Chicago Marathon 2018

WHEW. Okay. We need to talk.

I ran my second marathon Sunday, and while it was so much harder than last year, this year was more emotional and meaningful than last year.

If there’s one thing you know you’re going to get out of me and my blog, it’s honestly. You will get nothing less than the whole truth, even the ugly truth from me. So here it is: I didn’t train enough. I explained it this way: when everything in life becomes stressful, you have to unload the least damaging stressor. For me, that was my running. I couldn’t quit either of my jobs, I had already ended my relationship, something else had to give.

By the time things calmed down at work, it was 6 weeks out from the marathon and I was unprepared. I crammed in as much strength, cardio and rehab exercises as possible to prevent injury. Speed and tempo runs weren’t happening. I was going to have to make do with what I had.

But there was something awesome pulling me along: my Nike Chicago family. Between the pop-up races, the women-focused events like the Brahaus and the marathon gear preview (with the surprise addition of the amazing billboard campaign) I was becoming inspired again. I met dozens of amazing women and listened to amazing athletes speak. I felt supported and I felt special, as a female marathoner. I was about two weeks out from the marathon when something big hit me: just because running was difficult and I was getting frustrated with myself, didn’t mean I had to think of it as a stressor. Running is such a mental sport, and I was MAKING it a stressor in my life. I was ruining my passion for myself by bucketing it in the same bucket as my job and relationship. I finally got out of my head—I felt like I could breathe again.

Race week arrived on my birthday, and that set the tone for everything. I had several amazing events I was attending with Nike (I wrote about most of them HERE and HERE) and I was hearing from more and more athletes who would be in town. Oh, and there was THIS doozie!

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Yeah! On Tuesday I got the best late-birthday, pre-marathon gift ever in the form of my FACE ON A BUS STOP IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO! Unfortunately, it was also the start of quarterly reporting at work, and if there’s anything we can all connect on, it’s this: work doesn’t care about your life outside its walls. Unwilling to let anything stop my momentum, I made time for everything. I want to recap a couple of my favorite events below!

Thursday I went to the launch party of the Epic React 87 x Undercover at Notre. I’m not a huge sneakerhead, but I do like my Epic Reacts! This was a neat launch party with fun chemistry vibes (I had a vodka sprite shooter in a test tube!) and I’ve never seen so many expensive shoes in one room before. There was a run with Notre and Victory Run Club before, but it was marathon week and I wasn’t feeling a late evening run in the dark through the West Loop. I had fun at the event, but it was a “school night” (aka I had to work in the morning) so I hit the road early.

Friday evening I had a fantastic dinner at Girl and the Goat with other runners from NYC who were running with Nike like Mike Kofuzi (check his YouTube out HERE) and I were. It was a lot of fun to meet people from around the country and chat about running and podcasts and the fact that Galen Rupp ate an oyster while there and we couldn’t believe he would eat the riskiest food for food poisoning ever, right before a race.

I got home and got to bed later than I hoped, so I opted out of the early Saturday shakeout and did my own along the lake instead, tech free. After getting in bed around 11:30pm, my focus was on getting sleep before the big race. From there, I made a mad dash to the Expo. I managed to get out only buying an official BOA pint glass (the ones being sold by the poster stand), thanks in part to a HUGE bag of amazing marathon and fall Nike gear from the Nike Team! I said hi to my friends working booths and headed out.

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After the expo Saturday, I caught the end of the nutrition panel with Elyse Kopecky and grabbed Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. (c/o the Nike team!) Okay, if you guys are like me and LOVE Run Fast. Eat Slow. but find you don’t have a big enough kitchen to cook in, or don’t always have time for the recipes, you are going to LOVE this cookbook! Everything in it is easily prepared with minimal kitchen equipment, but is DELICIOUS and nutritious. I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now that I love junk food, but one thing I’m working on in growing as an athlete is fueling my body better. That doesn’t mean never eating garbage again, because hello, food is awesome. But it does mean being more mindful about what I’m eating day-to-day, and keeping big macs to a “omg it’s Friday and I don’t want to cook or even use my microwave so I’m eating out” basis. I’m eyeing two things to try this week: the Turkey Trot Meatballs (only I’m going to make the listed ground beef option) and the Broccoli Mac n Cheese! I’ll post a recap (in my ugly little kitchen) and let you guys know how those two go!

While I waited, I got my mantra written on my arm in beautiful calligraphy. This year, I chose “I am the storm.”

The big surprise after the nutrition chat was a panel featuring Joan Benoit Samuelson, Amy Cragg, and Jordan Hasay. Something that really stuck with me that all three women mentioned was the impact of female runners on the lives of younger female runners. Per THIS article, girls quit sports at 1.5 times the rate that boys do by age 14, and more than half of girls quit playing sports altogether. It gave me a new bit of fuel to the fire of my passion for running, in a time when I really needed it. A cool aside: at the finish line, a girl of maybe 8 was putting medals on runners. I walked up to her and said “I want my medal from YOU” and (painfully) bent over so she could put the medal on my neck. As I stood, I asked if she was a runner. She said she wasn’t…but that she might be soon. That’s the impact all three of these panelists spoke of. I made sure to high five every single little girl along that course. I hope at least a couple of them saw all the badass runner babes out there and thought “One day, I’m going to do this too.”

Saturday afternoon, my parents arrived and I dragged them up to Lakeview to see my Bus Stop! It was so cool to have them see it, and I made a passerby take a photo of us. He seemed unphased, so my dad said “See the resemblance? That’s her!” I was both embarrassed and delighted.

Okay okay. Let’s chat about the marathon itself. It’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts, but I’m gonna give it a shot.

I was stressed to start the day. When I went to bed, the chance of rain was low, so I switched to my “dry weather” plan. When I woke up, it was pouring and the weather channel promised it would do that off and on all day. In the dark so as to not wake my parents, I scrambled to re-pack my extra socks and clothes for after into the backpack my dad planned to carry. I woke dad up, explained it was raining, and left. I jogged to the L stop, where I barely missed a train. I caught the next one and made it in plenty of time for the Team DetermiNation (American Cancer Society) photo, and wrote Chase Harrison’s name on a bib for my back for the race.

I then headed out to meet my Nike fam to grab tickets to the hospitality tent and meet up with other Nike runners. I put my parents’ tent tickets into my rain jacket pocket and got ready to head to the corrals. It was there that I met fellow runner with Nike, Brooke (IG: @brookeely) and we chatted before heading to Corral G (G for Great). I have to thank Brooke for her patience with me, because I nervous chatter. I will talk about anything and I definitely overshare, especially after I’ve taken a caffeinated SiS gel. She listened to me chatter with a lot of grace and kindness and I appreciate it!

I felt good on my start. I didn’t stop at the first water stop, and I started to warm up again around mile 3. I saw my parents at mile 4 and changed my socks, because mine were soaked from standing around all morning. As I made the quick change, dad said “You look good” and at the time, I felt good! After grabbing my socks and handing them my rain jacket (the Nike Shield, btw. I got it courtesy of Nike in February for the Shamrock Shuffle and it’s my favorite running jacket. You can find it HERE) with the tickets in the pocket, I was off. A mile later, I had to take a bio break and it was pouring down rain. I stopped for 2.5 minutes because everyone used the same port-a-pots (about mile 6). I still felt good, but God I was cold. The air temperature was fine, but the rain was icy. I looked down at my arms and legs and saw I was BRIGHT red, and that planted the first seeds of doubt in my brain.

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I saw my photo on the bus stop at Sheridan and Oakdale, but it was roped off with caution tape so all I could do was point and yell “THAT’S ME!” to everyone around me’s confusion. Whoops. Sorry to everyone who saw that.

As always, Boystown did NOT disappoint. The Drag Queens and Kings were dressed in 90s Batman garb (think the George Clooney version with the Riddler) and they SLAYED in the rain. It really helped keep me going. I kept chugging along to mile 11 where I saw Christine (IG @rescueinstyle) and gave her an icy, wet hug. At Wells and Schiller, I was expecting to see my parents and didn’t. I was bummed, but realized because of the rain and my mom’s bad back, they probably had already headed to the hospitality tent. At mile 13, I had a weirdly dark moment where I thought about walking off the course. I don’t know what happened, it was such a sudden little black cloud of doubt. My joints were starting to hurt from wet insoles and pruney feet (my Nike Pegasus 35s are my favorite running shoes ever, but once the insole soaks, my bad knees start to feel it) and I couldn’t imagine running 13 more. From here, I changed my focus to thinking “get to single digits left, just get to single digits left.”

I loved running on Wacker—that was a fun change this year and the Loop SHOWED UP. There was still a bit of dead time in the West Loop, but I loved hearing the convincing British Accent out of Kelsey at the Edge tent and screaming hello to Michelle (IG @eat_run_repeat) before we got to the Mecca that is Pilsen.

SPEAKING OF! I don’t know what us runners did to deserve Pilsen, but it is AMAZING. Oh my god the support there is unbelievable. I can’t even put into words how I felt. Everything hurt but it was at mile 19/20 or so (since the course was adjusted this year) and I still pushed so hard through there. I heard my name shouted SO OFTEN and I took a “shot” of beer. They had oranges, bananas, bags of mysterious liquid and candies! It was so amazing. Pilsen is such an amazing neighborhood. And the fun thing is, if you’re a middle or back of the pack runner, you smell amazing food as you run through!

Chinatown had the Biofreeze Zone, which was SUCH a cool idea. You stood in front of a huge fan and they sprayed hurting areas with biofreeze. THANK YOU for that sponsorship and zone, Biofreeze. Other than that, Chinatown was subdued this year (though like Pilsen, it smelled amazing as restaurants geared up for lunch service). I figure that’s because they didn’t want to ruin the dragons or drums in the rain, and that’s totally fair.

After Chinatown comes no-man’s land. While it was shorter this year (again because of the reroute) that dead zone is hell. Mike and I chatted about this at the afterparty—that area is tough for everyone. It’s so quiet and now there’s a little hill there (dammit). I missed the Baptist church that usually stands out there. I don’t know if I was so out of it I didn’t see them but I was so bummed. I did like that the straight shot up Michigan Ave was shortened and there was a jog from Indiana Ave, because seeing how far you have to go can be pretty depressing at that point.

From there, I saw Coach Jess from Nike NYC at about 1200 meters from the finish. She ran a bit with me and listened to me whine like a champ (guys I’m insufferable on race day, have you gathered this yet?) and she got my emotions up high when she said I’d be seeing the always glorious 800m sign soon. (Picture to the left is from right after that moment) She sent me on my way and dammit I ran those last 800m with everything my legs had in them. I limped up Mount Roosevelt (with medics cheering me on as I ran by them), turned onto Columbus and started sobbing. I waved to my parents, saw my mom start crying, and sobbed my whole way in to the finish line. My finisher pics are ugly but raw and very real. And I love them for that.

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Let’s talk regrets. I regret my training cycle. I regret getting in such a dark, whiny headspace. I regret not believing in myself and giving up on training before I’d even really started.

On the other hand, let’s talk about how my passion has been fueled. As I sat and chatted at the afterparty, I started to feel that passion reignite even stronger. I was asked what my next crazy dream is, and I shared one…and now that I’ve thought about it, I’m going to share another. My first is to run New York. I want to do that so, so badly and I’m just not sure how to feasibly get myself there, other than entering the lottery and praying a ton. My second one is bigger, scarier, and crazier. I still want to BQ. Or come close. I want to moonshot it, and wherever I land I’ll be so happy with. And that’s my plan for next year. I’m going to work on my speed, I’m going to work on logging more miles. I’m going to run my half marathons (still my fave) and instead of just winging them, I’m going to use them to help me build. Next year, I’m shooting for it. And I can’t wait for you all to be along for my journey then

Thank you to every single spectator who stood in the rain and screamed the names of strangers Sunday. You got us through. Thank you to the (un)official Twizzler Stop, the people who hand cut fruit, thank you too all of you so so much. It meant the world to the runners.

And a HUGE thank you to Nike. Holy crap, you know how to make a girl feel like a Rockstar. From the gear, to the support, to the events…everything made this so special for me.

Keep an eye out for some collabs with me and Mike Kofuzi and be sure to check out his YouTube HERE!

Wow, that was long. I’ll shut up now. Congrats to everyone who ran and thank you to everyone who supported me along the way!

BrittanyComment