I expected to put something up here right after the race. It's funny...though I was terrified of how long we were running, I hadn't anticipated being too tired to even write a blog afterward. Wow. Coming home after the race, there was stretching and icing and showering and a huge bowl of chopped veggies for lunch, and then...when I thought it would be blog time...sleep. Sleep wasn't "one of the choices available to me." My body was having it and there was no negotiating. Tried to get up after an hour, only to find my body had apparently converted to solid lead. Pressed back down onto the bed, I slept a total of about 3 hours. And am now sitting here with my feet up, listening to them tell me the story of what a job that was, and folks...I ain't goin' nowhere.
But that's the afterstory. Let's go back to the beginning!
|Here we are, waiting for the fun to begin! YES we were excited...|
It's a beautiful thing, living just a couple of blocks from the starting line. Sarah and I had just a short walk to the back of the line, just ahead of the walkers, where we had been designated based on having no previous recorded race times. It'll keep you humble, knowing the walkers are just RIGHT THERE - or it did me, anyway, as I already knew a bunch of them would be kicking my butt (this based on my experiences on the Chicago Lake Front Path - always [NOT] fun to be passed by a walker while one is running!)
|This is the most "Chicago feel" I've experienced since moving back to the QC!|
You can't *start* 20,000 people all at the same time. Happily, we were wearing computer chipped tags, which meant our time didn't start until we actually crossed the starting line. That was, ummm, either a block or 2 blocks from where we lined up and by my calculations from reading race results, it took us just about 4.5 minutes to actually reach that starting line. At that point...HOLY COW. I could look up Brady Street hill and see all four lanes of the road filled with bodies, top to bottom, side to side. An awesome mass of humanity. It's a rush you have to experience to appreciate, I think.
Starting with that hill is discouraging. We were running faster than I normally would. It takes me maybe half a mile to really get to be "ok" on any run, and the (4-5% grade) hill takes up most (all?) of that distance. Truth: I didn't feel like I could finish the race, as we were climbing the hill. Truth: it took me another MORE THAN HALF A MILE just to recover from that hill. I kept moving, but - dude - I was dying.
But the crowd is a huge encouragement - both runners and spectators. So much noise. Cheering, music of every kind. We were sprayed with yard sprinklers and told what a great job we were doing. People knew just the right beat to turn up loud, music-wise, and more than once that beat helped me step a little faster - from stereos to live bands, the music was a crucial piece of the energy.
There were drink stations along the way - people standing holding out paper cups of water. I quickly learned that if I am handed a half cup of water, I can swallow most of it. When it's a full cup they give me...well, let's just say I end up wearing it more than ingesting. This is NOT a complaint - after a bit, I was pouring water down my neck, down my back, on my head...and shuddering and hollering a bit for the joy of how good it felt. You drink and you drop the cup and keep running. After awhile, there were spots where we basically ran on a carpet of smashed paper cups (and if you're worrying about pollution...no worries...afterward, all sorts of people were out raking up piles of cups from the street!)
Because the race doubles back on itself, we got to see the superstar runners coming back around when we were just past the first mile marker. They were incredible. I can't imagine being able to move that fast at all, much less for that far.
Each mile was marked with a huge banner, and featured someone calling out race times as we crossed. That was helpful - I had checked out the "race calculator" on the race website ahead of time and knew we had to finish each mile in about 17 minutes to make our goal of doing it within 2 hours. Definition of encouraging: at every mile marker, we got to hear times that told us we were on track to make the goal. We even ran the 2nd mile in 15 minutes, which MIGHT be a personal best for me since I took up running 15 months ago.
Having Sarah with me was invaluable. I guess it's POSSIBLE to run a race alone, but I know for sure more than once I stepped faster with her than I would have without her. And the conversation and camaraderie along the way were great gifts. A race buddy is a Very Good Idea.
Fun things I saw along the way: costumed runners, a dude on stilts (he beat us), someone running barefoot with tape on his toes, "the Marilyns" (you haven't lived until you've seen multiple Marilyn Monroes out for a run!), some foolish young guys running with beer, people of every age and size and all manner of getup. The only bummer all day were some church folks, unsmiling, holding up "Repent, the kingdom is at hand" and ummm NOT radiating love. Really? You're advancing the Kingdom like that? Hmmm.
The most moving thing (to me) was a soldier running in full gear with his packed rucksack. Early in the race, he carried the black POW/MIA flag; if it was the same guy, he didn't have the flag at the end but he finished at the same time we did. Feeling the burn of the run in my lightweight clothes, I appreciated what my son went through at boot camp on a whole other level and was nearly undone at it. He didn't get cheering crowds when he ran all those times - he faced screaming superiors and weather much worse than what I was running in (and let's not even START on the fact he did a lot of it with stress fractures in his feet). Yes, I finished the race fighting tears and praying for soldiers everywhere. I'm not always *for* all the wars, but I am certainly behind those who give of themselves for the cause of peace.
At the turn-around there is a digital readout of race times. We were at 57:02 there. It was loud - drums and so much to take in that mile 3-4 just flew by. I still wasn't sure we could finish within the 2 hours, because the race (other than the Brady Street hill) is largely DOWNhill on the first half. How would we maintain the pace for the second half, fighting our way UPhill? Sarah suggested the strategy of running for a count of 20 and then walking for a count of 10. Great strategy. It took us a long way.
Little extras passed out along the way included "Mr. Freezie" ice pops and bags of ice cubes. It was fun to see how much fun the volunteers were having as they blessed us. If you can ever do this race, even just to walk it, I recommend trying. It's a pretty great high.
We ran more than we walked - we're in agreement that we ran at least 4 of the miles, including uninterrupted running for the last (more than) 1 mile. Coming DOWN Brady Street hill was a rush. Being newbies, we mistakenly thought the starting line was also the finish line, and we crossed it holding hands and hollering. Thank God for the other runner who came by and straightened us out: "This is not the finish line." Oh. Oops!
Still, we got there. Sweaty, soaked, sore, grinning like idiots. Yup, we made it! And we both finished several minutes before the two hour mark (my time was 1:56:29; Sarah finished a little before me.)
*Insert victory yell here*
We did stop by the race after-party, where all sorts of food and drink (the good-for-you stuff and the bad-for-you stuff as well) was laid out for our enjoyment. The item that most surprised me there: free beer. The beer line was LONG. Happily, I didn't want to be in it. But really, free beer? Someone committed some dollars there!
I am a runner.
It took me nearly 17 minutes per mile, but I am a runner.
I was passed by walkers, but I am a runner.
I did it in size extra large running clothes, but I am a runner.
It sent me to bed afterward, but I am a runner.
I finished. I am a runner.
And, guaranteed: that didn't happen - would NEVER have happened in MY life - without 19 months of personal, one-on-one "training" from the very God of all the universe, JUST FOR ME, on how to love my body. I think I'll stick with letting Him teach me. Like...forever.
To God be the glory. Great things He has done.