When I signed up for Chicago back in February (or maybe it was March, not important) my goal was simple. To BQ. Yep. I only needed to take 15 minutes off my marathon PR to BQ and I felt confident that I could do that if I focused on speed. Spoiler alert - this did not happen, nor did this remain my goal for long.
My entire training for this race I've felt slow and injured. My wonky hip refused to be silent so early on, I discarded that dream and decided that a solid PR would satisfy me for now. I had great speed sessions. I was consistently running sub 3 Yassos. Hill repeats? Ate them for breakfast. But anything over 8 miles or so and I fell apart. My hip would start to ache and it would cause my gait to suffer, which made my knee hurt and my attitude stink.
I had very mixed feelings about racing Chicago. I knew it was going to hurt but I didn't know how much or at what point. My plan was the opposite of a strong racing plan; go out fast and cover as many miles as quickly as I could before I wanted to lie down in the street and die. Solid.
My hotel was, thankfully, very close to the start so I rolled out of bed at a decent hour and crammed a peanut butter and banana sam down my gullet and got dressed. The weather app, which is never, ever wrong, said it was 43 so I knew my choice of clothing was just right. Tank and shorts. Of course, earlier in the week I shopped for throw away clothes for the pre-race wait. I always try to find the most ridiculous stuff for my throw away clothes, then get attached to how awful they are and want to keep them!
Met up with Team K in the lobby pre-race. We are setting some serious fashion don'ts here.
That face says, "A marathon is HOW FAR these days?"
The race was beautifully orchestrated. I crossed the start line at 8:03 - just 3 minutes after the gun. Wow. Way to go, Chicago Marathon - you can herd cats with the best of 'em! Clothes were flying everywhere! I've never seen people so reckless with throw away clothes. You know, you don't actually have to throw them, y'all. You can gently set them down. I got hit in the noggin few times. Ew.
Okay, so the race. I was not having it. I could tell from my first steps that this was as disaster waiting to happen. Did not feel strong. By mile 2 I was seriously considering pulling over and DNF'ing. No lie. Blasting from one of the speakers was Yellow Ostrich, Marathon Runner (this version is slower than the album version, but hella awesome) and that perked me up a lil bit so I kept going. Until mile 3 when I thought once again that I should just stop and call it a day. You sensing a theme here? My gait was wonky and my hip, while not yet yelling, was whispering, "Psst, hey, you, Pinky, I don't wanna do this today."
When your body talks to you, you should listen. I'm just sayin'. While my pace was a solid sub 9, by mile 9 I was near tears and my hip was positively screaming. I absolutely would have stopped at that point, but I had no money and no way to get back to my hotel but to walk. And walking back in a tank top and booty shorts seemed about as stupid as running another 17 miles. So I ran. I tried every trick in the book to distract myself. I turned up my music hoping the carefully selected tunes would soothe me. I prayed for people who had been an encouragement my training. I spoke words of encouragement to people I passed, hoping maybe some of that would sink in to my sad little head. Eventually, I just turned off my brain all together, took my place smack dab in the middle of the road (Chicago streets are seriously cambered, like whoa) and just ran. I couldn't tell you one sign, one spectator, one landmark that I saw. Not one. I could have been running in any city. Totally focused on just getting done.
But that only lasted so long and eventually my pace got slower and slower. At one point I was running a 14 minute mile. Which is fine, but def not my race pace. I hurt like I've never hurt before, at any distance. I just wanted it to be over. I was crazy thirsty and walked through every dang water stop, taking water at each one. That is so unlike me, to drink that much. By mile 22 I was visibly limping, oh it was a pathetic sight! At one point I was limping along next to a man who was running on a prosthetic. He was MISSING HIS LEG y'all. Ugh, I was so ashamed for not being able to just suck it up and run. Eventually I figured walking was better than limping and defeated, I walked the last three miles.
Yep, straight up walked. I crossed the finish line and felt...nothing. I wasn't even glad to be done. I got my snacks, stuffed my medal into a bag that someone handed to me and sat by the fountain in a daze. I got two texts post race, one congratulatory and the other simply read, "What happened?"
Here's the thing, y'all. Marathons are far. And no matter what your pace, they are hard. It's a lot of work. (this shouldn't be news to anyone) I knew going in that this wouldn't be a PR but I really didn't expect it to be so bad. If my hip hadn't been gripey, I was set up for success. The weather was gorgeous, the course is super flat and the race is well run. I was trained for the distance and I was trained for my desired pace, but my body had other plans.
You learn the most from the races that don't go well. I learned that sometimes the smartest thing to do is admit defeat and save yourself for bigger races. I've got a 70.3 in two weeks that I plan to survive. And I can't do that if I'm lying on the side of the road in Chicago, whimpering.
You know what though? I ran the best race I could on that day. Not every race will be a PR. I had a tough day and I did what I could with what I had. It isn't what I wanted, or even what I trained for, but it is what it is. Considering I walked three miles, I finished with a pretty respectable time; I'm pleased with that. I refuse to beat myself up over this. (okay, maybe I did for a few days - hey, personal growth takes time!)
Onward and upward!
Have you ever run a race that just totally fell apart? How did you handle it?