by Kate O'Malley
In the days leading up to the Chicago Marathon, the biggest worry on everyone's mind was the weather. Reports were predicting anywhere from mid 70's up to low 80's. Not exactly ideal to run a marathon. I tried to not let this worry me as, honestly, there's not much you can do about the weather. I simply made it a point to drink as much water (and coconut water) as possible for the few days beforehand.
Race morning arrived fast - met two of my girlfriends in the lobby of my hotel at 5:30 and we made our way over to the starting area. Dropped off our bags, quick bathroom run, and before we knew it, it was time to head to our corral. This is one thing I love about this marathon...very little chance to sit around and simply wait for the race to start!!
At 7:30am, the gun went off and we started our race. My friend, Laura, and I decided that we'd start together, as we had the same pace goals. Through the first five miles, we definitely could feel the warmth, as we started sweating a lot earlier than usual. But, outside of the sweat, we were both fine...no feelings of heat exhaustion or anything similar. The good thing about the weather was that, although warm, it was dry. Considering the humidity we had been training in all summer, this was a welcome surprise. The miles continued to fly by throughout the first half, as the race winded through Lincoln Park and the tall buildings of the Loop. Laura and I continued to stay together, holding a good, comfortable pace.
The second half of the race made its way out to the West Loop, winding through Little Italy, University Village and Chinatown. The miles continued to cruise by and Laura and I still managed to stay together, making our way through even mile splits. After about the 20 mile mark, the weather definitely started to get warmer and we slowed it down a bit to accommodate. Still, though, we both felt strong and were happy that we had managed to run so much of the marathon side by side. With just a few miles remaining, we knew it was clear that we would cross the finish line together, which made the race that much more meaningful and exciting. The final stretch of the marathon brings you out by the Chicago White Sox stadium, running along side the highway (NOT a pretty area) before it loops back up Michigan Ave and toward the finish. That stretch out by the stadium was tough, but as soon as we turned on to Michigan Ave, we got a surge of energy. With about a mile left to go, I saw my husband screaming my name. This was so great, as I had missed him at Miles 3 and 13. We were so excited to see him (as you can tell from the picture he snapped) that we sped up and made our way to the finish. Crossing the line in 3:48:44, breaking my course record and my goal of beating 3:50, felt great. Even better was being able to run the entire marathon with Laura...and even better than that? The free beer they hand you almost immediately after the finish line!!
Chicago is an amazing city and they put on a very organized and fun marathon. I would recommend this race to anyone who is looking for a big-city, well-supported race!