Chicago Marathon (Conclusion)

My head felt fine, but my body was starting to hurt. My legs were cramping and I knew that the toughest part of the marathon was still miles away. It was payback time for all the mistakes I had made in training. The missed-or abbreviated runs, the poor diet, the lack of sleep, the unnecessary extra weight, along with the normal stresses of life were now conspiring to end my marathon quest. Luckily, Gregg was there to take my mind off my poor preparation. had he not been pointing out exactly where we were I would have been lost, cruising the streets of Chicago in search of a finish line. Not the worst fate in the world, but there were doubts creeping into my mind. I really wasn’t ready, yet there I was, smack in the middle of the Chicago Marathon.

Every mile at the water stops was the original plan for a little walking breather. But as the miles wore on the miles turned to 3/4, then to halves. The walks were getting a little longer as well. Every time we would pull over I stretched my calves to try and spark some life back into them. Not much luck, and everytime we stopped it was that much harder to continue. Crappy shoes…

Where were we? Mile 18? 19? Who knows but I didn’t need Gregg to tell me we were approaching Chinatown. The store fronts did that, along with the dancing dragons at the entrance. Just like the video. Beyonce was willing to take us there, and I was kind of hoping that she could actually pull off something like that. Rocking ambience coming into Chinatown anyway. We were taking one of our walk breaks as we came up on the dragons and knowing that there would be photographers around the corner willed myself to shuffle along. Sure enough, there were two right around the corner. I really didn’t want any official marathon pictures with me walking along.

As we crossed over the 20+ mile mark there was candy, bananas and other necessities for us runners. I’m not sure how Gregg felt, but I had hit the fabled wall miles back. The sugar provided some slight energy, but at that point, there wasn’t much more that would get me to the finish line other than me, myself and I. Legs cramping badly.

I took a shot of the the 25 mile 756080-1196-0048ssign, proof that we had made it that far. Yes, there was only 1.2 miles to go, but there was a time limit of 6:30 for the race. My GPS had long since gone down, but Gregg had a watch.
“No problem, we still have an hour,” he reassured. “No, wait, we have 15 minutes.”

Whaaat? I could barely walk, much less run at that point, and now we were down to the last 15 minutes. The thought of traversing 26.2 miles and not being recognized for it was the only motivation I had left. We took off-and I mean took off as fast as we could go at that point. We were going to finish. Suddenly, we came to a bridge. It was a street, but also a bridge. That meant uphill. Finishing was the only thing on my mind. Well, that and the pain. But the thought of being a non-finisher would have been much more painful that what I was feeling at that moment. We powered up that hill, and as we turned the corner, there it was: FINISH. I let out a yell that immediately sent cramps cascading through both sides of my shoulder blades. It didn’t matter. What did matter is that we beat the clock. As we crossed the finish line, I noted the time on the official clock. That was gun time though, not our official start time, so I wasn’t sure if we had made it or not. Gregg seemed to think that we did, but we would have to wait. 756065-1059-0030sIn my book, we had done it.

We had our picture taken together at the end. Normally that is a solo shot, but you don’t cast a man aside after 26 miles. We did every mile together. Afterwards, we enjoyed a brew, compliments of Goose Island, along with Gatorade and assorted energy snacks. Anything that had calories. I had walked out of the hotel in the dark, battled the bright sun earlier, and was now looking at cloudy skies, and in fact it would rain later. The day was like a little novel, and it had everything; the good, the bad and the ugly. In the end it was all good, because we in fact did make it by a mere three minutes. Yes, any slack at all in that last 1.2 and we would have been out. It was a rather disappointing time, and hour slower that my first marathon, but at the same time, it was Chicago, and I had pulled it off. What it did mean though, is that this would not be my retirement marathon. Not with that time. I would learn from my mistakes and do it all again next year.

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