As most of you may have seen on my social media, I was lucky enough to visit CHICAGO and run their world marathon major.
This marathon would be my third star out of six, in regard to the Abbott world majors. When I realised that I had won a ballot spot for the Bank of Marathon Chicago Marathon 2019, it was time to get serious.
My 2018 races (plus my 2019 spring marathon) had been all about the PARTY PACE. They were for the experiences and not for the time, so this autumn I wanted to shake-up things up a bit.
It was time to work for that PB race!
My best time for 26.2 was 3:57 in good old Amsterdam 2017. Well done to all those who raced in the dam yesterday! (20/10/19)
This summers training plan aimed to push boundaries and ‘go the extra mile’. Pardon the pun! I wanted to go for gold; potentially getting a London GFA time. I would have to work hard and switch my training up in order to see progress.
I worked bloody hard. I made a great deal of changes and I enjoyed seeing my progression. Training was enjoyable and the lead up was a lot of fun! I felt fairly confident, but time would tell and the proof would be in the pudding!
I did it all by the text book… All my runs had a purpose and I cross trained to become a stronger runner. I followed the plan to a tee. However, it wasn’t all going to end on such a high note.
As a fairly well person, I don’t worry about getting sick too often. Although, at this time of year, I tend to get my annual illness splat and it was going to hit me hard! After a hectic couple of weeks partying, travelling and lack of sleep, I caught the flu. At first I was in denial and thought it was something that I could shift quickly with a good nights sleep, but it got worse. I then developed a chest infection and was told by the doctors to rest. Health was more important than training right now and with just over 4 weeks until the big day in Chicago, I had to focus on getting better.
I missed the final two long runs of my training plan, one being a race that I had booked in. I was a little upset, but there were always other races and Chicago was what I wanted ultimately. Recovery was officially ON.
So for two weeks I hid away from the world and focused on getting better. Even when I started to feel well, I held back on any activities that would set me back. After the third week I was pretty much in the clear, so I added some basic runs to my plan just to get the legs moving again and I slowly felt comfortable with where I was at. Although, begrudgingly, I had to reassess my PB plan.
After having the time off at such a crucial point in my training was going to cost me. I wasn’t going to be p*ssed off about it but I did feel somewhat deflated. I learnt that burning the candle at both ends would have it’s consequences. I had to be careful next time.
After my recovery and the taper, It was time to fly to the USA! We had given ourselves a few extra days to see the sights and to set our body clocks. This is what I waited all year for and I was going to enjoy it all. I was thinking popcorn and pizza for the most part, of course!
Race day was coming in thick and fast and we were kept up to date by email. The Chicago Marathon team seemed to be a very well organised and formal organisation that were going to give us all a 10/10 experience. First off, I needed to pick up my race number…
The expo was filled with the usual charities, photos booths and sports gear; but I love everything about expo day as it is all part of the experience! I decided to visit the expo on the Friday which meant that Saturday was set for resting (and eating!)
On race morning, bear in mind the time difference and that it is an early start. My corral started at 8am Chicago time and if you are running below a 3:45 time, you could be starting as early as 7:30am. Getting to the race start was fairly easy for us as our hotel was situated in the theatre district a few blocks away. Bear in mind transport on the morning of your race in Chicago next year!
If you are dropping off a bag, then plan to get there early as the queues are busy but dispersed fairly quickly. I fortunately had my personal pack horse (sorry Christopher!) to help with my stuff and he really helped me out on the day with support. (BIG thank you)
All I had to worry about, was keeping warm before the race.
Earlier on in the week, I bought a cheap $5 t-shirt to cover myself with whilst it was still dark and cold in the early morn. I then threw this in the clothing pile whilst I lined up at the start line, which I knew would be donated to charity. I saw people in onesies and paper bodysuits too! Make sure that you stay warm as we all know it takes some time to actually get started.
The race begun and the sun was slowly beating down on us, although it still had a chill to the air. The temperature was almost perfect, but I have heard many a story on Chicago’s forever-changing weather, so bear that in mind too.
We were very lucky on the 13th of October 2019!
I stuck to the 3:55 pacer in hope that my training had paid off but around mile 16-18, I had to sit back a little. I knew deep down that I wasn’t going to be at my usual fitness and decided that being comfy was a better option. The last 10KM was over a minute slower per mile which cost me my sub-4 marathon. I was a little gutted when I crossed that finish line, but of course I was. I spent months grinding and I hadn’t delivered. Though in reality, to come back from illness and cover a 4:06 marathon was actually pretty darn good. I can be my own worst critic at times, but that is what keeps me going.
Any runner will understand those thoughts; you have to work hard when you train for a marathon, especially if you are aiming for a time. It is a different type of commitment and I felt that I had done a good job over the summer. However, what will be will be and I cannot change that I was ill in the lead up to the race. This did affect my performance, but I finished, which is always the main goal!
The whole experience overrode those thoughts. The streets of Chicago killed it! The boroughs all wanted to show off their goods and the signs that spectators made were hilarious!
The course was somewhat flat, with a few ‘bumps’ along the way. Plus they had wide roads to accommodate the large crowds. The music and singing really put a smile to my face and I unknowingly had surprise visitors in the crowd cheering me on too! My mother and sister had traveled all the way from the UK to watch me race in one of the greatest cities. I only wish I had seen them on course!
I finished a very tired but proud lady. I had everything that I wanted, even without the PB. I loved every second of that race (even the grimacing) and wanted to do it all over again!
Well, maybe in a few more months!
If you have the chance to run Chicago, GO DO IT! It was an amazing experience and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I learnt a lot from this training cycle, and from race day itself. I will be coming back with a vengeance. Watch this space!
If you have any questions you want to ask me on the Chicago marathon, please get in touch via any of my social media platforms!