started running a couple years ago and then suffered an injury at work. Finally, a year and a half later, I was able to get the leg surgery I needed in January. Since then I've done 4 5k's, with 2 more lined up for this year. My major goal is Chicago 2012 as my first marathon (I live in CT). I've been reading the Chicago FB posts for weeks now and love the inspiration. And loved your recount of the race in this blog as well. I look forward to running with you next October :)

  4. Thanks all! In a way I think all runners should watch a big marathon like Chicago before running their own marathon. It gives you such appreciation for the runners, the race, the spectators. I look forward to running it in 2012. But, I tell you, I'm going to miss not cheering.

  5. Welcome back to running, KT. Sounds like you are well on your way! Yes, I will see in at the 2012 Chicago Marathon. It's really a special race in an amazing city. We will be awesome. True story. :)

  6. Awesome post :) You truely are an inspiring individual and you definitely made me cry. This was my first marathon ever and I ran into some unexpected issues and had to walk the last 9 miles. I am tenatively planning to try again next year. I really hope you run this next year!

  7. Loved the Kenyan sign! Hahahahahaha!!!!

  8. Anon, it was pretty rough out there. Good on ya for toughing it out to finish. You will be back for CM12. Better than ever.