So to begin this recap and my total experience of the 2018 Chicago Marathon, I need to preface to give some background of where I started as a runner and where I currently am. Also, reasons why I decided to participate in this specific race.
I am an Illinois native and have lived in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago my entire life with the exception of a few years in college at Bradley University in Peoria, IL. I have been running whether it be cross country or track and field since 5th grade (10-11 years old) till now (29 years old). In total 18 to 19 years of running under my belt. Personal records include 3 miles (15:25), 1 mile (4:35), 1/2 mile (1:57) and 1/4 mile (50:10). I’ve been a mid-distance runner which means I enjoy and am pretty much more of a speed person and don’t really enjoy long distance runs over 6 miles at speed.
Now the background for triathletes, I started with sprints and worked my way up to a full Ironman distance. My bests in the Olympic Distance is 2:25:55 at the ITU Chicago Olympic in 2014, 5:18:40 during the Racine Half Ironman in 2013 and 11:49:46 at the Arizona Ironman in 2013. My triathlons begin in 2010 and discontinued after 2015.
Okay, now that the background is finally over. You probably would like to know why this race and what my goals were. So my cousin Dan Hohs passed away October 7th, 2017 of what it seems to be an allergic reaction to rattlesnake bite at the age of 31. He was my older cousin who I’ve known my entire life. I played soccer with him, ran with him and participated in triathlons with him as well. His friends decided in honor of him they wanted to participate in the Chicago Marathon which would be a year after his passing, which led me to registering and luckily being accepted into the race in honor of Dan.
The training began in November of 2017 so I had around a year to prepare for the race. I scheduled only two other races because after racing for so long I really didn’t want the stress and pressure of more races. After racing for 9 years with the pressure of always trying to win races and being disappointed if I didn’t win was enough to make me not want to worry about racing anyone other than myself. The plan was to get up to around 80 miles a week for two weeks then taper back down. Sadly I quickly noticed my in shape thoughts were not nearly as in shape as I used to be #oldage and it showed as 7 minutes a mile which used to be easy… hell 7:30 per mile used to be easy which was no longer the case.
Overall, my goal was to run under 3 hours which is around 6:52 per mile. I finished 3:19:35 which is around 7:37 per mile which obviously is a lot slower than the goal.
Half way through 13.1 miles I was at 1:31:56 so right on pace for running 3:05:00 which is Boston Marathon qualifying time. I felt fine throughout the first 18 miles, but a lingering issue with my quad (from playing basketball and doing a knee to quad hit 2 weeks before the race) seemed to have me over compensating on one side leading to some different muscles being used. I wanted to start out at 7:30 per mile which ended up being 7:17 even though I was holding back a lot and trying to run as easy as possible. Nope, even though it felt like walking it was still too fast. I saw my fiance , her friend and my buddy Andy at 2.5 miles! Super difficult to find anyone it’s over 40,000 runners and around 1 million spectators. I was surprised to see anyone on the course. Okay so 10k through was at 44:57 which is 7:14 pace which also felt nice and easy… this is the point where I felt warmed up and ready to start pushing to catch up to the 3:15:00 and 3:05:00 pace groups from corral A.
The next 5 KM was at 6:42 pace and the next one was at 6:53 pace which was awesome right where I needed to be to put me right around 3:05:00 pace. Nutrition wise I felt good taking in a Gatorade Endurance Gel (tried to plan for nutrition on the course) every 5 miles and a couple cups of water to wash it all down. The next 10 KM I tried relaxing and preparing to put on another surge after mile 20 to finish strong and try to get under 3:00:00.
As I past mile 18, I started to feel a cramp in my calf coming on. I had gone through similar situations throughout my triathlon career that I kept my eye on the prize and continued as usual. I don’t believe I had an issue with nutrition it was around 50 degrees and rainy so I could have been sweating more than I thought because of the rain. Also, running in my Newton shoes the blacktop was pretty slick so I never felt I had very good push off the entire race. So I’ll blame the cramps on the quad injury. The last 10 KM were terrible, basically cramps started to flare up everywhere. Started in the calves, then moved into the quads and into the groin area.
The last phase of this race was pure mental grit. I had to keep fighting to walk quickly and continue jogging when I could. With over 18 years of running under my belt I was even challenged to finish the race as quickly as possible. I kid you not that I kept speaking to myself outloud that I can do this. Keep running! Don’t give up, fight to the end. It was easy to just make excuses and say I can’t do this and walk the rest of it. However, giving up wouldn’t do my cousin justice; it wouldn’t honor him in anyway. I kept grinding my teeth and adjusted my expectations to finishing the race under 3:20:00. I stopped and walked at every aid station to make sure I get some gatorade in my system. I tried running as much as possible until my legs cramped up, this halted me to a walk every few minutes or so. Many people striding towards the finish continued passing me so overall spirits were not high. I saw a photographer and tried my best to smile and enjoy the race as much as possible. Coming to the 24 mile mark I saw my family cheering for me. It was a complete ignore from me and gritting for the finish line. I was barely jogging and fighting my body to finish this lengthy race. Under 3:20:00 in my mind get to the finish, do whatever you can do to get there! Left, right left, cramp, walk, left right left, cramp walk was the basic trend.
One mile from the finish! I don’t have pictures of me “running” this last mile, but it was a basic hobbling and hopping towards the finish. I would do whatever I had to even destroying my body to get to the finish. About 600 meters left going up the one and only hill, showing my teeth trying to open my stride, last 100 meters finishing as quickly as I can just get across the line! Last step, immediate strain into my calf and it tightens. I get across the line and that was it! I finished. I looked at my watch, 3:19:46 and an official 3:19:35. I had done it marathon complete!
Now that it’s a couple weeks later, recap. I went out too fast. I was hurt with a bone bruise and couldn’t do butt kicks or fully bend my leg to stretch my quad. At that point it’s about finishing the race not running an amazing time. The weather in my opinion was good and great for running a fast time. Thanks to everyone that came out to support any runners. The entire course was littered with spectators and the race had SOOO many people in it. It was truly amazing to see how many people were involved. Lessons learned I need to be able to do long brick workouts to get myself in shape. I didn’t have the time to get those in when I needed to and I was hurt. I’d add in that I should’ve got those long bricks in and I think this issue wouldn’t have happened. Overall, a marathon by itself is definitely more challenging than a marathon that is part of an Ironman. Now is an Ironman more difficult than a marathon by itself? Yes and no. I believe the amount of running required to train properly for a marathon is much more than is required in an Ironman and I believe the training which requires more running is more difficult to stay healthy for. It was a good and bad experience, but wasn’t what I would’ve hoped.