Race Report: Chicago Marathon!

I had one goal today: To finish smiling. Which basically meant two goals: 1) Have fun and 2) Finish.

I realized earlier this week that it took me a couple attempts to “get” the half marathon distance. My first half sucked, I was cautious at my second half, and it took until #3 to feel like I knew what I was doing. So I didn’t expect to figure out the marathon distance at my first attempt. I wanted to finish, and have fun, but not care about my time. I never really made a time goal; when anyone asked me this week, I just said that I’d like to finish in under 5 hours.

Left outside my hotel room :) #DNation #ChiMarathon

Despite sleeping a couple blocks from the start line, I had an early wake-up (4:30am). I met my American Cancer Society DetermiNation teammates in the hotel lobby at 5am, and we walked about a mile to Charity Village at the race site. After checking our bags and taking a team photo, we walked to the start line together. Another mile. It was cold.

The temps were around 40 degrees when I started, 50 when I finished. It was cloudy off and on, and breezy at times. I was cold, then warm, then cold, then warm, etc. I wore throw-away sweats before the race, and throughout the race, I wore my long sleeve tech shirt under my singlet, then like a shrug, then took it off altogether, then got cold and put on my “arm warmers.”


I followed Vera’s advice on how to tackle this course. I didn’t worry about my pace for the first 8 miles, tried to continue to keep it easy through the half, then let my heart rate creep up little by little throughout the second half. I’ll be honest, the resulting pace was slower than I thought it would be, based on my recent runs. But whatever. Maybe it was too cold and I wasn’t used to it. Maybe my nerves affected my heart rate. I don’t know. Like I said, this was my first marathon; I’m certainly no expert. But I didn’t sweat it. My heart rate was right where it should be, and that was my focus.

I forced myself to take a Clif Shot Blok at the even miles (starting around mile 4), and ate pretzels in between, and that seemed to work … I never hit “the wall,” my stomach never bothered me, I never felt like I was starving, I never needed a walk break, my pace was pretty consistent, even improving at the end. And even though a lot of runners passed me during the early miles, I passed a lot of runners in the last few miles. Once I got to the last couple miles and realized I could finish in under 5 hours, I picked up the pace to make sure I did.


My “cheerleaders” … apparently a few people commented on my dad’s “I <3 Fast Women” sign.

Kelly jumped in with me from just after mile 16 to just after mile 23. She had great energy, and ran me through what many say are the toughest miles. We … danced to Gangnam Style like three times during those miles.


I gave my family a spectating “schedule” to follow, but they weren’t exactly following it, so it was hard to know where to look for them on the course. They weren’t in the spots I thought they’d be, and they would pop up at random times when I wasn’t expecting. I included mile 25 as one of the spots they should be, and I was really hoping they would be there … and they were! My parents and husband found my brother and his wife, and my cousin.

DSCN1262 DSCN1266 DSCN1267

My “arm warmers” in this pic are $5 over-the-knee socks from Target. In case you were wondering.

I realized at this point that I probably could have kept a slightly faster pace overall. My overall race pace was 11:17, but my last two miles were 10:44, 9:34 and the last .2 was an 8:34 pace. Considering how many people I passed who were walking … I was feeling really strong. Next time I can worry about a time goal. Today was just about proving I could cover the distance.

When I was done, I was just so ready to get through the finish line and into warm clothes (and sit down). IΒ got my space blanket, medal, water, etc, and exited the finishers area, I had to make it back to the charity tent. Again … a mile away. I was cold, so that sucked a little bit. But I got back to my tent and found my family and friends (and got my bag from gear check … with my warm clothes).

And then it was time for pizza and beer (for Mom).


The Sailor and I had to check out of our hotel room, so we didn’t hang out very long. We planned to take a cab back, but couldn’t find an available one, so we walked. I’m hopeful that all the post-race walking will mean a little less soreness tomorrow.

I’m kind of overwhelmed by all the support I’ve gotten through Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. I can’t believe so many people care, including my non-runner friends. ButΒ I think I like this comment from my sis-in-law (the one pictured in the brown jacket above) the best:


Me … a marathoner. That is kind of crazy.

Overall, I had a blast today. I was so happy that my family and friends came out and supported me.Β I’m so proud of all of my other friends who ran their first marathon today.Β And I love Chicago, and I loved running through a zillion neighborhoods. I loved being able to run a major marathon in my sort-of backyard (I mean, let’s be honest, I live in the suburbs right now, I get called out if I say I live in Chicago). I loved running a race that has been around for so long (this year was the 35th anniversary) that my late uncle ran some of the very first Chicago Marathons, and today I could run in his honor.

Everyone was right … this race has so much energy! The entire course was almost continuous rows of people, cheering loudly with signs, or dancing, drumming, DJing, etc. For 26 miles. It was such an amazing day!

I can honestly say that enjoyed every single mile.

Goal = achieved.

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59 Comments on “Race Report: Chicago Marathon!”

  1. Perfection for sure! Congrats Maggie! It IS such a great race and the temps this year were perfect too. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and you did great. Although I haven’t lived in Chicago in eons I still think of it as MY city. I think all the fans out there do and that’s what makes this marathon so special. Sorry I missed seeing you out there!

    1. There were a lot of folks out there that I never spotted – bloggers, my running club – either the crowds were too thick, or I zoned out from time to time.

  2. It’s funny how if you live IN Chicago, the suburbs are NOT Chicago. But to everyone else in the world, the greater part of Illinois is Chicago. (My husband’s from Wheaton.)
    You ran such a smart race!! (When I ran my probably one and only marathon, I made the rookiest of ALL rookie mistakes and went out too fast because I was excited. Gah.)

    I was tracking you and a few others on my phone and watching the race online yesterday morning, it was pretty exciting just to watch. Marathons always make me cry a little bit. (SHUT UP DON’T TELL ANYONE). It’s just such an accomplishment. Congrats again!

    1. Haha, your secret is safe with me!! (And whoever ese reads this, I guess.) Have you watched Spirit of the Marathon? I cried multiple times watching that.

  3. Congrats on being a marathoner! And I like that you’re already planning your next one! That pic of us that your parents took turned out really cute! Now, time to stalk Marathonfoto in hopes of some more great shots!! And I gotta say, I totally have marathon fever again (as if it has ever gone away…)

    1. I can totally see why people do the Chicago Marathon over and over again. It truly is an EVENT. And even though I don’t run with music anyway, you really don’t need it at this race.

  4. Nice job! Way to speed up at the finish. By the way, I think you are the person who gave me the “disposable arm warmer” idea. They worked like a charm! Thanks. Also, a lot of people don’t realize all of the extra walking you need to do on marathon day to get to the starting line and to get out of the finishers chute, get your checked items and then get home. Sometimes it can be a few miles on top of running the marathon itself. Congrats!

    1. Awesome, glad the arm warmers worked out for you! And at a fraction of the cost πŸ™‚ I realized how much walking I would do earlier in the week, when the ACS sent us all the info we needed, including a map, and directions on how to get to/from the charity tent. I was like “what the hell … why are we so far away????” But it was nice having our own gear check, port-o-potties with no line, and more food post-race. So I can’t complain too much.

    1. Kelly thinks you passed us while she was running with me. Honestly, I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the runners around me, so I didn’t recognize you either!

  5. Congrats on your 1st marathon!! I’m so happy you had such a positive experience. Your training was perfect so no surprise your race went so well πŸ™‚

    We also “Danced” gangnam style a few times too! Including with the Psy lookalike by the bus with a huge Korean flag on it sometime near china town. This is an amazing race and I love that you had a great race and finished with a smile on your face. I think you’ve also sold me on heart rate based training too!

  6. CONGRATULATIONS, MAGGIE!!!! SO PROUD OF YOU and SO HAPPY that you had such an amazing experience!!!! All of your hard work REALLY paid off!

    Time to CELEBRATE!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Congrats Maggie!! So happy for you and so glad you enjoyed it so much! Way to finish strong!!! You’re right..the first one is about finishing and after that you can start thinking about time πŸ™‚ Congrats again, marathoner! πŸ™‚

  8. Maggie, so happy for you! You did a fantastic job! What an amazing, wonderful experience!!!! Less than 1% of the population has reached this goal!! Celebrate!

  9. Awesome job Maggie!! Glad you enjoyed yourself! How are you feeling now?

    I think the first wave had more spectators in the first hzlf. The crowd seemed VERY thin the first half for me. I think the first wave took the spectators with them!

  10. Congratulations!!!!! I’m lovin’ all these marathon recaps because all you marathoners are so inspirational!!! Maggie, you ROCKED your first marathon! You have so much to celebrate and now you finally have a chance to rest and reminisce on your wonderful experience. I fully expect you to run it next year again (and hopefully I’ll be out there with all you runners πŸ™‚ ).

  11. Congrats on running your first marathon! You rocked it. I love all of the marathon recaps and it makes me want to run chicago next year!

  12. Maggie,
    You don’t know me, but I’m a DNation runner and volunteer. I was out cheering at the Charity Block Party at Mile 14 (the raucous screaming 1/4 mile of tents and fun). I’m also a cancer survivor, and I wanted to thank you for running and raising money. I’m SO glad you had an amazing run!! Way to go! And THANK YOU!!!

  13. Congrats Maggie! I am so happy you had fun at your first marathon, never hit the wall, and soaked it all in. What a perfect day! CONGRATS, MARATHONER!!!

    I love the matching polish! I did that at NYC last year. Gotta coordinate! I saw SO MANY girls in cute outfits at the MKE marathon – we can be cute while we are running! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Do they do free taxis for runners like they let you ride the subway free in NYC afte the marathon? I did not know that. Very cool (when you can find one).

    When I was spectating at MKE we were talking about the sudden change to cold and how people had not had the time to prepare for it yet. And we noticed the shift with the cold air where we were too. At least it was not super super hot. I hope that never happens at Chicago again! πŸ™‚

    Hope you are feeling well a few days later! πŸ™‚

  14. CONGRATULATIONS!! You never forget your first marathon – and you did truly AWESOME!! I think you ran a fantastic race.

    btw, i really wanted to attend the pre-race blogger lunch on saturday, but i wasn’t able to make it. hopefully there will be a another fun meet up soon.

  15. Congrats on the finish!!!!!! I totally know what you mean about the last 5K. I was like cruising by all the walkers. I felt like I was flying, but I’m sure I was only running like 10 min miles. Haha! Good way to end the race though, you know?! It’s nice to know that *next time* we can push our pace during the middle of the race. I’m still riding my race high! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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