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Chicago Marathon

Listed by BlueWombat
6 Entrants Club PB SB Pred Time WAVA
-caz- Unaffiliated 4:14:55 4:36:23 4:20:00 4:36:23 45.22
baz2 Dragons RC 3:44:45 3:44:45 3:59:00 3:44:45 58.91
BlueWombat Cambridge & Coleridge AC, Cambridge University Hare & Hounds 3:28:13 3:36:13 3:36:13 61.24
davef Headington RoadRunners 2:56:50 3:18:00 3:20:00 3:18:00 63.19
Fat Man Runs Unaffiliated 4:42:42 4:42:42 4:58:37 41.85
Rocket Reader Fittleworth Flyers, Riverside Runners 3:46:28 4:19:26 4:19:26 50.17

This event is listed on these dates:

Well, it's high time to put finger to keyboard and write some notes about Chicago. I've had plenty of time to reflect now, and I enjoyed the race more than I thought I could. Travelling to/from the event was a bit of a nightmare. I had a one day meeting in Philadelphia on the Saturday that I had to be at, and planned everything else around that. So I flew overnight Thursday from San Francisco, arriving at Chicago O'Hare around 5:30 am Friday. I took the Blue Line downtown and found my way to Cereality, a cereal breakfast bar in the centre of Chicago, where I had arranged to meet up with some of the runnersworld forumites from the Chicago 2006 thread. Having ordered by porridge (sorry, oatmeal) and bananas I sat and waited, reading the US edition of Runners World (which is, by the way, far superior, with loads of interesting articles) realising how difficult it is to meet up with people you have never met before. Eventually "Big 5 Dreamer" introduced himself, and we also met up with "Dieselgirl" and "Zed". As a group we made our way to the expo, which was a blast. Highlights included meeting up with Hal Higdon in person, as he sat at a table selling books and training plans. Managed to spend a while looking around, including talking with the Garmin folk, and thanking organisers of the Sacramento and Tahoe marathons who were there and who's course I had run over the last 12 months. Then back to O'Hare for an afternoon flight to Philly, a night's sleep in Philly, woken at 7am (3am West Coast Time) for meeting start at 7.30am (!). Sat at table from then until 5 pm in discussions, so plenty of enforced rest for the legs, before a quick run to the subway station and back to the airport for return to Chicago. Found hotel. Washed. Layed everything out on floor and tried to work out what I was going to wear in the morning. Watched late night local weather report which claimed we could be in for rain or snow at the start. Ate 2 portions of instant oatmeal plus one banana. Slept....

Rude awakening by multiple alarms. I felt asleep, but relaxed, and only half human. Gathered together clobber. Arranged late check-out (2pm). The train journey to the finish/start area takes an hour, so an 8am race start means that I _have_ to run 4 hours maximum to be safe enough to get back and have a wash before checking out.

The train was full of people in running shoes, with worried expressions on their faces, talking in hushed tones. But not nearly as packed as the Metro in Newcastle on the morning of the GNR. I was still half asleep, and actually managed to doze on the journey into town. Arrived at Grant Park at around 7:20, knowing that the entry to the starting pen closed at 7:45. Mild panic set in as I noticed the size of the queues to the bag drop-off area. Eventually got through to my bit of it and dropped off my "sweats" before rushing to the start area. Chicago has a set of graded "preferred" starts depending on your past performance. My 3:50 at Sacramento last December meant that I could go into preferred II, allowing me easy access to the near start area without crushing. I opted for vest, shorts, hat. It was overcast and fairly cool, but no rain. I was shivering a little under my black binliner as I waited for my 201 to pick up satellites, which took an age (probably due to thick clouds). Someone standing next to me helpfully told me that he was local and his 301 frequently failed to fix in these weather conditions. No need to panic, the bar reached its full portion inthe end, and I wondered why on earth I hadn't brought the pair of gloves that I had purchased on Friday morning just for this moment.

Before I knew it we were called forward to the start. I was feeling very relaxed, and had positioned myself about 20 m ahead of the 3:40 pacer. In no time at all we were shuffling forward to begin a jog a few yards before crossing the line. Rather like a roller coaster, there's only one way now. Forward, under a long underpass at the north end of grant park, ensuring garmins all switched off for around 1/4 mile and filling me with the realisation that I wouldn't be able to use that for splits. Through the underpass, turn left, running freely. Noticed how many people have stopped to pee (I had used a suitable tree in the park ... there was no way I was going to wait in line for a portapotty). Hoped my lack of no. 2 that morning wasn't going to cause problems. Looked at Garmin ... 9 minutes. Where are the mile markers? Slight panic. Carry on, dodging discarded sweatshirts and rip-off paper tracksuits that litter the road .. wonder why people can't manage to throw them to the side, and feel that just leaving them in the middle is o.k.. Turn right, on the northward leg. Still no mile markers. Notice someone standing at the side of the road like a lollypop lady carrying a small-ish sign that said 3km. Wondered if all the signage would be as obscure. But than 2 miles turned up with a clock, and further on each mile and every 5km were very clearly marked with clocks at each point. I just had to remember that it had taken me 2 and a bit minutes to cross the line. Saw that I was on track at 8:something per mile, and feeling good. Many people were overtaking me. I guessed that they were from the further back in the general start, and didn't let it worry me. I was pleased to see some familiar vests: a Serpie pass by, and later another runner in a Bedford Harriers vest.

The 3:40 pacing team were still behind me, and every now and then I heard someone in the crowd shout to a friend/neigbour "here come 3:40" so I knew that they must be in sight and not far behind. Also, people who signed up to the pace groups could wear their target goal on a sign pinned to their backs. Looking forward I could see a number of folk with 3:40 on their backs, a few 3:30's, and a couple of 3:45s, so I felt that I was probably in the right place.

Around 6 miles I realised that I was running well, feeling really good. I had read an article earlier in the week, in that edition of Runners World, about staying relaxed on long runs ... maintaining upright posture, avoiding forward lean, imagining someone is trying to lift you up by your head so you keep you head, shoulders, back tall. I also stretched my arms and shoulders whenever there was a suitable space around me to do so comfortably. I remember a particularly attractive female runner with 3:40 on her back who passed me at this point. We were running into the wind so I drafted behind her for a mile or so enjoying the view, but she escaped my attentions fairly soon, and in any case it was time to turn back towards town and the skyscrapers and crowds.

What crowds! At points in the run the noise was sooo loud from the cheering, handbells, music etc. So enthusiastic, and such a boost. I was making use of the 5km markers, and working out that I was running at just over 5min per km. This lead to plenty of mental maths as I tried to work out my potential finish time. I realised that I was running pretty consistently at just over 8 m/m . I felt strong .. all those hills in San Francisco seem to have helped a lot, and this was a dead flat course, so that for long stretches it even felt like downhill. By half way I had figured that if things continued like this I was in sight of 3:30:59 and a Boston qualifier. I started to up the pace slightly, and got a great boost from overtkaing so many people. This continued until mile 22 or so. I remember feeling amazed at mile 18 that I could still push and felt I could even go a bit faster, which was actually an illusion. I passed the Serpie and Bedford Harrier who I had seen earlier.

Most people around me had long sleeved vests, even jackets, gloves, many with tights, but the weather wasn't really so cold, and the cool conditions were suiting me. I was plenty warm enough, although I only took my cap off once, which is unusual for me (I don't normally like to run with headgear). I took a powergel at mile 9, another at 14, then at 17, 19 and 21. I probably didn't drink quite enough though ... only around 700ml for the whole run.

The last 3 km or so seemed to go on forever. I had been overtaking people since around half way, but now they were beginning to go past me again. My right calf started to tighten. My hamstrings too. I had to shorten my stride and run with straight legs, I had to begin to fast-shuffle more than run to keep going. At 40km I saw the time and thought I had compeltely blown it. I only realised later that things weren't so bad ... but at that stage I had lost the mental ability to remember that the clock time was more than 2 minutes up on my real time. It is strange, but when I thought that that was it, my legs almost gave up entirely. Will power had to come in again and make them move quicker, which they did, but not quick enough to beat 3:31. That will be for another day. None the less, I was pleased as punch to come in in 3:36:13.

Thoughts and reflections ... staying relaxed and positive played a big role. Overtaking people rather than being overtaken was a great boost. Stretching arms and shoulders during the run and running tall and relaxed helped. Should've drunk more, but didn't want to stop to pee (which I have had to do every marathon up to now). In fact, I was lucky that I made it to the end in time, because as soon as I cleared the finish area I made a swift shuffle to the portapotties for just about the only movement I could make.

Oh, I made it back to the hotel with time to spare (just) and was able to enjoy a quick bath before checking out and making my way back to O'Hare.

5K 0:25:48
10K 0:50:58
15K 1:16:00
20K 1:40:49
HALF 1:46:16
25K 2:05:45
30K 2:30:40
35K 2:56:30
40K 3:23:21
FINISH 3:36:13
Fat Man Runs
Slower than London but wow!

Easily the best race I have ever done, largely due to the crowd, I just had a smile on my face from start to finish - even in that cold!

This is my third marathon (two completed) and it's definitely the one to do, the city is amazing.
I'm sticking to Hal Higdon's intermediate training plan and aim to put the required mileage in this time without cutting corners.

Aiming to break the 4h mark, prediction's are one thing....achieving them is another.

Well I travelled to Chicago having had a torrid run up to the event. Four weeks of niggling injuries meant very little training, however that didn't dampen my spirits. I was wrapped up for the race due to the cold morning and I started comfortably putting in consistent 9min miles. I found the crowds pulled me along and their entusiastic support was overwhelming. I must also add that I found that placing your name on your t-shirt did encourage you to keep plodding away when the crowd spurred you on.

I got to 13 miles and fealt really good considering my lack of training & recent injuries to knee & back. As we headed out west towards the United Centre I found myself starting to suffer from stomach cramp till I eventually found a port-a-loo that wasn't busy & I stopped for a comfort break at 16.5 miles. Once I got going again I kept it consistent & comfortable at approx 10min miles with a few exceptions slowing down to take on liquid in the closing 10 miles. I breezed up the small hill at the end and crossed the line a happy guy.

I was a little annoyed with my time but considering my last marathon saw me get a time of 5h 08m I was well chuffed to put in a steady comfortable effort and not knock my pan in and still get 4h 36m 23s with a little more left in the tank as I did feel I could have continued running once over the finish.

All in all, a good weekend in Chicago, what a lovely event, 'awesome' crowds to use a yank phrase & still managed to get to a NHL game & go up the Sears Tower.

5k - 0:31:26
10k - 1:01:31 (00:30:05)
15k - 1:32:10 (00:30:39)
20k - 2:03:07 (00:30:57)
Half - 2:09:50
25k - 2:36:24 (00:33:17)
30k - 3:16:42 (00:40:18)
35k - 3:52:42 (00:36:00)
40k - 4:27:45 (00:35:03)
Official Chip time - 4:41:32
Watch time - 4:36:23

*Watch time allowing for stop around 16.5 miles (comfort break)
3 weeks after Kosica marathon!
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