2016 Chicago Marathon

I thought long and hard about how I wanted to start this blog post and why I had any business running a marathon.  People who know me well, know that when I start something new, I go all in and buy everything that has to do with it.  Sometimes to my detriment!  So, when I began running a few years ago, I did set a goal that I wanted to run a marathon at one point just to say I did it.  I had the opportunity to run a few over the last four years but wanted my first to be the Chicago Marathon.  I’m not sure why it had to be that one, but it did.  So each year that I didn’t get into the lottery, I was depressed but also a little happy because I was truly doubting my ability.  When I applied for the 2016 and got in, I was overwhelmed with excitement and fear.  I was really going to do this.  I knew I had to train properly.  There were so many marathon training plans out there and after discussing the choices with friends, I found one that I thought was doable and realistic.

I stuck to that plan for 16 weeks and really pushed myself hard as I had set some achievable goals.  I cannot express into words the support I received from so many of my friends.  It came in all forms from online runner friends that I’ve yet to meet in person to my closest friends who don’t even run.  I’ve met a lot of people along the journey and made some incredible friends that I can’t thank enough.

Okay, enough of the emotional baggage…

Two weeks before the Chicago Marathon, I was in Colorado for the Golden Leaf Half Marathon and I joked about getting hurt in the rough trails and singletrack of this brutal race.  The race ended up getting cancelled due to weather (See that post here).  During my endless scenery picture taking exploits, I set the timer on my phone and jumped to a rock for that perfect shot!  Right when I jumped, I felt a pop in my right knee and then came the pain.  The picture doesn’t show it but I was in deep pain!

I had brutal pain for the next few days and ended up seeing my orthopedic doctor who told me that he thought I had a 1 cm tear in my quadriceps tendon.  He ordered a STAT MRI knowing that I had the marathon in 2 weeks and sadly, his suspicions were correct.  Being that the tear was still small, he pleaded with me to not run the race but said that if I did decide to try, to not go all out and just enjoy it.  He still gave me a cortisone injection that while I know masked the pain and wasn’t the cure, made my knee feel great.  I waited a couple of days to test out my legs on a trial run and really felt okay with very little pain.  That’s when I decided to give it a go and run the marathon.

I went to the Expo planning to meet up with fellow BibRave pros Heather and Mark and ran into BibRave co-founder Jessica!  The excitement and energy at the expo was off the charts.  There were so many vendors and great people to meet and this is why I wanted to run this race!!  Seeing my fellow BibRave Pros that I’ve run so many races with is always great to me!

As for the race itself, I tried to go to bed early but was so anxious that I got very little sleep.  I woke at 4am and headed out to my early routine of walking around Chicago in the dark and people watching to see how everyone else preps for this race.  I’ve run big races before but nothing close to this size.  There was so much happy energy from everyone!  The morning was a little chilly out and I didn’t want to gear check so I just shivered and dealt with it.  After the sun broke out, energy levels picked up and I headed over to my corral.  I was assigned to corral F in the second wave.  No big deal as I’ve never run this distance before.  I looked out for the realistic pacing group of 4:30 in my corral and told myself to stick with this group.

The start energy is just amazing and roar of the crowds gets you warmed up quickly.  Inching your way towards the start line was an exciting feeling and then…you’re off to conquer!  The first few miles felt great.  I had virtually no pain and my pace was exactly what I wanted.  The course was beautiful and the crowds were insane!  I could actually do this!  Then came mile 8.  I felt a twitch in my knee and the pain subtly began.  I tolerated it through mile 15 and I slowed my pace down because I needed to finish this!  What helped me through these tough miles was seeing Mark at mile 5 on that bullhorn and encouraging the runners, the fans cheering through the neighborhoods, and seeing my family at mile 14.  The pain definitely got worse as the race went on and at mile 16 I ended up with a severe calf cramp that made me hobble to the side to stretch it painfully out.  I’ve had cramps before but never this debilitating.  Onward I went through mile 24 through some of the best neighborhoods and energy I’ve ever seen at races.  Pilsen neighborhood…thank you for such incredible and supportive people along the route.  Your inspirational words and snacks pushed me through!  The last couple of miles along Michigan Avenue were tough but as I neared the final turn, the crowds were still loud and that beautiful finish line was a sight I needed to see.

This race taught me a lot about my body and its limitations.  It taught me to be humble and grateful I can even run.  It taught me that there are people who don’t even know you but are willing to say inspiring things.  It taught me that there are good people in the world.  It taught me that I need to push myself to strive for goals.  It taught me that I can do things that I thought were unattainable in the past.  It taught me that runners are a crazy group.  It taught me that runners are the most supportive athletes.  It taught me that I can.

I was asked immediately after the race if I would ever run one again and without hesitation, I said no way.  I now am finding myself seeking out my next challenge and redeem this marathon with an injury free run.


5 Comments on “2016 Chicago Marathon

  1. Great post! One thing running does – it always keeps you learning new things, mostly about yourself…never say never. You will have redemption and we will all be cheering for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice recap, Frank. I couldn’t help but smile while reading about your race because Chicago is a big deal and I’m glad you got to experience it, in spite of your knee problem. The running community is such a positive and encouraging group of people and truly one of the best parts of the sport. Great job! Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh wow. Great post, Frank! (Sorry I’m a little late). Such an awesome experience. Knee pic made me cringe but awesome pics and remembrance of this awesome event!

    Liked by 1 person

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