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Monday, October 13, 2008

Chicago Marathon race report- worth the pain

Chicago Marathon 2008 medal

Race: Chicago Marathon
Distance: 26.2
Official time: 4:54:38

I've read that it isn't only the distance of the marathon that provides the challenge, but it's how you deal with the unexpected that can make or break your run. This proved so true on Sunday.

This is the biggest running event I have ever experienced! Standing and waiting to go in that sea of people was simply incredible- jaw dropping in fact. It took me nearly 20 minutes to cross the start line, as I ended up somewhere around the 5:00 hour pace group, but ended up working myself up to the 4:30's.

After crossing the Start, my GPS was rendered useless right from the beginning after running under the first bridge. The only thing useful on it was the timer; the mile and pace counters never recovered. All I had left was my Pace Tat, which was a huge help:

Pace Tate - 4:00 hour pace

It was hot, folks. Really hot. I believe the recorded high was 85. I knew the heat was coming, so I made the proper adjustments, scaling back my pace and not starting out to quick.

I stayed with the 4:30 pace group for a good 9 miles until I was comfortable enough to pull slightly ahead of them, just keeping them within ear shot. I walked through the early water stations for about a minute until the pace group caught up with me, and then I would continue running.

I reached the half way point in 2 hours 8 minutes- just 7 minutes behind my official half-marathon mark. I'd already exhausted my hydration bottles by this point, so I was depending on the stations to keep me hydrated the rest of the way.

I think I may have depended on my Garmin GPS too much in my training. It was by that clock that I would take my gels and liquids during long runs. Since my GPS was way off the mark, I was now just guessing and counting miles as to when I needed to take my gels- 5, 10, 15, 20. In the middle miles, I was still taking water with my Gatorade for fear of stomach cramps. This mix may have negated the sodium intake that I badly needed later in the race.

I was in awe at all of the different sights, the amazing crowds, and the diverse group of runners. There were people here from all over the world. I took it all in.

The first half went really well. I was feeling wonderful. It was extremely difficult to stay at a steady pace with so many runners around. I would veer to the left to find a clear shot along the curb and gently tap people on the arm if they got a little too close for comfort- it was just that packed.

Then, the inevitable happened.

I saw the Event Alert level go to red around the 15 mile marker as it felt way over 80 degrees now. I started to see runners dropping off to the side one by one. I came up to a water stop just before mile 17 and saw a wall of runners just slow down in front of me to get water. I came to a dead stop to avoid bumping into people and my quads just locked up. I couldn't believe it.

The cramps were intense. I grabbed some Gatorade and took down another gel. By this point, I was in pain. I just continued to walk forward to shake it off and regroup. I just couldn't believe what was happening. I knew that if I stopped, I could not continue. At times I just wanted to sit and let it go. This was not happening. Not today.

So I would run, and run, until I couldn't run anymore, and then I would walk for a couple of minutes to gather myself up. After a while it got a bit easier as I got more fluids and bananas in me. This continues for another 5 or 6 miles until mile 25.

I was close now. Up to this point I was picking a marker ahead of me and running to it, whether it be a light post, tree, or the mile marker. Once I got there, I'd have to shake off the cramping for a few seconds and do the same thing.

Near the end, coming up to Roosevelt and the finish, I ran. I saw my family and it pushed me to go faster. I fought through everything I was going through and made it. Finally.

I put my arms up at the finish. And as the medal went around my neck, I clutched it hard and didn't let go. I sobbed like a little kid and didn't care. I had made it.

I had just finished my first marathon.

So that's it! 4:54 wasn't the time I wanted, but near the end, I had set my goal to finish in under five hours, which I accomplished. I fought hard and it made finishing my first ever marathon all that more satisfying.

I absolutely loved every minute of it and I WILL be back again.

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful support. I will not soon forget it.

My family and me:

Family - Chicago Marathon 2008

Lindsay and Erin- thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out to support me. I hope you have been inspired to try it next year!:

Lindsay and Erin - runners and fans!

See the rest of the photos on my Flickr page.

Read my Twitter pal Alex's race report here (you did great!)

Check out Lindsay's Race report as a spectator here.

Congrats to all of the finishers!!!



Blogger runner-grrl said...

Jesse, What an incredible story of your endurance! I did not notice the alert had changed to red, but I am not surprised at all. (I didn't notice much of anything except what was going on in my own head.) It was so hot. I'm really sorry about your quads locking up, but like me, I'm sure you are more impressed with your effort at fighting through the last difficult part than you were for the earlier, easier miles. The good news is: you are going to blow out your marathon PR on the next race!!

You have a great attitude about it all too! It's so nice to see! --Alex

7:46 PM

Blogger jessenpr said...

awesome. congrats again.

8:57 PM

Blogger Jesse said...

Alex- It was an experience I will remember forever. I didn't expect it to turn into such an extreme challenge, but it made the finish bitter sweet. I couldn't have been happier. I did remember yours and everyone else's encouraging words through the tougher miles, and it helped me through. Thank you again.

9:15 PM

Blogger Jesse said...

Justin- Thank you so much.

9:16 PM

Blogger Michael said...

Awesome job, Jesse and an excellent race report. I know the pain and the frustration... it's intense. I also know the tears, they come unexpectedly when we have reached the end of our endurance and entered a state of mind, a state of grace. Well done. You set an example for your children and your loved ones. Your grandmother smiles. Michael

6:19 AM

Anonymous erika said...

Congratulations, Jesse! You should be very proud of your accomplishment. I don't think that race was easy for anyone. Crossing that finish line really does change your life forever! I hope to see you at the start next year...Thanks for all the encouraging words.

2:10 PM


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