If you missed part 1, get caught up here.
At 6a, Team Purple headed out the Sheraton doors and slowly but swiftly made their way down to Grant Park. My anxiety levels rose with each step I took. After a little discombobulation, I finally saw the blue gear check tents. The Perfect Strangers had arranged to meet at Blue Bib #20,000. As soon as I saw Meggie’s pink calf sleeve, I kicked my walk up to a sprint and just about tackled all 4 of my girls. After some stress-relieving bear hugs, I checked my gear (containing flip flops and a zip-up jacket for post-race) and returned to the group for some gossip and a few pre-race pics.
After a few minutes of chatter, we headed to the porta potties to take care of business. The weather was perfect; warm but with a nice crispness to keep us comfy. The sunrise overlooking the Johns was gorgeous too.
As 730a grew closer, we decided to start making our way to the start line.
Before we knew it, the National Anthem was starting. Wait a minute, we need to get inside the gates first! The race can’t start without us! Sadly, no one was listening. In fact, there was a major log jam just to get into the corrals. After saying goodbye to Amy and Sarah (who went to the 4:45 pace group), then waiting at a standstill for a good 10 minutes, we said “screw this” and took matters into our own hands. With a little bum support, we heaved ourselves over the extremely unsturdy fence into our open corral. It’s a godsend that none of us rolled our ankles (or worse) getting over that B.
After getting both feet on the ground, the line of cattle started to move. We were informed that by the time the elite runners started and all the seeded corrals got going, it could be upwards of 30 minutes before the open corral runners would start the race. Christi, Meggie and I hooked arms, and together we advanced further and further north.
I was asked by an older gentleman walking next to me if this was my first marathon. Was it that obvious? Then we saw these guys. Best shirts ever.
And finally, with exactly 20 minutes on the official time clock, we were off! I was running my first marathon! Eeeeeeee! 😀
To say the beginning miles were congested would be an understatement. Though every race has their fair share of congestion at the start, with 45K+ runners, this was a little more intense than I’d previously experienced. As we approached our first bridge (which always freaks me out anyway due to the grates on the ground and my fear of getting a toe lodged and subsequently face-planting), I noticed a completely different terrain than I was used to: carpet! I literally took about 10 steps on the shaggy stuff before I tripped. Shocker I know. Luckily I bounced off of one of my girls and avoided complete disaster/ humiliation. Whose idea was this anyway?
It wasn’t long before Meggie suggested playing a game to keep ourselves occupied. God knows we had plenty of time to kill. We decided that with each mile, we would think of a theme to remember it by. You can see her mile by mile recap here, but briefly the first half of the race went like this:
1. Fence jumping
2. Sandal man
3. Bum ruffle
4. Perfect Strangers
Wait right there. You may recall that only 5 of the Perfect Strangers were running the race. The remainder (Meghan, Karen, Kelly and Jaime) are running the Monumental Marathon on 11.5.11. Well, as we were cruising along, feeling good, enjoying the crowds, we suddenly heard the screams. “BRI!! MEGGIE!! CHRISTI!!!” I immediately thought to myself ~ who else is cheering us on besides my family? And are we already at the 10K mark?? We looked right, and standing on the median, with arms spread wide and the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen, stood Kelly and Jaime. All 3 of us screamed our heads off, “what are you doing here???!!” We jumped. We squealed. And then we cried. Together. Those chicks planned and pulled off one of the biggest surprises ever. And we couldn’t have been happier. We had more energy now then we did at the start. Remembering that moment is still giving me goosebumps. Read Kelly’s version here.
Back to the miles:
5. The cowbell cheerleader
6. The Dials Mile (Meggie’s cheering section)
7. We’re Cooking It (my cheering section!)
8. Boystown/ “Do Epic Shit”
9. Walking water mile
10. The longest mile
11. The sponge mile
12. Missed opportunity (where didya go, Ryan?)
13. The goodbye
So if you read Meggie’s blog at all, you may know that she’s been battling an Achilles injury for a good month or so. She got clearance to run by her doc, but only if she promised to walk if she was in too much pain. Throughout the entire first half, as much as I wanted to make sure she was okay, I held off on asking her how she was feeling. Mainly because I knew that if I did, she would immediately start thinking about it. And we all know that ignorance is bliss. So further we ran, pretending nothing was wrong. Once we hit mile 12.5-ish, Meggie told Christi and I that once we got to the halfway point, she was going to walk for a bit but wanted us to keep going. Despite our sadness and selfishness, we let her go at 13.1 and promised to continue theme-ing our miles. All I could think was: 1st half with your head, 2nd half with your heart (thanx, Mr. King).
I tried to do my best to continue with the mile naming, but honestly once the goodbye occurred, I lost my drive. Around mile 14 I finally turned on my iPod. By that time, Christi and I were maintaining a similar pace, but she would occasionally pull ahead, leaving me to wonder if I should speed up or just keep going at the speed I was at. After zoning out to some music, I decided that I was happy with my pace, which was just over 10 minutes/mile. I didn’t want to push too hard and run out of steam, as I had been strongly advised against during training. As the miles went on, Christi started to inch ahead. And I was fine with it. This was her 6th marathon, and I knew that she desperately wanted a PR. Go get it girl, I thought.
Between miles 15 and 16 I saw visions of purple to my left, which turned out to be a huge tent of TNT-ers. There was tons of hooping and hollering as I ran by, and I was temporarily re-energized. However, around mile 17, I started to lose my composure. As cheesy as it sounds, the song Breathe by Ryan Star came through my headphones and I immediately began to cry. The realization hit. I was doing it. I was less than 10 miles away from one of my biggest accomplishments to date. And I was doing it for my Grandma. And I couldn’t hold it together anymore. But I knew I had to try. I had come too far to let a few tears get in my way. And I ran on. Just breathing.
Around mile 18, my iPod starting skipping, likely from the profuse sweating and the occasional dousing in hose water which I ran under every chance I got. So to prevent a total shortage, I turned the music off. I was going to have to finish this race solo with only the thoughts in my head. Oy. Luckily, I started getting company from various TNT coaches who jumped in to run with me for brief periods of time. Some faces I recognized, others only recognizable by their TNT jerseys. In any event, any distraction was welcome. Even if it was just to tell me that I was looking good and to stay strong. Even though not a single one of them had a salt packet for me, I still appreciated their efforts 😉
Around mile 22, as I was running through Chinatown, I once again heard some familiar voices. It was Kelly & Jaime again! This time, they jumped into the street and ran beside me. They asked me how I was doing, and though I tried to relay my thoughts clearly, all that seemed to come out was “blah blah blah blah.” I literally could not make any sense of anything at this point. I had hit my PDR with only 4.2-ish miles to go. The heat was kicking up. The dripping sweat stung the eyeballs. And I was starting to get tired. But being the awesome cheerleaders they are, they encouraged me to take a water break, grab an ice cube, and keep up the good work. After a few minutes, they left me to run back to Meggie, and I continued on. Once again feeling reenergized and inspired.
My recollection of the last few miles is clear yet foggy at the same time. I remember getting uber excited about being so close to finishing. I had many more near-tear moments that required a great deal of restraint to avoid total meltdown. I had a few more TNT coaches that ran beside me. I Gu’d frequently, ate my almonds, and “stopped” at every water stop, whether I felt the need to or not. I drank glasses of Gatorade followed by water. I dumped the rest of the water on my head and/or back of my neck to keep me cool. I pushed harder than I ever had before while continuing to maintain my 10 min/mile pace. I don’t know how it happened, but before I knew it, I saw the 26 mile marker. With a surge of energy, I pushed. & thankfully, those last 0.2 miles that are supposed to feel much longer than they realistically should, absolutely soared by. I rounded the final turn and the crowd’s energy catapulted me to the end. With my arms in a high V, I crossed the finish line. And then I broke down. I was finished. I had done it. I was a marathoner. I ran 26.2 miles in 4:27:31. And now, I could safely cry. Tears of joy streamed down my face.
After getting my medal, my space blanket, my professional pic, and my water, I grabbed a free beer and started making my way back to gear check. I got the husband on the horn and we tried to figure out where each other were so we could meet up. I told him to hang tight ~ I had to change out of my shoes and do a little stretching before I did anything else. As I returned to Blue Bib #20,000, I saw Christi. She had soared ahead somewhere around mile 16 and scored her coveted PR, finishing at 4:24. What a rockstar. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and made our way through the crowds to find our families.
After some searching, I finally found the fam. I was so excited to see their race garb up close. They really rocked their custom RunBMC shirts, and even had personalized signs made to match! Peeps after my own heart. Their support really pushed me to do my best, just knowing that they were out there cheering for me and waiting in the wings for me to finish. If you didn’t know, there’s no way to properly train for and run a marathon without complete support from those around you. These people mean the world to me and I am so blessed that they were there when I needed them most.
As for the rest of my girls, they all rocked it out. Meggie pushed through her crunchy Achilles to finish strong with her head held high. Amy let her runner’s high take over during the last few miles, allowing her to finish her first marathon with an amazing time of 4:44. And Sarah, with the support of her man, rocked out her first marathon in just over 5. The Perfect Strangers owned Chicago with style. And like the saying a classic 90’s sitcom once made famous, we were standing tall, on the wings of our dream.
The rest of the day consisted of a post-race TNT party at Charity Village, a little too much walking back to the hotel, a nice hot shower, chocolate-covered strawberries, a short siesta and sushi/ drinks with the family in Lincoln Park. Overall, an average day 😉
I know this post wasn’t wordy or long-winded or anything like that, but like I just told my husband, I want to remember this day for as long as I can. And recapping it to the tee helps me re-live it whenever I want. So don’t feel like you need to read every single word. Just look at the pictures. Read the bold words. And just know that I registered. I trained. I raised money. I made some amazing friends. I ran. And I am now a marathoner.
And you know I rocked my medal all weekend 🙂
Love you, Gram.