Personal account: Running the Chicago Marathon

I’ve never been a runner. Sunday I finished the Chicago Marathon.

You know that embarrassing girl in your high school gym classes who couldn’t finish the presidential physical fitness mile without walking? That was me. I think I ran it completely once when I was in 8th grade.

It seems pretty unlikely that I would be running a marathon by my senior year of college and it was, but somehow I made it.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a really amazing thing. I had to write about the marathon last year for a class, and after watching the event in Lincoln Park, Pilsen and meeting up with a friend who ran at the end, I knew I had to run this thing someday. I guess I’m just impatient.

I didn’t completely go from zero to marathon; there were some intermittent steps. I started running my freshman year of college to keep myself active once I quit seriously dancing (I swear by the Couch to 5K app, it changed my life) and kept on going. I ran my first 5K in the summer of 2012 and another that Thanksgiving. Okay maybe I did go from zero to marathon.

When marathon registration came around this March, I got weirdly motivated to just do the damn thing. At the time I didn’t know if I would be staying in Chicago after I graduated, I totally know I’m going to now, but I figured this was my chance to just bite the bullet. After multiple registration snafus my name was one of the chosen in the lottery to run. I was doing it.

“Why don’t you run a half marathon first?” said everyone, and I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t do just that at this point, but it’s all over now.

People say running a marathon is hard, and I don’t think anyone ever doubts them but when the guy who juggles the entire course passed me around mile 17, I definitely doubted myself.

Trying to train for a marathon at any point in life I imagine is very complicated, but I’d like to make the argument that doing it while a student is even harder. I would share my training regimen, but I’ve already embarrassed myself enough.

Training started out really great – I was able to increase my mileage every week like the plan said, but as always life got in the way. I flew home for the Fourth of July. Then there was a heat wave where it was 90-100 degrees for about three weeks straight. Then I had friends visit. Then I came home and started a new internship, then school and back to The DePaulia. Soon I couldn’t remember the last time I ran, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to make that 20-miler in week 15 of training.

Starting out Sunday morning I felt good. The first mile was a breeze, but I soon had to stop at the porta-potties at the first aid station. In being nervous to be dehydrated, I drank way too much water beforehand.

Things continued to go pretty well, but I lost my running partner at about mile 2.5 and was solo until about mile 20. I trained on my own and don’t like talking when I run so it wasn’t the worst, but it was a little rough.

I ran, strangely enough, with University of Iowa’s Dance Marathon group, raising money for children with cancer at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. There were 170 running with our loud lime green jerseys, but I lost most of them. I’m slow.

It was around mile 10 when I toyed with the idea of lying about spraining my ankle or something and go to the next medical tent and give up. Knowing my parents would be at mile 14 and that it would be really embarrassing to publish this article saying I gave up, I kept going.

If it weren’t for friends and family scattered along the route I probably would’ve quit. Having strangers cheer you on is all well and good, but getting to hug someone you know is much, much better.

When running, I started experience some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my feet, ankles and legs. I wasn’t hurt, I was just so incredibly sore that my body was certainly in shock.

I don’t know if this would’ve been solved by better shoes, more training or something else, but from about mile 15 on I could’ve run much more of the race than I did endurance-wise, but my feet couldn’t take it. They gave up way before I did.

With lots of walking, three bathroom breaks, four sets of Gatorade carb chews and 16 cups of water, I finished the Chicago Marathon.

No my time’s not fast, not at all, but I did it. Not many people can say they finished a marathon, but I have a shiny new medal to prove it.

I don’t see myself returning to the marathon next year, maybe a half this summer, but the accomplishment of knowing I finished at least one is enough. I’m also excited to use the excuse, “well I ran the marathon” for the next month on just about everything.

Sometimes annoying athletic people will tell you that anyone can run a marathon, but I’m living proof that really, anyone can.