Chicago Marathon 2022 in comparison to NYC 2021
Marathon training is time consuming. A fall marathon, combined with the start of school, a busy fall for work and the Jewish Holidays…exhausting. Literally in the week leading up to race day I was more concerned about getting everything done and less concerned about actually running the marathon. Well that and whether we could all stay healthy to travel to Chicago. Crazy, right??
Unlike New York, I am not as familiar with the city of Chicago. Jeffrey and I had been to visit for a long weekend, but that was more than ten years ago. The boys were excited to do some sightseeing- the Willis Tower and the Bean. Jeffrey and I were excited for dinner at the Chop House. We were able to accomplish all of those things on Friday and Saturday. Race day was Sunday morning. While each race stands on its own, I would be remiss if I didn’t do a little comparing and contrasting the two experiences. NY is unique in the fact that everyone who is running needs to get to Staten Island before the race starts. That makes for an extra early morning and a lot of sitting around waiting to start! While I didn’t realize it at the time, it caused me to really under eat breakfast in 2021 and I was cognizant of that going into Chicago in 2022.
While I ran for the Alzheimer’s Association both times, in 2021 we were not quite “out of Covid” yet. So many of the perks of running for a team weren’t present. In Chicago it was amazing to be part of the team. We had a team lunch the day before. It really helped build a sense of community. Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Association had a hospitality suite directly across from the start/finish area of the marathon. This is a HUGE amenity. It meant staying inside, eating my hot oatmeal until about 45 minutes before I had to be in my corral to start the race vs. 5 hours in the cold in Staten Island. To start the race I was more fresh- Jeff and the boys had a home base to start from and return to as well. This in and of itself was a huge game changer in the experience.
As I eluded to above, I was BUSY leading up to race day. So much so, that I did’t mind the taper like I normally do because it gave me more time to work. Being busy was apparently a good distraction. Overall throughout the training process I stayed healthy. No major complaints of pain, other than my one calf, which corrected itself with a little rest. All this to say, while tired I was feeling physically up to the challenge of running 26.2 miles. I was mentally prepared to go the distance as well. While I kept saying, this was going to be my last marathon…the pressure of training feeling like a lot…I also registered for the London lottery before going to Chicago. No way of making sense of that logic other than if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.
Similar to in NY, Jeffrey, the boys and I walked the finish line area as best we could the day before. Having a visual is helpful to me. I was so pleased to see that where I would exit Grant Park was right across the street from the Alzheimer’s hotel. That I would have the ability to decompress, change and then walk the mile or so to our hotel. A difference from NY and Chicago- Jeff and the boys were going to be on the course at mile 20.5. After mile twenty it’s tough. Truth be told, in NY it was before mile 20 that got tough for me. So I thought it would be great to have them there to give me a push for the last six miles or so.
The weather was perfect on race day. Cool. Dry. It was in the 40s to get started. My favorite running temperature. I kept repeating to myself…do no go out too hard…do not go out too hard. I honestly tried my very best not to do it. But with the cooler temperatures and feeling so good, I went out a little aggressive. Not as aggressive as I did in NY but aggressive nonetheless. I was pacing for 4:10 for the first 18-20 miles. The miles felt like they were flying by. That was even with a bathroom stop at mile 5. I was feeling good….until I like so many others hit the walk right around mile 21. I didn’t realize how much seeing Jeffrey and the boys was motivating me. Then once I saw them it as like the wheels kind of came off the cart. My stomach was also not feeling the best. I don’t think it was the Maurten gels, because I trained with them. I think it was the Gatorade, which I also trained with but somehow the combination wasn’t sitting so well with me. It’s possible I was taking in too much fluid? I’m not quite sure. But I stopped taking Gatorade and only took water. I started walking the water stops. I knew I was going to finish, but I also knew I needed to be real about the time it was going to take me, enjoy the experience and realize that I was running a damn marathon.
Anyone remember when I went to run NYC me saying I was a one and done marathoner? I just wanted to run NY and I was going to be happy. I ran NY in 4:18:55. I was chasing 4:00. I was delusional. 1) It’s a hilly course and 2) my 4:07:29 virtual marathon wasn’t really 4:07 it was 4:26:27. 4:07:29 was my moving time. I stopped my watch when I refreshed my water or stopped for the restroom. I was’t thinking about the 4:26:27 elapsed time, I was just thinking about the 4:07 time. So 4:00 would have been stretch- but mentally that wasn’t what I was thinking. Mentally, I was beating myself up, when in reality my 4:18:55 was a marathon PR on a very difficult course. I let my frustration take away from the fun of the experience, which is what led me to register for Chicago on the way home. I felt like I had to prove something to myself…but it wasn’t getting a particular time…it was that I could run the race and make the most of the experience no matter what the time. I vacillated in the days leading up to Chicago about pacing. Did I want to pace for a 4:20 or a 4:10? If I paced for 4:10 was I setting myself up for frustration like last year. I train solo. While I enjoyed running with a pace group last year for the first half of the race, did it cause me to push myself too much too soon? I had read all about how my GPS would be all confused to start Chicago so would I even know what pace I was running if I paced myself?? These were all real and actual thoughts as I got my head in the game. So what was the answer?? There was no 4:10 or 4:20 pace group in my corral. Options?? I change corrals or I pace myself. I’m not big on changing flights or plans. I was in a particular corral for a reason and that was where I was going to run. So yes, I was going to pace myself. There were temporary tattoos at the expo with the pace times. I had 4:10 on my left arm and 4:20 on my right arm. For the majority of the race I was pacing 4:10. Too aggressive? Maybe, but I felt good. And when I started to fell less good this time around it wasn’t nearly as bad as NY nor was it for nearly as long. I consider that a huge improvement.
Mentally, I was running MY race. While there was incredible crowd support, I listened to music the whole time. I was focused internally on feeling my best and not getting caught up in expectations. Yes, I hit the wall. I started doing a little run, walk, run walk for a mile or two between 22 and 25. But I knew I was going to finish. Funny thing, I texted the whole race with Jeffrey. In the beginning as a distraction to try to slow myself down. Then for logistics on where to find them specifically on the course so I didn’t miss them. Then as they made their way back to the start/finish area. All the time, he was offering positive reinforcement. Telling me at the end I was moving too quickly for them to see me another time. I felt like I was moving anything but fast. Why do I share all this, because who texts during a marathon?? Apparently, I do. And it made the experience that much better. The reminder that I had it. The reinforcement of I was running a marathon and ultimately the time I crossed the line was secondary. The encouragement to just enjoy the experience. The support throughout the entire process that he provides is amazing. I am truly blessed.
Time for the finish. I knew I was a bit slower than my NY time. I didn’t yet realize that I was faster than my virtual marathon time. I had enough in the tank to pick things up for the final mile. To relish the fact that I was about to finish my second World Major Marathon in less than a year, while working full time and having two kids. I ran hard to the finish- huge smile on my face because I knew I had done it! Whether this is my last marathon…or not I know I did the best I could do. And I was so happy to cross the finish line!
I made my way to Alzheimer’s hospitality area where I was greeted with big hugs and kisses. My gang was so proud of me! I was proud of me. I took advantage of a sports massage, changing out of my shoes and a moment to collect myself before we made the walk back to the hotel. Another important point of comparison- it was only 12:30. We had the entire rest of the day. My wave in Chicago started at 8:00 a.m. allowing me to be done by midday. In NY I didn’t start until 10:40. By the time I got back to the hotel it was dinner time. This also made a huge difference. Plus this time I got a break before heading back to the hotel and got to walk with Jeffrey and the boys. Overall, I was sore, but it was manageable. Heck, the boys little legs had gone 9 miles that day and they were tired too.
The days after the marathon are a process of mentally decompressing from the anticipation of running and the exertion on the body. Other than my quads feeling particularly sore, I felt great. By midweek steps were no longer a challenge and by Thursday I had marathon amnesia and was thinking that wasn’t so bad, I could do that again. All kidding aside, I’m truly amazed at the body’s ability to push itself so hard and to recover. I thought for sure, I would totally crash afterwards, but my immune system must be at peek performance because I managed to stay healthy. I’m truly grateful for all who supported this journey, listened to me talk about the training and the race itself. What’s next? Time will tell. But Jackson did want to known “so what marathon are WE doing next?” Love how marathon running has become a family affair.