Well guys, it’s over. I put 18 weeks of work to the test and finished the Chicago Marathon in 3:33:53. A Boston Qualifying time. It wasn’t easy, but it was the best race I’ve ever run.
The Chicago Marathon definitely lives up to the hype. I love the expo, love the gear, love the organization. It’s worlds above both marathons I ran last year. I think that’s why I was even more excited/anxious than ever before.
I gave up booze for a month before race day. I limited my sugar week of. I carb loaded the perfect amount. I was ready for that start line. All the miles and all the speed workouts were going to pay off.
I knew I wanted to BQ, but I didn’t actually know how attainable it was. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself because I run better when I don’t. So I decided to run the first half slower and then pick it up as I went (if I could).
The night before, one of my racing team friends, Lucy, told me she wanted to try to BQ too and we were in the same corral, so it made sense to run together. She was a pacer at the CES 20 miler and was able to pace consistent 8:30 miles for all 20 miles, so I knew I was in good hands.
It was chilly at the start, but that was ideal. And I got to meet Toni for the first time in the corral! It was such a nice surprise. She’s just as nice as I thought she’d be and it was a great distraction while we were waiting to start the race.
We crossed the start line at 7:42 AM and got in the groove. Lucy was keeping track of our splits better than I was. Her Garmin was a little bit more accurate and she’s just better at that sort of thing. When I start racing I just want to run and usually that gets the best of me. Luckily, I had a running buddy to set the pace.
We ran about 8:20-8:30 average for most of the first half. Miles truly flew by. The crowds are amazing. It feels so encouraging to have strangers cheering you on. I was able to see my family around mile 12, and it made my race. I was just so happy. I felt good and I was just soaking it all in.
When we got to the half marathon mark (which we hit in about 1:50) we wanted to start gradually picking up the pace. Lucy let me know that she probably wasn’t going to be getting faster and that I should go if I wanted. I was torn. I liked having the company and I wasn’t even sure if I could do it.
I verbally said “How fast do I have to go?” And she said “Fast. Like sub 8 minute miles I’m guessing.” And I decided to just go for it. I left her at about mile 16 and just started to pick up the pace as I went.
I honestly felt great. I saw a friend at mile 18 who went crazy screaming for me and gave me a boost. I grabbed water at just about every water stop, even if just for a sip. I’d only had about 5 Clif blocks by mile 20, but I’d felt like I’d had enough. Water was really working better for me.
At the 20 mile mark I expected to feel tired. Or run down. But I didn’t. I actually had an energy surge thinking about how I only had 6 miles left. I said in my head, “Now your real race starts.”
I kept picking it up. My Garmin was so messed up that I had no clue how fast I was going or how close I was to my goal.
By the time I hit mile 22, I looked down at my watch and realized that if I finished the last 4.2 miles in less than 32 minutes, I would BQ. It still didn’t completely sink in, but that was the first time I thought, “Hey, you might have this.”
And how fitting that right after I had that thought, Demi Lovato’s “Confident” came on my playlist. I decided, well I might as well be confident and just go for it. What did I have to lose after 22 miles? If I ran out of steam, so what. I knew I would be happy I had tried.
The funny thing is…I didn’t run out of steam. Not even close. I was GAINING speed. After 23 miles?! I didn’t know I had it in me. Something about being so close to my goal was propelling me forward.
Just after mile 24 I was battling my thoughts. “Maybe I’m too far.” “Maybe I should just slow down, I still might not make it and I’m getting tired.” And just about a minute later someone grabbed me from behind. I let out the ugliest scream I’ve ever screamed. It was basically involuntary. I was in shock and so focused on that finish line that it really shook me. But it turns out it was my running partner, Arielle. She looked at me and said, “Are you going to Boston?” I didn’t even react in time to speak. She just said “Go Dale. Run fast! GO!”
And I took off. It was kind of a surreal moment for me. I gave it my all from then on. I could do anything for two miles, right? I let the crowd give me strength. I focused on Arielle’s words. I focused on my 18 weeks of hard work that got me to this point.
I was tired, but I had fight left in me. I sprinted up that last hill just before mile 26 like it was nothing. My legs were burning, but I was flying. I knew I had it. I covered that last 400 meters as fast as my legs could take me. And I crossed that finish line at 3:33:53. The tears came immediately after. I’d done it.
I couldn’t believe it. They were happy tears, but I was so emotional. Had I really just run a marathon at 8:09 average pace? And my last mile was my fastest mile of the entire race. Ran it an a 7:08 pace. If you had told my college self that I would have been capable of this, I’d have said you were crazy.
Reaching this goal just proved to myself that when I work hard I can do amazing things. No part of the training or this race was “easy” or came naturally. I WORKED so hard for it. 700+ training miles, countless speed workouts, spin classes, yoga classes, everything I did played a part in my success. And so did all the people who helped me. I couldn’t have asked for better running friends or a more supportive family. I wouldn’t be where I am physically without my support system.
Sunday, October 9th. 3:33:53. 8:09 average.
1123rd female. 117th in my age group. 5465th overall.