Chicago Marathon Recap

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I am that girl to the back left. See that guy in front of me? That is how I imagined I would cross the finish line.

Step by step, hour by hour, mile by mile, day after day, all summer when my training was getting hard I pictured how I would cross that finish line. I had this epic throw your hands in the air, maybe a peace sign, or a Bender style fist pump. None of that happened. I ran across the finish line and immediately hunched over. I went into shock.

I      JUST      RAN       A       MARATHON.

Me, someone who just started running not even two years ago. A girl who hated running and avoided it like a plague. Besides my bad knees, I just figured running was boring and not “my thing”.

Since I ran, many people have been asking my questions about running, everything to how I started to what shoes I wear. If you ever have a question, please feel free to comment on the blog of my IG, I will answer!

Today I wanted to do a recap of my Chicago Marathon experience.

Tom dropped me off at the security gates, I can still not believe how tight security was. Chicago did an amazing job! From there I felt like I was going on a long trip, not sure where I would end up, and in what condition. I met up with a friend who was on his FIFTH marathon! He gave me some tips about only stopping at a med tent if you REALLY need to because it takes long time and to smile anytime you see a professional photographer. With me I carried my phone, blue tooth Beats by Dre, and a good friend’s ipod stacked with motivational songs. I was nervous my phone would die, so I thought using the ipod for a while would help.

The national anthem while you are waiting in those corals will give you chills. At that point I needed to keep the momentum going and started listening to music before I started running. The wait is torturous to start and I did not want to risk letting my mind wander.

Out of the gate I felt amazing. Immediately inspired by the crowds, other participants, and signs. I had to keep holding myself back a bit because I was worried if I ran to fast to start I would run out of steam. Reading the poster, people left and right looking you in the eye cheering you on, running by the beautiful Chicago architecture, passing by friends who were there to cheer me on, a friend that was handing out water at a water station,  and even Tom meeting up with me and running a few steps. The first half went by so fast. I even missed mile 9-12 markers! Before I knew it I was at the half point and I felt amazing and positive still. The neighborhoods were like giant block parties. I still smile when I think of running through boys town, Lincoln park, and along Lake Shore Drive. It is so surreal to be able to run the streets of Chicago with them all to ourselves. I made sure to take in the sights and soak in the crowds.

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I am such a lucky girl to have this handsome guy so supportive of my crazy ideas. Marathon training is no joke and the hours and time I put into it would not be possible without his support.

At the half point I checked my time. I was at 2 hours exactly. I thought to myself if I keep this pace, and speed it up a tad, I could be sub 4! This would be huge for a first marathon. Around Little Italy I started feeling pain in my knee. I tried changing my stride and it felt better. I also had in my head that the medical district was coming up and this was when things might slow down (the crowd and sights). I kept running and the knee pain kept coming and stronger. I was starting to get tired and bored. Things started going through my head like “maybe half marathons are what I should have stuck to” and “I will NEVER do this again”. And more and more negative things.  I had to slow down and walk. I need a break from the pounding. Well, when I walked all my body hurt. When I ran just my knee hurt. Go figure. I decided to do what I can and I will finish eventually.

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This above photo was taken by a Flash frame photographer. Flash Frame is this great company that photographs races. Any photographer can attend a race and submit photos and make some extra cash. Runners can purchase their photos for a incredibly reasonable price! I always just assumed that the race had one company taking photos and to be honest the prices can be pretty hefty for just a so so photo of yourself. So glad I found Flash Frame and if you are a runner check them out! There may be photos of you from your last race that you do no even know about!

At this point many people were walking and even stopped on the sides stretching. Good idea I thought, take a little time to stretch. That helped a little, but only made me want to stop more. As I started running again there was a man with a cooler handing out towels. At first I was not going to grab one, but then I did. That was the most amazing thing! This towel was so cold and refreshing. I carried it about a mile putting it on my wrists and neck. If I could hug that man today I would.

Pilsen and China town were fun. I was so tired at that point but really wanted to enjoy the energy and music of both neighborhoods.  And I did! China Town has the dancing dragons and everything. It was a great distraction before the last couple miles. See, smile at any pro photog you see so you have a good photo or two 😉

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My cheer squad was staged at their last spot some time after China town but before I started heading North again. I saw them and stopped. I wanted them to just carry me to the car and be done. I was over it, everything hurt, and my motivation was bruised. “Why am I STILL running away from the finish line?!” There is only a few more miles but that did not matter. My runner’s high came during the first half. They pushed me on and I continued on. Before I knew it I was finally headed North and at mile 24. On a normal day 2 more miles is nothing. At that moment 2 more miles felt like 20. I again started walking and limping. A man came up to me and patted me on the back and said “you got this! Let’s do it!” and started running with me. Again, someone in the crowd, did not know me, and encouraged me to keep going. He ran a little with me, again patted me on the back and yelled something else encouraging. I was coming up to the end. I could see the big screen before you turn off Michigan.

That’s when it hit me, in just a few more minutes I was going to be a marathoner!

I wish I could say I sprinted to the end, but I just couldn’t. I picked up my pace and got it done.

At that point things started happening fast even though I felt like I had bricks on my feet. They were putting medals around us, those space blankets, asking for pics, shoving water and gatorade at us (side note: I still can no look at a yellow gatorade. That taste just stayed in my mouth for days), and herded us like cattle to the 27th mile party. And 27th mile it was. Walking almost a whole mile was agony.  Per this image below, my hair also ensued some trauma 😳

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As I got spit out back into reality, my friends were there to help me to meet Tom. It was like an out of body experience, I went somewhere not many people went and I still could not yet process my thoughts on everything. I read once that the person who starts a marathon is not the same person that finishes, and that was so the truth.

Will I run a marathon again? Yes, and I already put in for next year’s Chicago marathon. I know I promised myself I would never do it again during the race, I still can not get over how full my heart is. If you EVER feel you are loosing faith in humanity or even the city of Chicago, go watch or run a marathon. The crowds are all there for everyone, not just their person. Cheering every single runner on, smiling, encouraging,  and having fun. It was like the entire city came together for a party and it did not matter who knew who, everyone was there to be friends. If I do not decide to run, I will be going back just to cheer. To cheer everyone who trained so hard to finish something so incredible.

What I wore and swear by, no chaffing and nothing bothered me the entire run! Worth every penny and everything washes so nice. Everything has probably been through the washer 50 times and still looks new.

Shirt: Lululemon Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve Crew

Pants: Lululemon Speed Tight If I could go and hug the girl at the Oakbrook Lululemon store for suggesting these pants for my marathon I would. I cannot get over how comfortable they were for those 4 + hours.

Headband:Lululemon Fringe Fighter

Shoes:Saucony Knivara 7 . When I started running, I went to a running store and they chose Saucony’s for me by the way I ran barefoot. I swear by them and will never wear anything different.

Belt: Flipbelt. Been running with it since I started. It fits by 6 plus and does not move





  • pam b.

    Congrats Gina! I should have talked to you when we had our spring session photo shoot because I am running my first marathon soon. I would love to get some tips and suggestions. I loved reading what you wrote as it helps me to prepare more. Congrats again!ReplyCancel

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