Chicago Marathon 2011: Race Recap

I know I’m not going to do this race recap justice. There are just some experiences that you can never put into words. And the Chicago Marathon, the mother of all races (so far), is one of those experiences.

I woke up on Sunday morning really refreshed and relaxed. I managed to fall asleep easily. I think I’ve mastered my pre-race schedule after 9 races this year. I used to get really nervous before races and anxious that I would forget something important in the hours leading up to the race, but it’s become routine. I woke up at 4:30 and had enough time to: eat some oatmeal, drink some coffee and Nuun, make sure I packed everything in my bag, chat with family and Manny about where they would be on the course, and head to the train.

I got to Buckingham Fountain at 6 am and saw the city transform from this:

To this…

The morning was calm. I found a quiet spot by the fountain and did some last minute stretching next to some runners dressed as superheros. They gave me a chuckle and I enjoyed the hour leading up to the race. I made my way to Corral C and tried to fight the goosebumps. I decided I would wear an old long sleeve shirt to the corral and toss it when I got hot in the first few miles. I sat on the street while runners entered the corral and thought about how much hard work I had put into this year. Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicks came on. I tapped my toes and enjoyed the moment. πŸ™‚

Before I knew it, it was time to stand up and prepare for the starting gun. I wasn’t anxious. I took a last look at the two past bands on my wrist: the first at 3:40 and the second at 3:35. Going into the race, I knew that I had to be smart. I didn’t want to run a great race and be disappointed at my overall time because of an over-ambitious goal. I was going to be happy with anything under 3:45. Anything under that would mean that I ran a strong, smart race. As we started off, I tried to keep my cool. I didn’t want to go out too fast and blow the energy out of my legs. I kept telling myself, ‘keep your cool, Jenny’.

I threw off my long-sleeve tee around mile 2.5 and before I knew it Mile 4 had arrived. I saw my mom, two sisters, and Manny cheering on the corner of Division and LaSalle. As I went to take a swig of water, my friend Abe said hello. After choking on some water, we exchanged words and wished each other luck. It’s always nice to know that you’re running a race among friends in the city that you love.

Peppy at Mile 4

Miles 4-10 were pretty much a blur. In fact, the majority of this race was a blur. I felt the energy of the crowd through Boystown, grabbed a water bottle from the FFC cheer group, and remained consistent. My Garmin displayed my average lap pace for the entire race. I was only concerned with doing what I could at each moment to make sure I had a strong race. I didn’t start keeping an eye on my pace bands until mile 8, when I realized that I was closer to the 3:35 pace than the 3:40.

At mile 11, I expected to sight my family and Manny again. Turns out they were on the wrong side of the road and I didn’t hear them yelling my name! I was a bit disappointed, but I knew they had to be there somewhere. I told myself that they must have been screaming their heads off and focused on the next mile. At mile 11, I ran into a runner I’ve been following on Dailymile for awhile.

You know you’re a runner when…you meet another runner you’ve “dailymiled” and “tweeted” in person for the very.first.time.

At the half, I had an overall time of 1:46. I thought, “okay, let’s do this again”.

I tried to stay conservative in the next 6 miles. I kept an eye on my pace band and at every mile,Β  I was consistently under the 3:35 pace. I didn’t want to lose sight of that number. I took a Gu every 4 miles and drank only water. After mile 16, I broke the race down and told myself I had two more Gus left.

I got the goosebumps as I ran down Ashland toward the left turn on 18th street. I used to live right on the corner and last year I spectated my brother’s marathon race from that corner. It was nice to ‘come home’ during this segment and run down the street that I trained most of the summer on. Coach jumped in on my right hand side with camera in hand. And, I’m not sure why, but the only thing I could say to him was “fuck yeahhhhh”. And I didn’t say it once. I said it TWICE. I know, I know. Pardon my language and all that jazz. But the adrenaline was getting to me and I was so excited to see Chris and run with my sister, Brittany, for a short stretch. I grabbed my last two Gus from her, put them in my gear belt, and focused on the last 7 miles of the race.

Chris (Coach) told me, “You’re dialed in. You’re perfectly on pace. Just get to mile 22 and let the legs go”.

Chris is in the blue. So glad he had a tight grip on that camera.

I took my time at each water station whenever I started to feel thirsty. And after drinking well over 100 ounces of Nuun on Saturday, I had a pretty easy time with the heat.

Two things happened at Mile 22.

The first: the kick began. I started to pick up the pace and set my sights on sub 3:35. If could get closer to 3:30, I would. But that kick would come later.

The second: I peed my pants.

Yes, it happened. Let me just preface this by saying that I have never done this in a race before. It was uncharted territory. First marathon. First potential BQ. First race pee session. I’m a stronger person after going through that. There was no way I was going to stop and use the bathroom. Besides, come had to have been about 90% water and 10% uric acid after all the water I drank!!! Think about that.

I’m not ashamed. It was exhilarating. Just glad I don’t have a photo with water spewing everywhere. hahaha!

By Mile 22, I knew I was going to qualify for Boston. (Woah, that’s the first time I’ve admitted that.)

I wasn’t playing any mind games. I just knew that my legs weren’t going to slow down. I had worked too hard to let them give up on me now. I wanted to leave everything out there on the course.

I will say this, Mile 25 was the longest mile I have ever run. And when I saw the sign for 800 meters remaining and again the 600 meter sign, I thought to myself, “that was only 200 meters”. The Roosevelt bridge was no cake walk but I kept my head down and moved my legs as fast as I could.

And just like that, it was over.

I paused my Garmin and the waterworks began. I couldn’t stop crying. I looked down at my watch and it read:


I was in shock. I must have looked at it 10 times before I truly understood what that meant. A girl working at the 312 table came up to me with and asked, “would you like a beer?” and I instantly replied with a heavy sigh, a scoff, a smile and an ADAMANT YES! She laughed. πŸ™‚ I sat down in the grass and tried to soak it all in. It hasn’t soaked in yet. Every time I look at the photos, I can hardly believe that it’s me. I look at my splits…that’s not me either. Maybe next week I’ll feel differently. But for now, I’m still in shock and I can’t believe that I qualified for Boston in my debut marathon.

I feel lucky to have a supportive family–it’s tough to get a family of 5 kids together for any kind of event, but they all made a point to be there on Sunday. And it makes me all teary-eyed just thinking about it. I’ve said this before and I have to say it again. I could have never gotten through this year of training without Manny by my side. What a rock.

Even BarkLee was tired after this weekend…


27 thoughts on “Chicago Marathon 2011: Race Recap

  1. Randy Egge says:

    Hi Jenny, nice report and thanks for sharing your BQ experience with us. Have fun training for Boston. You will love Boston. Talk about excitement and vibes. It feels really special to get there. I’ll be there as well so maybe I’ll run into you in Boston. By the way, I have a dog named, Barkley as well. Different spelling but same name for the most part.
    Congrats again!!

  2. Liz says:

    Jenny! This is amazing! First marathon is a BQ?! Dang, girl. You are my running hero. I loved reading your recap – I’m already pumped to run Chicago next year!

  3. Maggie says:

    WOW!!! That is so awesome!!! I’ve read so many recaps of this marathon from runners who didn’t hit their goals (probably because the heat got to them), so this is pretty amazing!!!!!

    Also thank you for being honest about peeing. I am so curious about that and no one really talks about it!

  4. Jordan Trump (@trumpdabeast) says:

    Hahaha that’s kinda awesome that you just kept going and peed during the marathon. I’ve never felt like I was going to pee my pants during a run, then again, being a guy, I’m pretty quick to relieve that need. No. 2 on the other hand…. well, there have been accidents.

    Congrats on your awesome first marathon and BQ!

  5. Chanthana (@chanthana) says:

    You are my hero! You ran such a smart and strong race. Congrats, Jenny!!!! Like I’ve said before, you set the bar high for debut marathoners πŸ™‚ I’m so happy for you and even happier for me to call you my friend. So excited for all your upcoming races! Next: BOMF 42k relay!

  6. ceb347 says:

    For the millionth time, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! You are such an inspiration, homegirl. If you did this, I know that I can finish!

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