Poignant Irrelevance

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chicago Thoughts

As we walked to the starting area from our hotel, the air was indeed notably humid. It was about 75F degrees. Both sides of the streets were streaming with a steady flow of runners walking to the starting area. We knew it was going to be more a day of survival than one of smashing personal records. It was a weird feeling. Normally at this time, I’m all pumped up with excited anticipation.

“What are we doing?”, I kept thinking to myself. These aren’t the words you want to vocalize to a bunch of other runners who spent all summer working for this one day. The streets were eerily quiet as we walked on though, everyone seemed to know this run was going to be tricky.

With one-third of the entrants claiming this was to be their first marathon, I was seriously worried. That calculates out to a little over 10,000 first-time marathoners lining up at the start; whew. The night before, I was praying my butt off for safety and health for all the runners. I mean, even going into my second marathon last year, I still felt like I didn’t know how to manage the race: fuel, fluids, pace, its all a little complicated for an amateur to figure out if you ask me (I have a tendency to over-think things though heh). The weather forecast was just plain scary. And it was not a surprise, they predicted these conditions!

We reached the masses near the starting area, and right away I felt like I had to poop. Ha. Too many people lined up though, I just forced myself to forget about it. We jammed ourselves in the middle of the 9:00 and 10:00 pace signs in the starting area, and chatted about the race and other random things. We all commented that we were sweaty already, without having jogged a single step.

Jo Dee Messina, of whom I’m not familiar, sang the national anthem acapella. She did a great job, very well done. She finished the race too btw.

It took a while to cross the starting line, no surprise there (around 10 or 12 minutes for us, not too bad I guess). It was packed. It was hard to maneuver, so we waited a mile or two to start jumping ahead of people; looking back at my splits however, I never really sped up that much.

I think it was around mile 3 or 4 where we spotted an opening to relieve ourselves near some small trees. Oops, sorry about that Chicago, but I felt so much better after that, whew. I lost my running partner (my gf’s bro-in-law) right around 6 miles into the race. He went for Gatorade and I went for some water on the other side of the street to wash down 3 clif bloks. *poof* he disappeared and I couldn’t find him, too many people in a constant stream. Bummer.

I’m not familiar with Chicago, having just visited the city as a tourist for the first time last February. Therefore I can’t recall exactly where I was during different times of the race.

The course has a lot of turns and weaves its way through a lot of different neighborhoods. It was neat to get a feel for each one, even if it was for just a brief moment or two, as they all had a different vibe and somewhat unique architectural flair. Mexico was great. Chinatown was great.

I liked the fan support at this race; most of the time everybody cheered real loud and went crazy! There were some soft spots but not like the Twin Cities; I hate to knock my hometown marathon at all, but there are some spots on the TCM course that are packed with people but all they do is stare quietly at the runners (seriously, its weird). Those Chicago peeps know how to yell! Sweet.

I saw my dad and gf’s parents around mile 4, cool! I saw them again around mile 11. I saw my gf, sister, mom, gf’s sister all cheering like crazy at mile 13+, it was awesome. Those are the moments you don’t forget. They are cemented in your race-day memory bank forever.

Everyone has written about the race cancellation so I won’t belabor it. It occurred around 3:30 into the race (which for me was about 3:20 because we did not cross the start until 10 minutes after the gun). This is right about the time where you are fighting your own internal battle with your lazy half; the half that wants to slow down and give up. You constantly remind your lazy half that your ambitious half won out over the summer and made you run all the freakin’ time therefore there is no way we are going to give up. Run Forrest, Run. Don’t stop now. Run Forrest.

Then you see a policewoman yell at you to start walking; “the race has been cancelled”, she called out. All runners must start walking due to safety concerns. It was so confusing. It was the final blow; the lazy half of the body cheers, and the half that worked all summer cries out. Things go blurry and fuzzy. Someone (was it an authority figure?) told the crowd of runners that we would still get official times and medals but the race was over. later on, the mileage clocks on the course went blank. One person on the course (an authority figure?) yelled out, “slow down! walk! You are not racing against the clock anymore!”. What the heck, it was just plain confusing. I can’t even do simple math after running for 3.5 hours, what am I supposed to make of all this?

Ambulance sirens blared in the background for the last 90 minutes of the race. Runners were dropping everywhere.

I decided to start slow-jogging to the next water stop because there was nothing else I could do. The longer I walked, the longer I’d have to be out in the heat. I wanted a cold shower.

(green: "feels like" temp.)

I won’t remind anyone how much and how hard I trained for this marathon. I mean, I’d like to go into some specifics here, but I guess I won’t. After the race, people asked me when I hit “the wall”. I don’t really remember. Not to say didn’t hit a wall at some point but it wasn’t memorable. Last year, there were times where I thought the race was so dang tough, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish. Last year, my knee hurt like a bastard while trying to finish the last 6 miles, plus I had that giant blister underneath my foot.

This year, I fought the heat. My chip time of 4:45 was 7 minutes slower than last year at TCM. But you know what? I felt like I was in noticeably better condition this year. That was one of the most rewarding things about my marathon experience this time around; I felt like my training paid off.

Huge, huge thank you to all the volunteers who did the best they could. Thank you to the neighbors who turned on their hoses, thank you to the people who dumped jugs of water over my head every mile or two at the end. Thank you to my family and friends who supported me. Thank you.

There will be another one. When? I don’t know yet. There will be another.


  • I heart you so. Lovely to read about your marathon, and I have to say, 7 minutes faster at TCM says a lot about your conditioning for Chicago! In those conditions, that's more than amazing.

    By Blogger Mia Goddess, at 10:25 PM  

  • Amazing job. I'm glad you are okay. I hope you wore your medal with pride. You deserve it!

    By Anonymous aprilanne, at 10:34 PM  

  • Thanks for the detail about how the race went. I know you did work hard for this - I think that 7 minutes says it all!

    A disappointing event, but you still did what you went there to do.

    By Blogger M@rla, at 5:14 AM  

  • Good for you for being smart about everything and getting through that race! I'm glad all your hard work paid off, even if it wasn't in a way that you expected.

    By Blogger Helen, at 9:54 AM  

  • Congratulations, Brent - nicely done!

    By Blogger Denise, at 12:48 PM  

  • this whole thing is so upsetting to me. your positive attitude is incredible.

    congrats on making it through. i look forward to finding out what you're really capable of.

    By Blogger Danny, at 11:30 PM  

  • There will be another one, and hopefully the weather will be a lot better. Congratulations and I'm so glad you had a safe race.

    I had a few friends out there, too, and they had similar stories. Luckily, no one ended up in the hospital.

    By Anonymous Annalisa, at 9:49 AM  

  • Geeze oh pete - Congrats on this one. You are, indeed, a trooper...

    By Blogger Jank, at 9:58 PM  

  • Wow. Congrats! I see I've missed lot.

    By Blogger Dawn - Pink Chick, at 8:15 PM  

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