Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Finally, the Race Report

Sorry this is so late. The race was such a big deal that I wanted to write a really nifty race report that was carefully crafted and well thought out. While those are lovely intentions, it really just ended up being something that is likely to never get finished. This is also posted over at my training blog, Marathon Running.

With that...

The Race Report

Phase 1: Jason Feels good

I was a little surprised at the start of this race. When Leah and I ran the Indianapolis Half Marathon, I can remember standing in my start corral doubting my readiness. I believe my actual thoughts as they fired the start gun in Indy were: "Wait, we can't start yet, what if I'm not ready?!?" It wasn't just that I was worried about my running shape, but I was worried that maybe I did something wrong and didn't tie my shoes tight enough or would have to pee. In Chicago, I didn't have any of those fears (although, as it turns out, I should have). I felt mostly ready to start and wasn't especially concerned about how far we had to go before we crossed the finish line. This lack of fear and nervousness is really suprising given what I know of myself.

The first mile went amazingly fast. It seemed like we went down a little hill, under a bridge, and then *boom*, the first mile marker. That was a great feeling and made me feel like this marathon thing would be a breeze (note to self: respect the distance, dammit!!) . We saw our intrepid crew of spectators for the first time shortly after and that was all a blur. I saw Scott and Sue at the front and then the only other person I saw was Leah's Aunt Donna as I hurled my long sleeve t-shirt at her face (sorry about that). We just passed them so quickly I couldn't take everyone in. I made a mental note to make sure I made contact with my niece the next time we saw her so that she wouldn't be disappointed.

After the first, the miles really just melted away for awhile. As we passed through downtown and headed north, I was really pleased to find that my legs felt pretty decent and I didn't have to work out too many kinks. I was just completely absorbed in the enormity of the event and the shear volume of people watching me run. Honestly, it was a little surreal. Before I knew it, I was approaching our neighborhood. One of my favorite memories from the race was running up Sheridan and running directly alongside the running path where we did all of our training. I felt like I should cross the road and hopped on the path (I didn't, though).

Around mile 6 or 7 I became very aware of the fact that Leah and I hadn't been talking much during this run. She had mentioned some knee stiffness but hadn't said much beyond that and so I was hoping that she was doing alright. Conversation wasn't really an option, however, as I was just too overwhelmed to have any intelligent thoughts or the ability to form words.

The next encounter with our spectator team was at mile 8-ish. They positioned themselves on the wall at the corner of Addison and Broadway and this time we spotted them in time for me to see everyone. We both waved like maniacs and I shouted my niece's name as she was perched on my Dad's shoulders. And then they were gone and we were running up Broadway, a street we'd been down hundreds of times before.

There were an unbelievable number of spectators lining the streets of the North side including dancing drag queens and men dressed as cheerleaders. It was an amazing amount of fun. The crowd carried us for awhile but around mile 11 or 12 Leah started to get a little down as she mentioned in her report below. I wanted to try and help since I was feeling good, but I still had the little problem of being unable to form sentenced. The best advice I could give was to note that if we kept going, the miles would just go away. Apparently, it worked, so that makes me happy. Sometime between mile 11 and 16 it got quiet and I got a little desperate for some conversation, so I shared the only thought I had been having for the past 3 miles or so. My "conversation starter": "Hey, you know what I've been thinking about for the last half hour? Bob Loblaw." If that makes no sense, say it out loud (if it still doesn't make sense, say it faster). Don't blame me, it's from a TV show.

Anyway, mile 16 was long but that was really the only tough mile before mile 20. I started to drag a bit at mile 20 but I knew that in the 21-22 mile range we would have more spectators. And sure enough, first we saw our good friend Corey and her little baby at 21 and then at mile 22 we saw our road crew again. What you can't tell from reading these race reports is how absolutely amazing the road crew was. They were the best part of the race (except maybe the finishing part). But then we passed them, and the only thing between us and the end was lots of pavement.

At some point, I can't pinpoint exactly when, my quad started to go bad. I actually think it was at mile 18, but I'm not sure. Anyway, one spot on my quad tightened up badly and I could feel it with every stride. It sort of felt like it was going to burst out of my leg at some point and I was a little concerned, although I knew Leah had gone through the same thing in training and had survived. If she ran 6 weeks with this problem, then I could run 6 miles.

Phase 2: Jason goes Bye-Bye

Remember that "respect the distance" thing I mentioned earlier? Well, I respect it fully now, because it is a long, long way to go and I felt it all at the end. I'm not sure what changed, but my breathing started to get a bit ragged around mile 22 or so. Leah claims she never heard me breathing, but it was loud and clear in my head. Except the clear part, that's not true. It was loud and wheezy in my head. I was a little worried. Never in any of my long training runs did I run out of breath. The problems always involved leg, back, or shoulder aches and pains, but never breathing. I think it may have been caused by the quad thing as those nagging pains can be very distracting and make the running seem harder than it actually is. Regardless of the cause, I was worried. For the first time, I started to be very concerned that I wouldn't be finishing the race without walking a significant portion of it (which I very much didn't want to do). This, however, was also the point where Leah started to feel much better and kept on running like a pro. My only goal in this race was to finish with Leah, and so I was going to have to keep running as well. Oh God.

Phase 3: Thank God Leah kept running, because I died somewhere back there

Mile 23: Man, only 3 miles to go, this is the distance that I always say is easy if you can get there because then one mile later there are only 2 miles to go and anyone can run 2 miles. As it turns out, this is complete and total bullshit. The only actual thought going through my head at mile 23 was how I would never make it and that the thought of running 2 more miles once I got to the next mile marker...well, that's just stupid. There was absolutely no way that I could run 3 more miles, but Leah just kept on running, and so I did too.

That's the nice thing about running: it's easy. You just put one foot in front of the other.

Mile 24: I want to walk. We very briefly pause to walk at an aid station, but it is not as long as I was planning. However, Leah is saying that we are almost done and wants to press on, and so do I. I really don't want to let on to how badly I'm doing. I never, ever like to be the one to slow us down. The spectators mock me with cries of "You're almost there, you can do it." Actually, no, I'm not almost done and I can't make it; clearly you are mistaken. I know I shouldn't feel this way, but it just seems so far and I am basically dead. Right now I owe everything to Leah. She is the only reason I'm still running.

Mile 25: We cross the 25 mile marker and I know that I should feel relief. After all, there are only 1.2 miles to go and so we are practically done. However, I don't feel that way. Part of the problem is that we are still in the numbered street and I know we have to get to Roosevelt, but in my head the numbered streets have to go all the way to zero before I get to Roosevelt. This is not actually the case, and of course it doesn't matter because a mile is a mile, but right now logic is not my friend. Logic is for people who can breath.

Mile 25.2: The "One Mile Left" marker!!!!! Only 2 minutes have passed between the 25 and 25.2 mile marker, but it seems so different. I know I can run a mile because it becomes a half mile so quickly and then a quarter mile, and then done. We are cruising now and passing all the people who went out too fast and are now walking. The crowd is screaming all around us and we are going to make it! In a couple more minutes we will be marathoners! We start to approach Roosevelt and I can see the runners starting to make the turn and head up the hill. I know at the top of the hill is the 26 mile marker and then, of course, the finish line. We make the turn and hey! This hill's not that bad. We surge past dozens of walkers and make it halfway up the hill when we spot our road crew again! Hey, they made it! A little extra surge and we reach the 26 mile marker. The finish line is in sight. All I can think is "Come on finish, please hurry" and "you're almost there, don't stop now."

Mile 26.2: We made it. Alright then, I'm ready to sit down.

And a half hour later I finally do get to sit down.

This was probably the most amazing thing I have ever down. I know it was the hardest. But we both made it and crossed the finish line together. Leah and I made a great team as I felt good for the first 20 miles, and she felt good for the last 6.2. Running partners don't come much better.

The winners!

Who knew that zeno's paradox would be a good mental crutch for a marathoner! Nice run and nicely usual!

Nice writeup. You guys were great.

Although, I gotta say, you look a little bit in that picture like you're about to go all "BRAAAAAAAIIINNNS" on Leah.

Hmm, come to think of it, I do believe a zombie could go the distance. They have that implacable shambling of the undead thing going on.

"I died somewhere back there."

"I am basically dead."

(Eyeing Jason suspiciously...)
You are the man. I almost (but not quite) made it through a 10k without walking a few weeks ago. A marathon... like I said, you are the man.
Jason, all of us watching nad cheering were so proud of both you and Leah. I was happy to be able to see your first marathon and share it with Leah's family. Great going.

The marathon itself was great, but it was even better knowing that we had so much support.
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