Why is it so much harder to write a race recap about a run that didn’t go to plan? I think it’s easy to give excuses as to why it didn’t go right, however let me just say that it wasn’t my day.
But lets start at the beginning.
Our hotel was a 10 minute walk to the start line, so I didn’t have a horribly early start despite the 7.30am race start. I ate a bagel with peanut butter, coffee and some Nuun in out hotel lobby with hundreds of other runners before walking towards the start corrals. It was a little disorganised to get into the park, with enormous queues for the loos. With 20 minutes to spare before my corral closed, I got in line however the slow moving queue meant that I was running out of time. I made the fairly gross decision to do a wild wee along with a number of other women (and loads of men) – thank god for a running skirt!
After weaving my way to the front of corral C I found the 3.35 pace group and nervously chatted with a few other girls all going for their BQ. I fiddled around with my Garmin to switch the screen options, and crossed the start line…but my Garmin didn’t register. 5 mins of running whilst messing around with my watch before it finally started to pick up satellites.
The pace felt fast but good and I slipped in just behind the pacers. They were really helpful, shouting out the pace after each mile, and encouraging us to use the aid stations- Gatorade first, water second. The aid stations were huge and among the best organised of all those in races I’ve run. I saw my Mum and Tom at mile 2, feeling pretty good.
By mile 4 I knew this was going to be a tough day, and I made it my goal to stick with the pace group until at least mile 13.
At mile 5 I had adjusted this goal to be with the group until the 10K mark. We ran through 10K at 50.40 and in all honesty it was too fast for me on the day. I’ve run plenty of miles at 8.10 and faster in training but it felt harder than it should have done at this point in the race.
I watched the pace group run into the distance and pulled off my pace bib around the 7 mile mark- the first low point of the day. My knee was hurting but actually I just felt really sick. I choked down a gel with some water and hoped the nausea would pass. I was finding it hard to drink from the cups on the go, and ended up swallowing a whole lot of air and not a lot else.
(P.S the sunglasses are really cheap last minute glasses from Forever 21 and about the furthest you can get from ‘sports sunnies’ – I really need a decent pair!)
Seeing Tom and my Mum again at the halfway point was bittersweet, I stopped to speak to them, drank some water and cried a little. I’d already started to walk through each water stop, taking in as much water as I could before running again and I knew for good that my BQ goal was gone. I handed over my watch to Tom, not wanting the constant reminder of just how much my pace had slowed. We had come all this way to run Chicago and I didn’t want to ruin it completely by feeling miserable that I hadn’t reached my time goal. I wanted to try to enjoy the race as much as I could, 3.35 was over but it wasn’t the end. I hit halfway at 1.51.57 – very similar to my pace in Berlin.
The next 4 miles passed in a blur of running when I could, and walking when I needed. I knew I was seeing Tom at 17, and when I did I was walking. He gave me a huge hug and told me to ‘just go for your own run, just go for a little jog’ which I would normally hate, but needed to hear. Taking all pressure off, I just had to get to the end even if it took me all day. I forced down another gel and small bottle of water and headed off.
I finally vommed at mile 21, and thought I’d feel better.
I had no idea of my pace, but just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Looking around I could see a number of other runners who were walking, along with many that were clearly also missing their time goals. I cried, I walked, I stretched, I retched.
By the time I saw my Mum after mile 23 I was done. I just wanted to stop. 3 miles isn’t far but it felt like an ultra marathon. Everything hurt, I kept getting stitches and I had very little energy left but I forced a smile to show how happy I was to see her along the course! I drank some more Nuun and had another hug.
Just 3 more miles, I couldn’t even run for the entire 3 miles. I threw up again at mile 24 behind a tree with more retching causing really sore stomach muscles. The final 2 miles were an absolute slog, walking along the road a man ran passed me and shouted – ‘just jump in and run alongside me, come on we’ll finish’. I hobbled along with him, my arms chafed, a blister forming on my foot, my knee aching and yet I was going to finish this marathon. Head down, music up, arms pumping.
And then I had to walk again through the 25 mile water station.
The final mile was lined with huge crowds and I was pleased to be so nearly done. 800m to go and we turned the corner up the final hill (the biggest of the day, how mean is that!), 400m and the finish line came into sight. I pride myself on my sprint finish but even that didn’t happen this time. I stumbled over the line in 4.10.33 actually surprised that it wasn’t 2+ hours slower.
I grabbed some water and my medal before waddling over to another bin to be sick again. A lovely medical lady came to see if I was OK and once she was sure I wasn’t going to pass out, I was allowed to go and meet Tom. I was still feeling sick, so sat down on a bench in the shade and iced my knee for a while before walking back to our hotel.
A shower confirmed that I had chafed badly in the heat, despite 3 applications of Vaseline, and I yelped in pain. Chafing is like sunburn, the full effects aren’t realised until you apply hot water. After a micro-nap the hunger suddenly hit me and I wanted fries immediately. Luckily our hotel was a short walk to Shake Shack where I, along with hundreds of other marathon runners, tucked into a burger, fries & a diet coke; honestly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. After collecting our free marathon runners Garrett’s popcorn mix of cheese & caramel (apparently a Chicago must-do) we went to enjoy a celebratory drink on the roof at Trump towers where the two cocktails went straight to my head.
As I was running on Sunday I kept thinking about how much I’ve talked about running a BQ, and how embarrassing it was to have failed so completely, but the amazing messages I’ve had have completely changed my thinking on this. I’m glad I share my goals, my triumphs and my failures. All too often we only see the good things, the ‘best life’. I’ve achieved 4 marathon PBs in four consecutive races, and this terrible race puts those into perspective. I’m proud of running my fifth marathon, I’m proud of not giving up, and I am amazed at what my body can do. The fact that I can run a 4.10 marathon with so many walking breaks shows me that my running pace is near to where it should be, and the more I work on it, the easier an 8.10 pace will be.
Thank you for all your words of encouragement along the past 16 weeks, and especially those in the last 2 days, they honestly mean the world to me! I will have a redemption race someday, although right now the thought of running fills me with dread! Taking a few days off to explore Washington DC!
Also a huge, huge congratulations to my step-dad, Dave, who finished his first marathon in 4.15 looking strong! Apparently as he was running he was telling himself to keep moving to get a good time so that he didn’t ever have to run another marathon again!