On Saturday morning, we met-up with my friends
I was up before five on Sunday morning, had a light breakfast and a little coffee. I put on my navy-blue SERC singlet and shorts, and my Nike Lunaracers. I pinned a couple of Powerbar Gel packs to the waist of my shorts. In my pocket, I had two Vivarin (to be taken at 16 and 21 miles). I also had a small plastic bag with 8 Endurolyte capsules. These are essential for preventing cramping when running in warm weather, or at least that's what I thought. More on this later.)
At this point I should say that the weather forecast for Sunday in Chicago had been getting hotter all week. On Monday, they predicted low seventies, with cloud cover. Unseasonably warm, but not too bad. By Wednesday, they were saying mid to upper seventies, and maybe not so cloudy. On Friday, this had changed to a high in the low eighties, and sunny. It was starting to look like a potential repeat of last year's disaster.
Sue and Sandy dropped me off at Grant Park. I wondered around for a while, taking in the excitement of the morning. It was still dark, but the city was lit-up and the park was full of runners and volunteers. Eventually, I found a comfortable spot and sat for a while, just to get off my feet. At about 7:30, I made my way to Gate A. I found the 3:10 pacer and talked to him for a few minutes. I told him I would try to stay with him for a long as I could, but I was thinking, "Who am I kidding? I've never run faster than 3:15." I was surrounded by exceptionally good runners, and I was doubting that I belonged there.
I thought through my plan one more time. Water at every other aid station, skipping the first two and starting after mile five, Endurolyte capsule every half-hour, Vivarin and gel pack at mile 15 and mile 21. It was already getting warm, so I knew I would need to stay on schedule with the Endurolytes to prevent leg cramps late in the race.
At around five miles, we reached the south entrance of Lincoln Park. An aid station was just ahead, so I reached into my pocket for my bag of Endurolytes. The plan was to take one here, with a water, then one every half hour thereafter. And I think it would have been a good plan, if the bag didn't have a tear in the side, dropping the capsules all over the street. I managed to grab one before it fell. After a few seconds of total frustration, I refocused and developed an alternate plan. I put the lone Endurolyte back in my pocket, saving it for mile 20. I decided I would switch from water to Gatorade. I remembered that they were using the Endurance formula, which provides more salts and electrolytes. Since it also provided more calories than water (obviously), I also decided to cut back to one gel pack.
I knew Sue and everyone would be waiting for me somewhere on this westward stretch, but I didn't know where exactly. I ran the 2.5 miles west on Adams, and never saw them. I turned south on Damen, and then I saw them, shouting and cheering on the west side of the street. I ran over to them, gave Sue a hug and kiss, did the big Ohio State "O - H' and Lisa replied with a big 'I - O'. Here's a brief video which Sandy shot. Note the lovely neon green Nike Lunaracers as I run off.
The next five miles were not as scenic as the area north of the city, but running through Pilsen was a blast. The crowds were huge and noisy. They were shouting, singing, playing drums, and generally having a good time. And since the streets were narrow, the effect was like your were running through a party. There was an aid station just before mile 21, and it was there that I took my lone Endurolyte. I knew with the rising temperatures, cramps were a serious risk. We zigzagged through Pilsen, and then went south on Wentworth, right through Chinatown. Again, great crowd support, including dancing dragons and the smell of great food.
Just past mile 23, we turned and started north, back toward the city. I had been warned that this would be the worst part of the race, and it was. The area is not scenic, unless you are a student of aging urban industrial zones. It was hot, there was no shade, and we were running on broad, flat concrete that reflected the heat. There were lots of runners not doing well, many falling into the 'marathon shuffle', just managing to keep their legs moving. I checked my pace, and I knew I was just three miles away from not only a 3:10, but possibly 3:09 or even 3:08, if I could just settle in, and keep the cramps away. I kept focused on my stride and pace, and ignored the surroundings. I chewed up the last three miles. Then two funny things happened, almost simultaneously.
I felt the first twinge of a cramp in my left calf at around 25.5 miles. I ran through it. Then I noticed a guy running a couple hundred yards ahead of me. From the back, from that distance, I doubted that it was him, but he sure did look like Mike Boyer, a renowned veteran Cleveland runner who has won more races than I have run. Odds were it was not him, but...what if it was? Just the thought that I might be within striking distance of him at the end of the marathon was all I needed. I fought through several more cramp onsets, and passed him with a few hundred yards of the finish line. I never looked back to see if it was Mike, I just kept my focus on the finish.
Sue, Sandy, Jeff, Lisa, and Sharon all met me at the park. They were more excited than I was. We walked around for a little while, got some food. I got a call from Jeff U., a running buddy from Cleveland, congratulating me on my new marathon PR (personal record). He had been tracking the Cleveland area runners on line. He asked me if I knew I had passed Mike Boyer at the end of the race. Ha! I knew that was Mike! A little icing on the cake.
Later on Sunday, I checked the website. According to the official results, there were 45,000 registered runners, but only 33, 033 started the race. I think the heat scared quite a few off. 1,679 dropped over the course of the race, so there were 31, 404 finishers. I finished 667th. In my age group, there were 2100 finishers, and I was #20. I guess the top 15 isn't too bad. ;-) Here is an excerpt from the Chicago Sun Times, Monday October 13th.
The heat was on Sunday, but that didn't stop thousands of long-distance runners from crossing the finish line at the 31st Chicago Marathon. With temperatures in the mid-80s, organizers elevated a race-day alert system to "Red/High," meaning potentially dangerous conditions, three hours into the race. Despite the heat, Carey Pinkowski, executive race director, said it was "an extremely good day" and that the 20 aid stations along the course kept up with the demand for fluids. Still, there were 110 calls for medical transport, and 61 runners were taken to area hospitals, said Dr. George Chiampas, marathon medical director. Sunday's heat combined with memories from last year may have kept some runners from the starting line. Of the 45,000 registered, 33,033 started the race. And 31,401 runners crossed the finish line.