On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10/10/10 Chicago Marathon race report pt. 1

The short story: the Chicago Marathon was bad.  Just bad.

In retrospect, although I don't regret running, I do wonder if I should have bailed on the race.  The line between "not really a good idea" and "definitely a bad idea" sometimes only comes into focus when you're in the medical tent at the finish - assuming you can still see by then (and your vision isn't fuzzy).

Back it up.

As you've probably noticed from, you know, my every statement on this blog, I'm training for the New York City Marathon on 7 November.  But a few things came together and I ended up registering for Chicago:
-the fact that I'm a native Chicagoan who adores the Chicago Marathon;
-the fact that I'd be in Illinois the weekend of the Chicago Marathon for a wedding;
-and the fact that I realized the latter a day or two before the Chicago Marathon closed registration and I can't resist feeling like I'm "in on" something...
I'd run it as a well-supported long training run, right?

Of course this plan was imperfect.  Chicago is a flat, fast course and I couldn't shake my secret desire to try for a sub-5hr marathon (even though I still have two weeks of training for NYCM).  I had done a successful 18m training run for NYCM, but no 20s.  I spent the evening before Chicago at a wedding and dragged in around midnight, having pre-race carb loaded on vegan tofu stuffed peppers (at the wedding) and chicken fingers (in the car on the way home during the 3 hour drive).

And then there was the weather...  oh, the weather.  Not quite 2007, but not quite comfortable, either.  Anecdotally, it seems that a lot of runners who trained for sub-3:30 were able to hit or come close to their goals, but those who trained for anything slower missed their goals, often by a lot.

The good thing about my crappy finish (5:46) is that I'm not sore.  At all.  No stiffness, even.  I mean, seriously - I've been more sore from 5m training runs than I am right now.

A few thoughts...  After this round of fall marathons,* I'm done with it for a while.  I need to become a better, stronger, healthier, and frankly thinner runner before I do this again.  I want to see some consistent improvement before I throw myself wholeheartedly into training again.  This was my sixth marathon finish, and of those six races, only ONE of them was a well-executed race of which I am proud.  I'm completely over the idea of finishing just to finish.  I'm not saying I'll race every marathon I enter from now on, but I don't want to give up this much of my life to training again if I'm not in peak form to begin.

And the Chicago Marathon?  Seriously, it can go screw itself at this point.  It's become like an abusive boyfriend to me.  It was awesome in the beginning but it's just gotten worse during our years together.  I'll keep coming back, I'm sure, but the weather is too volatile, the crowds too thick, and my finish times too slow for me to pour my all into our relationship from now on.

Tomorrow, I'll do a race blow-by-blow for those of you who like details.  And you'll get to hear some highlights (there were a few, and those were lovely).

*I am indeed still doing NYCM and the Flying Monkey.  Battered marathoner syndrome: "I'll never do this again!... but I can't wait until next time."


  1. Well, the sub-3:30 people makes sense. They had a proper corral, and therefore started very shortly after gun-time at 7:30am. They were fairly fast, therefore done with their race before the heat got unbearable...

    You were doing great until mile 12! I don't blame you for pushing yourself, specially after what happened with my friend Jane, who you met. She cramped up and FELL on the course, couldn't move her legs, crawled with her arms, until someone picked her up and removed her from the course -- and yep, she rode to the finish line in an ambulance, and was fine after an IV as she was severely dehydrated.

    When she told me this story, all I kept thinking was "thank god she didn't spend money to buy a race hat!"

  2. i love the analogy to the abusive bf. i'm getting out my friend, for real this time!!!

    i think its amazing you're not sore!

    does this shape your nycm goals? im starting to creep in and decide on mine...

  3. Well...at least you did cross the finish line. Hello! You could have dropped out, but you didn't. You could have bailed out at the start line, because of the heat, but you didn't. And if you're fit to run a 5:46 under such awful circumstances, I really don't see why you couldn't aim for a sub-5 in New York! :)

  4. Carla, that's scary about your friend. Is she okay now?

    And thanks, SillyGirl :)

    But Jen, it is making me wonder about my NYCM goals. I just can't decide: was this a weather-related fluke? or am I not prepared? I don't know what to make of it - but I do think I'll be pretty upset if I tell myself I'm going to try to go under 5hrs and I don't make it. Still, I'll be more upset if I let my goals go out the window and then end up finishing in like 5:15, feeling as fine and not sore as I do today (suggesting I could have tried harder).

  5. Also, you did not taper!!! From what I understand that is just totally crucial. So you went in tired, and then less than ideal conditions, and you finished! Good work!

  6. Thanks for the encouragement, and deep down I know you're right, but if you look over my last few weeks, I didn't do much more than I would have if I *had* been tapering. I think I'm getting over it, but I guess I'm just having trouble psychologically reconciling the difference between the half-assing I knew I was going to do (the fatigue, no taper) with the poor performance that comes out of terrible conditions. Honestly, I seriously thought I would finish sub-5, with 5:15 as the longest it would take me. LAME.

  7. Even when you get a PB (albeit nothing fantastic, compared to EVERYONE ELSE), you always question whether or not you could've done better and if you *really* pushed yourself. I was soclose to breaking 10 min miles for the half - less than 3 minutes away, in fact... Could I have done it? Absolutely. But I'm not sure where or when in the race cause wasn't I doing my best without killing myself???

    And shouldn't I just be proud of the accomplishments I pulled off on Sunday, regardless???


  8. I feel like I finished this just to finish too. And it was my first!

    I was thinking the same thing about the 3:30s!

    I hope NYC is better!