The Chicago Marathon: preparing for a 26.2-mile run

Arbino’s preparation included running but also focused on hydration, stretching and nutritional health.
Arbino’s preparation included running but also focused on hydration, stretching and nutritional health. (Photo courtesy of Nichole Arbino.)

The Chicago Marathon was the culmination of more than six months of preparation for Nichole Arbino. Months of physical training, running the actual race and fundraising for charity all came to a head Sunday. 

Arbino, a 23-year-old DePaul graduate student, started running consistently three years ago and ran the Columbus, Ohio marathon in 2014. From that experience, she knew how to prepare for the Chicago Marathon.

“It’s the best runner’s high after a marathon, so I thought I’d go again this year,” she said.

So before April, she did.

Six months 

The fundraising began well before  the scheduled physical training. Arbino and her boyfriend decided to run the marathon together. He was selected for a lottery spot, which meant he automatically gained entry into the marathon. She didn’t, so she had to raise $1,500 with an official charity  of the marathon. She ran for the American Cancer Society.

“Facebook and family were the biggest things,“ she said. “The last week I probably raised about $500 of it because people were like ‘I meant to donate.’”

Had Arbino not raised enough money through support from friends and family, she would have had to fill in the remainder herself.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking since they do take the balance from you and I’m only an intern,” she said. “I was more nervous that they would take the money rather than I wouldn’t raise the money.”

Arbino raised the final amount on Sept. 30, the last day to finish the fundraising.

Three Months

In June, the scheduled physical training for the marathon took the place of just consistent running. Arbino started the 18-week Nike plan since Nike is affiliated with the Chicago Marathon. It started off with small runs and gradually grew longer as the plan got closer to the race. She ended up switching plans during the training because she felt that the Nike plan was not working for her.

“It started with small runs and it ended up with a 20 mile run,” she said. “My longest ended up being 16 instead of 20.”

She switched to another program that placed more emphasis on running on trails. She likes to run the trail on the Chicago lakefront and will either listen to long electronic music tracks or talk shows to mix things up.

“I run five days a week. Well, most of the time,” she said. “Usually it’s four to five days a week unless life gets in the way.”

One Week

The final week was more about making sure Arbino was in shape and ready to run. The weekend before she ran five miles and spent the week running between two and three miles every day. The focus was making sure she stretched a lot so that she wouldn’t run the risk of pulling a muscle.

After this weekend she won’t be training for another marathon. Arbino decided that this is her last one. She may run half marathons, but has decided the time it takes to train for marathons, which can run upwards of four hours a day, is too much with her internships, graduate studies and life in general.

“It’ll be great after this weekend,” she said. “I’ll probably take a three-week break and it’ll be a really great feeling.”