Chicago Marathon Race Report

Hello, hello and happy Monday evening. This may be the quickest I’ve ever got a race report up. That is what a full day of travel and long airport layovers will do for you! I hope everyone had a great weekend and my fellow Canadian readers had a great Thanksgiving weekend. As you all know I was in Chicago over the weekend running the Chicago Marathon and hanging out with friends touring the city. I didn’t actually realize it until about halfway through the marathon but this weekend was the 3rd anniversary of my very first marathon in Portland and Chicago also marked my third full marathon.

I had an absolute blast visiting the Windy City and running the race! I would highly, highly recommend this marathon to anyone and everyone. It’s a flat, fast course, very very well spectated (there wasn’t a single spot on the whole course that didn’t have spectators) and it’s extremely well organized from shuttles running all day Friday and Saturday to take you to the race expo, to the corrals at the start to the fun after party at mile 27. The entry fee for this marathon is steep, but it was worth every penny.

Now, onto the actual report.

I spent the night before the race in our hotel room with Anais, Lisa and Lauren. Due to a stress fracture injury, Lisa unfortunately was not running the race with us as originally planned but she got up and saw us off that morning and then played spectator extraordinaire offering us much needed hugs, support, water and ibuprofen at miles 10 and 20. Lauren, Anais and myself got ready and then hopped on the bus to the start around 6:30 am.

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Once we got off the bus Anais and I said goodbye to Lauren as her wave started 30 minutes earlier than us and we camped out in Starbucks to keep warm and use the washroom facilities. I have never gone to the washroom so much before a race. I went four times before the race even started and then had to pull off less than 5km into the race to go again.

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Anyways, after hanging out in Starbucks for about 30 minutes we made our way to the start (used the porta potties one more time) and lined up. Despite the fact that there was so many people we managed to cross the start line only 8 minutes after our wave started, which I thought was impressive.

Mile 1 –  10:04 Mile 2 – 10:41 Mile 3 – 11:37

We stuck together for approx. the first two miles and then I told Anais to go on without me. I knew that we had to run our own races that day since Anais was shooting for a PR and my one and only goal was to survive the race with a smile on my face and have fun. I could feel myself pushing the pace a little more than necessary in the early miles so I wanted to reign it in a bit (a 12-minute wait at the porta potty definitely helped with that).

I don’t remember much about the first part of the race other than we were going through the city and rolling along. I did pull off at mile 4ish to use the porta potty and it was BUSY so I ended up losing about 12 minutes there. I didn’t let it bother me though because I really needed to pee and I knew that I couldn’t hold it much longer (and was not about to go on the sidewalk like I saw SO many people doing!)

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(my favourite picture from the race, so glad I stopped to take this!)

Mile 4 – 17:35 (porta potty wait) Mile 5 – 10:12  Mile 6 – 10:47

The first miles of this race were actually the hardest for me. I remember thinking “omg I’m only at mile 7 and putting my music in because I was feeling kind of bored and not excited about another 19 miles of running. I knew I would see Lisa and Nilsa at mile 10 so I told myself I could put my music in for the next 3 miles until I saw them.

It was around mile 7 that we started running through some cute neighbourhoods with lots of brick buildings and brick houses (I love a good brick house!) so I looked at the neighbourhood around me and watched the spectators and read the signs to keep my mind off of running. There was definitely some pretty amazing entertainment along the course!

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I should add here that I was doing 9 and 1 intervals of run/walk at this point. At first they matched up well with the aid stations so my 1 minute walk fell on the aid station but later in the race I ended up doing 9 and 1’s plus a quick 20 – 30 second walk at the aid station to drink water.

Mile 7 – 10:26 Mile 8 – 10:36  Mile 9 – 10:44  Mile 10 – 10:31 

I saw Lisa and Nilsa just after the mile 10 marker and stopped to see them and get hugs and ibuprofen! I maybe spent 1 – 2 minutes with them? Something I really value about trail running is actually STOPPING at aid stations so both times I saw Lisa I stopped for a few moments to talk to her before carrying on my way.

After seeing them I felt really good and remember feeling awesome when I hit the halfway point in exactly 2:30. I was very happy to be on pace for a 5 hour marathon and knew that if I managed to negative split the race I would be able to get in under 5 hours.

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Mile 11 – 11:40 Mile 12 – 10:36  Mile 13 – 10:24 

It was around mile 14 that my feet really, really started to ache. I was running this race in my trail shoes, so I think that’s part of the reason, but also like I’ve said many times I was undertrained for this race and I haven’t really done any of my long runs on the road, maybe 3 – 4 since May! All my other long runs have been in the trails, which I think was great training for my mind and my legs, but the cement was really really beating up my feet which were used to running on dirt. Plus we had done a fair amount of walking around the city the previous two days.

Mile 14 – 10:29 Mile 15 – 11:14  Mile 16 – 11:25

I guess my feet started to loosen up as they did feel better later in the race. I took out my music again from miles 14 – 18 and focused on taking in what was going on around me. Initially I was trying to hold out with no music until seeing Lisa again at mile 20 but I felt like I needed the pick me up at mile 18 so I made myself wait until I saw the mile 18 marker and then plugged it back in. It actually really did pick me up and I was running along and singing out loud at that point. I remember feeling really good from miles 18 – 20 and totally ready to tackle the last 6.2!

Mile 17 – 11:30 Mile 18 – 10:35  Mile 19 – 10:37 

I spotted Lisa at mile 20 and gave her a big hug and got ibuprofen from her again, as the aching in my feet had not gone away. I was actually feeling really really good at this point mentally, but physically my legs were joining my feet on the aching bandwagon. I told myself that for the last 6 miles I could do 8 and 2 intervals of run/walk so that’s what I started after mile 20. I was actually running at a really good clip – about 9:45/mile but my 2 minute walk breaks slowed my pace down to closer to 11:00/mile.

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Mile 20 – 10:45 Mile 21 – 12:15  Mile 22 – 11:04

I’m not really sure if the walk breaks were good or bad. On one hand, mentally, I really felt like I needed them. On the other hand, physically, I would just get into a running groove and then stopping to walk would really stiffen me up and it would be difficult to get running again. I told myself I could keep doing the walk breaks until mile 24 and then I would run the final two miles. You can definitely tell I was starting to slow down in these final miles based on my splits.

Mile 23 – 11:14

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Right before the mile 23 marker I saw a sign for free beer and I figured a free beer might not be a bad idea at this point, so I stopped and drank it! It was actually super delicious and ice cold and seemed to sit OK in my stomach too!

Mile 24 – 12:13

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I remember that mile 24 of this marathon felt really really significant to me because in my last two marathons I felt like absolute death at this point. During Portland I tore a tendon in my foot around this point of the race and in Vancouver I was having major stomach and cramping issues. While I was definitely tired and sore at Chicago, my feet were still very achy, I felt in much higher spirits. I was smiling and cheering and singing out loud to my music and I even did a couple of jumps when I saw the official race photogs! So I obviously wasn’t in *that* much pain 🙂

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Mile 25 – 12:00

Just keep running. Just keep running. At this point I’d taken one short walk break to grab water but other than that I was scooting along. I did stop to take a picture with the 1 mile to go sign shortly after mile 25. This is one of those photos I’ve always wanted from a race but I’ve never stopped to actually take one. I’m sure glad I did this time!

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Mile 26 – 11:26

This was definitely the flattest marathon I’ve ever ran. But of course, they had to throw one little hill in there, and it was right at mile 26. It actually wasn’t the worst hill in the world. I’ve definitely ran much much worse, but the placement of it was a little cruel!

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Mile 26 – 26.2 – 10:17

Normally I sprint to the finish line when I am about 200 metres away. I have done this in almost every race I’ve ever ran. Not in Chicago. I was going at a decent enough pace already and I just wanted to enjoy the moment of crossing that finish line. At this point I knew I would cross it in sub 5 (barely) and I just wanted to soak up every last second of this amazing once in a lifetime experience.

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Final Time: 4:58:04 

I crossed the finish line and felt really good. I didn’t feel like collapsing and my legs didn’t feel like giving out like they had after previous marathons. Don’t get me wrong. I was sore and tired. But I had no problem walking the 25ish minutes to meet up with Lisa, Nilsa and Anais at the bean and then we continued to walk about 6 more blocks after that back to grab Chipotle and go back to the hotel. Then after showers we walked another mile-ish to dinner and the same distance home. So lots of walking happened after the race and while I was definitely stiff, I felt pretty good.

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The other thing Chicago did for me was rekindle my love of running that I’ve lost over the last 8 weeks. Running is something that means so much to me. I’m so lucky to have a body that is strong and capable enough to carry me so far. I could feel the energy and excitement around me this weekend. Words cannot fully describe what it means to set a goal for yourself that at one time may have not seemed possible and then to dominate it. I am definitely taking a full week off from running and looking forward to being really relaxed about my running for the rest of this year. However, I will say I’ve already started contemplating possible marathons or another possible 50 km in 2014. Stay tuned 🙂

Thanks for all the support on Twitter and Facebook by the way. I don’t think I would have became a runner without blogging. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such a wonderful support system both in person and online.


25 Responses

  1. Bec says:

    Congrats on the race Amber!!! Sounds like an amazing race, putting it on my bucket list for sure. Wishing you a speedy recovery 🙂

  2. Kelly says:

    Sounds like a really great race! I love the relaxed attitude you had throughout- stopping to taking pictures, saying hi to everyone and of course drinking beer 🙂 This is definitely a great way to do a race and really enjoy it!
    I love all your pictures and I had a lot of fun following you on Sunday- even if all my updates were absurdly late so I mostly had to do it on my iPad instead of my phone ha ha

  3. Lisa says:

    congrats on another marathon completion!

  4. Becky says:

    Yay!!! So proud of you! Glad it was a good experience -although I can’t believe you saw people going to the bathroom ON THE SIDEWALK!!!

  5. Heather says:

    Im so glad you were able to enjoy this race! Such fantastic photos and a great time!

    You should run it again next year….you know….when I run it! (because you pretty much convinced me just by these posts)

  6. Nora says:

    Congrats, friend! SO glad I was able to meet you and hug you before the big race day. you are awesome, gorgeous and such a wonderful person. Thankful and blessed to know you 🙂

  7. Ris says:

    Sounds like you had a great time, and that your relaxed approach really worked for you. Congrats on a successful marathon!!

  8. What a great race recap, Amber. As you know, I don’t generally read race recaps … but, I felt such a part of your experience this time (and also know the race course quite well), that reading the recap made me feel like I was right there with you along the course! I love that you started and finished this race with a smile and are full of gratitude for your ability to run and love for running. Seriously awesome accomplishment!!

  9. phampants says:

    I’m so glad you had a great race! Chicago Marathon is very dear to my heart.

  10. Holly says:

    Congrats!!! It looks like you had a lot of fun – I love the official race photographs 🙂 And I’m glad you found your love of running again!

  11. Stephany says:

    Way to go on another strong marathon, Amber! It seems like you came out to do what you wanted to do: have a great race experience and enjoy the course! You took some fantastic pictures. Yay!

    But I’m still stuck on the fact there were people PEEING ON THE SIDEWALK. OMG. I may never look at the streets of Chicago the same again. Ha. 😉

  12. Sherry Sim says:

    Goosebumps!! Nice to run into you and Chloe for a hug this a.m.!

  13. Travel Spot says:

    Great job!! I am glad that you had a good time and just went with it and didn’t stress over the fact that you had to run a certain pace or get a certain time. I love those races, the kind where you talk to people, and drink beer and just have a good time doing what you love…because I know you DO love it! It’s easy to get burned out, especially when life is busy and running starts to be like a chore.

    2014, Bay Area or bust!!

  14. Great race recap! It was really fun to cheer you guys on and I was so impressed by how great both you and Anais looked at mile 20 and how well you moved around after the race – which is great as it would have been a shame to miss out on your last night in Chicago if you had been too sore to walk around! I think that you did such an awesome job with this race. I can totally see why you were totally burned out on running, though. But I am glad that the race renewed your love for running again. It will be nice to have a less intense training schedule, esp since you are so busy at work!

    I hope that i will be able to run a half with you guys in fall. We will see what my body allows but either way I do want to come to the meet up, even if I just have to be a spectator again!

  15. Megan says:

    Congrats, Amber! You ran a smart race and it sounds like you had a ton of fun! Love the pictures!

  16. Emilie says:

    What a great race report! Congratulations on such a FUN race! You totally have me even more pumped for my first half in three weeks. Isn’t Chicago such a fun city?! I love your photo at the bean after the race!

  17. Leana says:

    Congratulations on your marathon! So glad to hear that it has rekindled your love from running. Every once in awhile you need a break, then something amazing happens that reminds you why you were doing this. Loved hearing all about Chicago. This is a race I would absolutely love to do one day!! Here’s hoping I can get in whenever that day comes around…!

  18. […] since last week was my first week back to a regular workout schedule since Chicago (I took 4 days off all activity other than walking and 7 days off of running) I thought I would do […]

  19. Elizabeth says:

    Seriously lady, you’re amazing. SO glad to read of your experience. Sounds like it was a great one 🙂

  20. Morgan says:

    Because Chicago was my first and I had such an amazing race there, it always makes me so happy to see/hear of other people enjoying it just as much as I did. They put on such a fantastically fun race! Love all your smiles and that you slammed a beer! Awesome! LOL! 🙂

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  22. Tina G says:

    Great job!! love that there was beer enroute. I want to run this race for sure. 🙂

  23. Robyn says:

    I am going to run Chicago this year and have been kind of obsessed with reading everything I can about the race, especially peoples blogs. I really appreciated your race report. I noticed your photos that you took along the course. Was that with your phone or did you carry a camera? Did you keep it in something or just carry it the entire time? Thanks! Robyn

  24. […] marathon in 2010, then the Victoria half and full in 2011, we took a break in 2012 but did the Chicago marathon in 2013 and now we’re all heading to San Francisco in September for a trail race in Berkely! […]

  25. […] when you travel. Two of my favourite cities that I’ve seen through running / being active are Chicago and San Francisco. Running the Chicago Marathon and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge are two of […]