I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front. This is not for lack of activity or even things to say! The last few weeks of training were good and hard — I was just exhausted from life! I spent the final stretch focusing on resting well and enjoying my time on the run. Dallas even gave us a handful of breezy, autumn running days. Too bad we’re back to 80s again!
Where to start?
How about my favorite spectator sign?
“If Trump and Hillary can run, so can you!”
Chicago was an incredible experience. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Trying to convince T-Hubs over here that he really wants to run with me next year.
My experience running the Chicago Marathon was so much more than just a race. For the first time, I was part of a team, and this made all the difference! I raised $1,115 (passing my goal of $1K — thank YOU!), but I was part of a team that totaled nearly $320,000 for Alzheimer’s research.
The team experience played out throughout the weekend. I first arrived in Chicago on Friday morning, and I went straight to the expo. I was carrying all my luggage and fighting a bad cold — not feeling great but also not wanting to miss a single moment! I spotted our team director, Sharri, at our team booth almost immediately. She was a constant support over the last six months, both in training and in support raising.
Our team also included a certified coach and a trainer, both of whom stayed in touch with everyone throughout the training process, offering advice and fielding questions. Sharri’s is without a doubt the friendliest face you’ll find in Chicago. She is a ball of energy, and she LOVES her ALZ Stars! She so graciously allowed me to leave my luggage at our booth while I explored!
This is off the team topic, but I can’t help sharing! While exploring, I ran into two of my newest inspirations: Shalane Flanagan (right) and Elyse Kopecky! Most recently, Shalene finished 6th in the marathon at Rio — one of three American women to finish in the top ten this year! She and Elyse ran together in college and recently reconnected. Elyse is a professional chef, so she and Shalane collaborated to make the most fantastic cookbook! Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about this book! Yes, I carried it in my purse on the plane, just in case I could have them sign it. Mission accomplished!
Soon after, I crashed back at our team booth, where Sharri let me rest. My sickness was getting worse by the hour, and combined with that 6AM flight, I was toast by 11AM! I finally made it back to our hotel around noon, where I connected with my sister-in-law. I hit the zinc hard, fell asleep in the lobby (still waiting for check-in), and she took her turn at the expo. More on our Friday night adventures later!
Saturday evening we attended our team pasta dinner (carbo-loading!), where Sharri had so kindly had gluten-free pasta prepared for a handful of us! Mom had arrived by this point, so we all three attended together. It was a fun time of meeting people I’d only seen on social media, hearing individual stories, and honoring our top fundraisers!
Post-dinner, I laid out my gear for the morning and hit the hay early!
The following morning, we headed back to our team site for breakfast, gear check (SOOOO nice not to do this on the course!), and pictures! Race nerves were high, but it was honestly so relaxing to be inside a warm building focusing on something other than the minutes remaining until race start! I brought my own GF oatmeal from Trader Joes and topped it with bananas.
Thank you to my teammates in wave 1 who walked down with me to the start! I’d underestimated just how chaotic it would be even trying to find Corral E, so thank you for directing me and walking me to my assigned start! Everything up until this point had felt small and personal. Once I hit the streets of Chicago, I realized just how HUGE everything was.
When my corral edged up to the start line, my view was something like this. Hellllooooo, Windy City and 43,000 runners!
You’ll notice quite the array of clothing choices. Many runners (myself included) wore an additional throw-away layer over their running gear. Unfortunately, I threw my extra shirt away too soon, so I was cold at the beginning! A girl near me was commenting on the “warm” weather. I was astounded. Then I learned she was from Washington and that she considered anything over 80 degrees unbearable. Wow. Never come to Texas then.
I was mostly unsuccessful in my attempts to photograph the course, but here are a few that show different scenery and neighborhoods.
I thought I would remember the course more, but very few moments and miles stuck out to me. I was entirely overwhelmed by the crowds, the grandeur, and the energy on the course. It was so much to take in! A few miles do remain branded in my mind.
Mile 12: Sharri just about scared the heck out of me by cheering for me through a mega-phone! Hers was one of the few familiar faces I saw; I missed seeing my mom about a mile later, so I’m so grateful I made contact with Sharri!
Mile 14 (Charity Mile): Every charity team had a tent along the course, and the ALZ Stars cheering squad was amazing! Thank you to the supporter who handed me a bag of orange slices! Those really hit the spot!
Spotting my team tent at Charity Mile!
Mile 19: This was the first time I started to feel tired and somewhat emotional. I drew strength by focusing on the the reason I was running. It helped to remember it wasn’t about me or how I was feeling, but it was about fulfilling my commitment to my supporters, honoring my grandparents, and helping to end Alzheimer’s.
Mile 21: “There’s the Chinatown dragon. Oh good, we’ve hit 21.” And that was pretty much the extent of it. As I’d perused the race map a few days prior, I was really looking forward to running through Chinatown. Apparently I shouldn’t make sightseeing goals for mile 21. I saw the dragon, and my thoughts instantly catapulted toward the finish line. I’m sure the rest of Chinatown was great. I just didn’t absorb any of it.
Beyond that, my memories are few. I never hit a “wall” like I did last time. No tears or dizziness. I never once walked. Don’t get me wrong, miles 21-26 were out-of-this-world challenging. (If you think they’re easy, you’re not running fast enough!) I can’t describe what it’s like to keep moving forward when you are entirely depleted of energy. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know. Training only takes you so far at this point. I saw a sign throughout the course that read, “When your legs give out, run with your heart.” This summed up those final miles. No amount of gels or Gatorade or Bio-freeze could take away the pain and exhaustion. Only inspiration and the sheer knowledge that each step inched me closer to the finish line. I also saw several of my teammates in the last miles. I encouraged those I passed and tried to catch up with those I saw ahead. It definitely helped to see those familiar purple singlets on the course, and it didn’t matter that I probably hadn’t met their wearers. We were working toward a common goal. Yes, 26.2, but beyond that: ending Alzheimer’s.
Might I also add that a sense of competition helps? I was aiming for a sub-4 marathon, hoping to be closer to the 3:50-3:55 range. I realized I’d slowed on my second to last 5K, so I picked up the pace for the final stretch, crossing the finish line at 3:55:09. I ran exactly what I’d trained for. No better, no worse. It was an honest, pain-free, uneventful-in-the-best-way run, and I don’t take that for granted! Every marathoner knows anything can happen when you’re racing 26.2. I imagine there’s always a healthy fear of the distance, because sometimes you just can’t predict your body’s response on race day. Yes, you train. Yes, you mentally prepare. But you still have to take every step, and sometimes that process is surprising, painful, and disappointing.
Only two Unexpecteds happened that day, two Unplanneds on which I had not counted.
- It was a long walk to the exit. Nearly a mile, actually. They call it the “27th Mile Post-Race Party.” I call it cruel containment. It took me quite a while to make my way to my mom. The race volunteers made us keep moving, so as to create room for the next finishers. Once I found a grassy place to lie down, I called my mom and told her I’d be coming out later. Seriously, I did not have the energy to keep walking. Something like once you stop, you can’t start again. To the man who found me like this and asked me to take his photograph, maybe consider a runner who isn’t sprawled out on the grass next time? But thank you for helping me up.
Did I mention we had to walk down a flight of stairs to reach our spectators? In case you’re wondering, stairs are excruciatingly painful after running a marathon. But still, none of that could keep me from smiling! I’d had a great race, my stomach felt good (miracle of miracles!), and I’d found my awesome mom who had been walking all over Chicago to support me! She even fought off a hurricane to get to Chicago! (Thanks, Mom!)
Mom helped me walk (crawl?) back to our team race site, where I was greeted with cheers and the joyous toot of an air horn. I felt like a celebrity! Our team sure knows how to celebrate!
2. Secondly, I was cold. Shivering, in fact, for two hours after the finish. My hands and feet were numb during the race, but my body never felt too cold once I began moving. I nearly ran out of clothes over the long weekend, because I wore about half of them after the race. A short-sleeve shirt, a pullover sweater, a jacket, a hoodie, winter leggings, socks, and my foil wrap later, I was still freezing. So much, in fact, that the massage therapist told me I had to warm up before she could get to work on my tight muscles. (Yes, we had a team of massage therapists at our team site! Amazing!) Thank you to the chef who brought me a steaming hot plate of meat, rice, and cauliflower. Food never tasted so good, or so warm! After inhaling lunch and a hot chocolate my mom brought me, I found a sunny spot on our common room couch and fell asleep while my mom went to see my sister-in-law finish. After I warmed up a bit, I took full advantage of the massage therapy! Already I felt like a different person, just a few hours later!
Only two Out-of-the-Ordinary experiences over 26.2 miles? Not bad, right?! Truly, this was such an unbelievably fabulous day! I felt entirely supported by my team, my family at the race, all those who supported me prayerfully and financially, and by my friends across the country! My friends in Florida literally formed a cheering committee for me after church. I received the sweetest video of them watching the tracking app and cheering my little “dot” across the finish line. T-Hubs said that there was a similar scene at our home church in Dallas, too! So many of my friends and family took a genuine interest in my big day, and I want to say thank you! Those gestures mattered when I was exhausted with “just a 5K” left.
Thank you to Sharri and my team for inspiring me to run for a cause beyond myself. Last year I ran my first marathon, and I caught the bug. This year I ran for more than just time, accomplishment, recognition, fitness, and medals. I ran for those whose lives have been robbed of the simple joys of life. I ran for the hope of ultimate healing. And I caught the bug. Those 26.2 miles won’t be the last I run to #endalz.
Hope to see you next year, team!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Stay tuned for more posts on my trip to Chicago!