I have run the course of the Chicago Marathon and it was brutal.  The temps were in the 80’s and yet God was good.  I was able to knock off over 30 minutes from my previous marathon time and set a personal record.  This is not that amazing really since this was my second marathon!  However given that the weather conditions were much worse in Chicago that in Duluth two years ago and I still ran a better time, I am pleased.  I was shooting for a 4:45 finish time, but all the runners were about 30-40 minutes behind their estimates.  I finished in 5:22:39.  Here is an overview of the marathon:

Pre-Marathon;  I knew that race conditions were at moderate, which means that conditions are less than ideal and runners are encouraged to run smart and slow down.  This meant that I would not try to qualify for Boston.

Start line; this was one of the trickier parts of the marathon.  This was a seeded start which meant that the wheel chair marathoners started first – 10 minutes prior to the actual start of the race.  The elite runners went 5 minutes later and the clock started when the elite runners crossed the start line.  Every one else was released in order of their gates. It was tricky to navigate the street to the start line as runners already began stripping off extra layers of clothes and leaving piles of clothes, empty water bottles, cups etc.  If one wasn’t careful, you could trip and turn an ankle.  It was at least 12 minutes before I got to the starting line.  Once there, it was a massive sea of humanity that took off to weave its way through the city streets of Chicago.

Mile 3;  I knew it was going to be a tough race – runners were already walking due to heat and humidity!

Mile 5 or 6; I passed one of the wheel chair racers – he had started 20 minutes before I did.  His shirt summed up his strategy – “Start slow and then taper off.”  I also begin to pass seeded runners who were struggling with the conditions – not a good sign, but I pray for the runners as I see them struggle and that I will be able to run smart so that I can finish the race.

Mile 10;  Elvis makes an appearance.  He was having trouble lip singing to his own songs.  Wonder if it was heat related.

Mile 12;  In conditions like these, this is where I begin to cramp – no cramping.  Running strong.

Mile 14;  Stretchers at the first aide station with runners on them.

Mile 15:  Course conditions change from Yellow – Moderate to Red – High.  This means the temps have elevated high enough that the runners safety is beginning to be an issue and the runners are really encouraged to slow down.  Gatorade and Water are pushed at every station

Mile 16:  Completed in 3:07, Call Gary to let him know where I am on on the course.  He is amazed at the time.  The 4:30 to 4:45 finish time is looking good!

Mile 18 – The cramps hit.  I was walking next to Amish, another Team World Vision runner.  He is hit really hard with cramps.  We walk together for about a mile.  He gives me some power gel (pure electrolyte solution) which helps with the cramping.  We part ways at mile 19 – he goes for Tylenol, I go for water. 

Miles 20 to the end were pretty brutal.  And it got harder to navigate the course as there were more and more runners beginning to walk.  The course was pretty narrow at times and the fans were almost too close for my comfort as a runner.  At this point I give up on breaking the 5 hour mark and focus on just finishing – the course conditions are really bad.  I have talked with a couple of runners who say that by mile 5 of the race, the temps were already at 80!   Finishing this one will take everything I have.

Somewhere in here there were bananas for the runners- these were a welcome sight as they help replace potassium and relieve muscle cramps.  These were available about 3 times – each time I grabbed a couple small pieces to eat. 

Mile 23; a runner goes down due to exhaustion and heat related issues.

Mile 25 – at the end of mile 25, the course turns off of Michigan Ave onto Roosevelt for about 1/2 block.  To get to the end of mile 26 there is a  slight hill on Roosevelt.  It is a killer and saps the last bit of energy I have.  Runners round the corner onto Columbus – the finish line is in sight.  I have no kick left and just have to gut it out to get over the finish line.   It is Finished!  I have  made it and it feels good!

After the finish line I grab a solar blanket, receive the finishers medal, stand in line to have the timing chip cut off my shoe, get some water and call Gary.  One of the boys answers the phone.  I am dazed just enough that I don’t actually know which son I am talking to.  We are able to confirm my “unofficial” end time and where they are waiting for me.  I continue to walk through the runner’s recovery area where I get a couple of water bottles, an apple, (there are more bananas but I think if I eat anymore of them, I will be sick), a fruit bar, etc.  My pockets are filling up quickly.  Right before leaving the runners recovery area,  I grab a bag of ice.  My right shoulder is really tight and sore.  I carry all my tension and stress in this shoulder – always have and it is really tight after the race. 

When I get to Gary and the kids, Geoffrey walks up and gives me 3 roses.  Caleb finishes my half eaten apple and Gary gives me a hug and kiss.  Giovanna grabs my leg and hugs it.  We talk for a few minutes.  They had been able to get a print out sometime after the 40K mark and the estimated completion time from me was 5:22 and change.  When I crossed the finish line, I estimated my completion time at 5:25 – so I was glad to get the official time of 5:22:39 emailed to me. 

We head towards the train station.  I am actually not that sore, can still outpace some of the kids.  While we are walking, I begin to empty my pockets.  Cliff bars and fruit bars for the kids.  Garrett becomes the bag carrier with the water and my sandals that I thought I would need post race.  We get to the train and because I still had my bib number on – I get to ride for free – nice surprise! 

On the train, I meet a couple from Montreal.  They had completed the Marathon and were on the way to O’Hare.  He had finished about 25 minutes over his normal time.  His wife was trying to qualify for Boston, but missed it by 30 minutes.  He asked me about the week before the race – what I had done to prepare.  When I told him drank Gatorade and ate bananas – he said you know all my tricks to running a great race!  They were a fun couple to talk with and it made the train ride go much faster.  I had the ice bag on my thighs as they were a bit sore.  By the time we got to our stop, my thighs were doing pretty well.  The kids were amazed to see that I was walking relatively fast and moving without much pain. 

We arrive back at the hotel.  The lady at the concierge desk was asking all kinds of quesitons  She had taken a liking to our family and made arrangements for me to use the shower in the fitness room rather than holding onto our room for an extra charge.  The shower felt good and once back down on first floor, she had gotten me a new ice bag and fresh water bottles for everyone. 

We were on the road home by 3:38.  After several phone calls with Courtney to update her on who things went, I was able to relax and ice various parts of the body that were starting to hurt, mainly my knee. 

This morning I have a bit of stiffness, but seem to be doing fine.  Stairs are the  most painful thing to do at the moment. 

Given that the weather conditions were really brutal, much worse than Grandma’s two years ago and I still finished 32 minutes faster – I am pleased with the race.  Thank you for praying me through this race.  It was a fun race in that the fans are great and really help one to keep going – even with the brutal conditions.  There is nothing more exciting than to see a group of African Americans outside there church cheering you on – they saw the World Vision Shirt and my name and just starting cheering like they knew me. 

God was merciful to many of the runners.  Registered runners for this race were over 45,000.  I don’t know how many actually lined up for the race, but 31,401 racers finished the race!

The kids are already talking about next year!  We will see how things go – Giovanna is scheduled for surgery which will take a lot to deal with.  So for now, I will concentrate on that and running with the boys to get in shape for their basketball season!