While perusing the running blog RSS feeds, this race report by Audry about the Banco Popular Chicago Half Marathon reminded me that I still hadn’t finished mine. Here it is.
To the Starting Line
A rain came to Chicago that literally stayed for 2 days. It hadn’t rained that much in over 100 years. But that wasn’t going to stop the Chicago Half Marathon. People paid their money & expected the race to go on.
I got to the event a bit late. Staying up until 12:30 am playing Wii with friends is not a great idea the night before a half marathon.
Parking for this race is not great so all you jogglers out there considering doing this event should get there early. I found a spot about 1.5 miles away and rapidly walked to the gear check. The lines were long, I had no safety pins to attach my number, and the rain pounded down hard. Fortunately, another runner gave me some of her pins. Runners are nice. I ran through a muddy field and made it to the start just as the Star Spangled Banner blared. I was soaked & filthy.
And they’re off
The horn went off and I started up the music. Dr. Worm. It’s an energizing song. But the music didn’t last long. The headphones kept sliding out of my ear. Eventually, I just tucked them into my shirt and joggled unplugged. Sometimes it’s better to run without headphones because in a race, I usually don’t listen to it anyway.
For the first mile I ran with the 1:35 pace group. It didn’t feel too bad except for the splosh, splish, splash of every step. After a couple miles, staying with that group got too hard so I decided not to have any goal. (Really, I revised it to 1:40.) It’s easier to avoid disappointment when you aren’t shooting for anything. Secretly, I wanted to stay with the 1:35’s but couldn’t push myself. My dream goal was 1:30 but there was never a serious attempt made.
My one and only drop came when I attempted to grab a Gatorade from the first water stop. I threw the ball high, wiped the water out of my face and dropped when I tried to catch and gather the three in one hand. It was early so I don’t think it caused me to lose much time. But drops are always disruptive.
Visualize to Reduce Pain
For the first few miles I was cruising. I imagined my usual running path. For me, 13 miles is a run from my condo, straight east down North Avenue, along the Lakefront path, up to Recreation drive and back. To make running easier and less painful, I’ll often try to visualize myself running my usual path. You can lose yourself in your mind and pain evaporates. It’s easier to do on a treadmill than outside because there are less distractions, but it is possible.
The toughest miles were going north on Lake Shore Drive. There were very few spectators and it was a straight line. To my right was the path I joggled for the 50 miler. I thought about that and smiled. I still sometimes can’t believe I ran 50 miles non-stop.
I heard someone yell out my name. “Perry!”. I looked over and smiled. It was my friend Beth. We trained for the Chicago Marathon together many years ago. I threw a ball up high, waved at her and caught the dropping orb in stride. It’s an impressive trick if you don’t drop.
For many miles I ran with this girl (later found out her name was Debra). We talked a bit and she said it was fun running with a juggler because you get lots of extra cheers. We stayed together from mile 6 through about 9 when she pulled ahead. She was a bit faster through the water stops, so I lost energy catching up to her. By mile 10, she was about a minute ahead. Then I started to speed up. Around mile 12 I passed her and didn’t see her the rest of the way. I don’t think she passed me, but I can’t be sure. I saw her at the end of the race and thanked her for keeping me motivated. She thanked me too. “You helped me out a lot”.
In the last 1/2 mile, I thought of the sprints I did on the oval track the previous Friday. Ten 400 meters in 1:20 each. That meant the race would be over in less than 3 minutes. I kicked it in.
When I made the last turn, I saw the finish line and started sprinting. When I hit the mat the clock read 1:39 and some change. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit my watch at the start so I didn’t know what my chip time was. The next day I saw my official time was 1:39:15. That was a first place finish in the joggling division and about 500th place out of about 10,000 finishers. Who could complain about that?
I really would’ve like to have broken 1:39 though. While this was not the fastest 13.1 miles I’ve ever done, it is a PR for a half marathon race. In the marathon I’ve run as fast as a 1:34 split.
After the race, the rain continued to fall hard. I talked to a few other runners and drank about 3 bottles of water. Even in the rain, running can dehydrate you. I saw my friend Michelle who had a great first half of the race but inexplicably slowed. “The rain made it tough”, I assured her.
I picked up my bag (not a very organized gear check) and did the long walk back to my car. Sore, but overall, happy with my time. The last time I ran this race was with my friend Carla the weekend after the Toronto marathon in 2006. We finished in 2:04 or so. That was fun. And this one was fun too. I’m happy to know that at least theoretically, a Boston Qualifier could happen at the Chicago Marathon next month.
And that will make all the training I’m doing worth it.