Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Best Of" - Chicago Marathon (2007) post-race report

In my first post on this blog, I mentioned that I'd occasionally feature some "best of" posts from my other blog. Here's one I've been thinking about recently. This is my Chicago Marathon post-race report that I posted on Monday October 8th, the day after the race. If you followed any of the press coverage, you know that the Chicago Marathon was a disaster this year. Still, I tried to make it entertaining and at least a little funny. Enjoy!

So Saturday I went to my barber shop, got all my hair cut off, then shaved it down to the scalp. I figured it'd make me more aerodynamic (HA!), that it might help me stay cool, and...well, I've always wanted to shave my head at least once in my life.

The race yesterday started off well. It was warm at the starting line, and (of course) crowded, but seemed like it'd be a good day. I was overcome with emotion a few times--at the singing of the National Anthem, crossing under Columbus street bridge, etc.

The first two miles were good, and I got to the water stop in decent condition--good pace, feeling OK, etc. Unfortunately things started to go downhill from there. At the second water stop (approx. mile 4), there was
no water, no Gatorade, no nothing except for empty cups and a whole bunch of thirsty (and upset!) runners.

From there, the aid stations were spotty--some had nothing, some had only water, etc. We had to rely on the kindness of strangers--the schools, restaurants, businesses, and people who lived along the route. Some brought water, some brought ice, and some sprinkled us with water from their garden hoses.

At about 14 miles, race officials told us they were closing the course because of the heat, humidity, and the fact that they'd run out of supplies at the aid stations. Several hundred were taken to hospitals and, unfortunately, a policeman from Michigan died on the course (coverage from the Chicago Tribune is here). I ended up jumping on a cooling bus at about the 16.5 mile mark. Traffic was so bad that, after about 20 minutes, I got off the bus and walked back to Grant Park (probably another couple miles). According to the official timing, I finished the half in 3:07 and was on pace for a 6:15 finish. That's well off of what I'd originally targeted, but again with the heat, humidity, and lack of hydration I did as well as could be expected.

Calling the race off was the right thing to do, but I believe a lot of the fault rests with the organizers of the marathon. They knew very early last week that the temps would be high, which means runners need more hydration. The fact that the aid stations ran out of supplies is, to me, inexcusable.

Now, on the up side...

- I was blown away by the number of people who came out. There were people on every block of the race--sometimes standing 4 deep. Their shouts, cheers, and encouragement for people they didn't even know was a great morale boost.

- I had encounters with several angels on the course--from the 3 people who loaned me their cell phones so I could keep in contact with Lisa, to the fellow runners with words of encouragement, to those people who spent their own time and money to bring refreshment to the runners.

- I ran far. Not a full marathon, mind you, but farther than I've ever run in any competitive race in my life. Farther than I ever thought possible a few years ago. Not only that but I survived. I am tired and sore, but that'll pass with time, Advil, and some water.

So, that was it for my first marathon. I'm disappointed it didn't turn out like I expected but I'm trying to look for the good in it, and learn what I can for future races--whether they're full or half marathons, or just 5Ks. For now, though, running takes a bit of a back seat. I'll take some time off to recover, then start back slowly. I think I've earned the break.


Tom said...

Just found your blog. I'm a veteran of Chicago too.

Good luck with your posting and blogging.

I'll stop by to visit again.


Rick said...

Hey, Jim! Just wanted to say hi and thanks for leaving a note on my blog. Always good to hear from another brother in the Lord wearin' runnin' shoes!

Ahhh... Chicago '07. One of the catalysts in pushing me into the fray that is marathon madness and set out to attempt my own in April.

Thanks again for stopping by. Hope to see you again!

Jim said...

Tom thanks for dropping by--appreciate your visit and the comment! I've been to Runners' Lounge a time or two. I'm going to feature it on my blogroll, and I'll stop back by often!

Rick good to hear from you. Chicago Marathon 2007 was a crazy, infuriating, exhilerating, joyful and painful experience--all at the same time. I'm looking forward to actually crossing a marathon finish line this year. Good luck on yours, and I'll be back to your site often!