The Chicago Marathon 2010 Recap & A Lil’ BQ Story

Every gal has a dream. Or maybe not a dream, but just something that she’s like to check off her bucket list. Couple this with a strong type A personality and a slight addiction to running, and you have…well, one messed up gal.

But along with that messed up gal (i.e. me) comes a goal that I mentioned in a few past posts. It’s a goal that I’ve always secretly kept with every race, but only proclaimed to the world for the Chicago Marathon. It’s a goal I worked for, one that I babied, and one that I eventually accomplished at the Chicago Marathon. This goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

For my gender and age group, that means running a certified race in under 3 hours and 40 minutes. That’s an average of 8 minute 23 second miles for 26.2 mile. 8:23 miles? Seems reasonable, no? But do that 26.2 times over, and you have a different story. So this, my friends, is my Boston qualification story.

The 7:30 race start seemed a bit late, but I managed to accept it for what it is: more sleep time. After a quick shower, race breakfast (oatmeal, mini-bagel and peanut butter), I kissed Chicken Face goodbye and he looked up at me with his crusty-eye boogers still intact and said, “Good luck.” He’d meet me at the finish line.

Thanks to our conveniently located hotel, I was able to walk to the start line. Yes, I said walk to one of the World Major marathons. It was a nice change of pace from the New York Marathon commute (subway to ferry to bus to start line), and I embraced the amazingly organized event. Why yes, I’d like to check my bag in the clearly marked bag check area. And yes, how lovely, I’ll stand in the moderate port-a-potty line and wash my hands with the provided sinks. Well done, race organizers.

It wasn’t long before I found my way into the seeded corrals. I find that it’s the port-a-potty lines and the corrals that people scope out their “competition” and talk as if they’re professionals. People talked themselves up and boasted about past PRs, while some proclaimed their goals with strong doses of doubt. But I was by myself. So I stood there, and like a creeper, listened in on other people’s conversations while pretending to fiddle with my laces and staring at my PaceTat.

One national anthem later, we were off…

I’m not the type of runner that remembers my stride, my breathing or even the scenery sometimes. But instead, I’m the type of runner who focuses on how I’m generally feeling, if I’m properly fueled, and my pace. So what did I feel and/or remember for 26.2 miles? A bit of stress, only minimal GI issues, a certain spectator, and a whole lot of heat.

For 26.2 miles, I closely monitored my Garmin ensuring that I was clear of the 8:23 pace, I maneuvered my way through old and young runners alike, I stopped to pee (only once…hurrah!) and I smiled for the camera hoping this time they would snap a good race photo. But then the heat started to pour in, enveloping me and everything about the run; thus, strategies quickly changed. I ripped off my shirt, I dodged for shade, I relished the pre-soaked sponges and I maneuvered to whatever side of the street spectators were hosing people down on. When I saw the “heat severity” flags change, I knew that we were in for something we didn’t bargain for.

But along the way, something amazing happened. I saw a friend that I met through blogging and Twitter, Nicole. She was holding a sign for my other blogger buddy, Tara, but when I randomly saw her right next to me, she was jumping and screaming and smiling and ringing bells like she had just seen Elvis brought back to life. And then…I smiled.

A little giggle, a little smile, and we were back on our way. Every mile was a countdown and I managed to play head games enough to keep myself motivated. First, look for the mile marker. Check. A bit past the mile markers, you will see the following in this order: aid station, toilets, Gatorade, water, people. Check each one off your list in your head, and before you know it, you’re at the next mile marker. Rinse, wash and repeat, people. With this method in hand, my legs and heart finally came together as a team. They began to work in unison and felt as if they were easily doing the motions I needed them to do. I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t sore; instead, I just had to keep the body temperature down. I do my part, the legs and the heart will do theirs.

3 hours a 30 minutes later, I was approaching the final stretch. The spectators started to get louder (and that’s not just because my iPod died), the intensity greater, and the anticipation ever-present. I looked at my Garmin and realized, oh my God, I did it. It’s real. But being the type A that I am, I wanted to beat the race clock. Sure I had three minutes on my side as I crossed the start line three minutes after the gun went off, but now I wanted the digital race clock to read no more than 3:40. So I pushed it. Even up that last hill (by the way, why put a HILL in the last stretch of the finish?). I saw the finish line and just started living the moment…today is that day. Push. Push. Push. Go. Run. Faster. Finish. Go. Push.

Finished. Official time: 3:37:20.

At that exact moment, I think my body went into shock. I wanted to hug someone. I wanted to look around and tell someone. I wanted to sit down, right there is the middle of the finish line and cry.

Instead I made the traditional marathon finish processional: blanket, medal, food, and water. Then I found my way out of the craziness to find Chicken Face and when I did find him, he said he missed me coming in as there were simply too many people. But when he asked what my time was and I told him, the first tear found its way down my face and the rest of them soon followed. I sobbed and said, “I don’t know why I’m crying…” But I did.

I know, I know, it’s not like I qualified for the Olympics. I mean, thousands of people do this every year. But I will now admit here, that in my entire life, I’ve never genuinely felt truly proud of myself until this exact moment. I unabashedly felt proud of myself and it was one of the best days of my life.

Until April 18, 2011….

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33 Responses to The Chicago Marathon 2010 Recap & A Lil’ BQ Story

  1. Tara says:

    I am SO SO SO SO SO SO proud and happy for you girl! I knew you could do it and I was thinking about you as I was out there dying! haha CONGRATS and soak it all up!

  2. Congratulations!! What an accomplishment! :)

  3. Katie A. says:

    You did awesome out there! I’m so very impressed with your performance throught that horrid heat! Congrats!
    I remember last year when I BQed, the hubbs wasn’t around and I too felt like I just needed to tell everyone around me or hug someone! LOL! I cried, too. I think there is so much stress we put on ourselves, especially for 26.2 that when you get it, relief! Can’t wait for Boston 2011!!

  4. Layla says:

    Yay!! Congratulations again!! I love the pictures! Yeah, Chicago’s finish line is pretty overwhelming, and I felt so lonely last year, despite being in a sea of thousands of people.

  5. shoeshoegirl says:

    oh gosh! you are awesome! i was crying reading this entry so i can totally understand why you’d be crying at the end of the race. congratulations! i look forward to continuing to hear about the next set of your running adventures. plus i want to hear all about your visit to chi-town.

  6. I’m truly inspired by you girl! You have a runner’s heart and I can relate. I’m training for my first full in Dec. and a future hopeful Boston Qualifier. Looking forward to reading more!!!

  7. Poshpiras says:

    Dear Page,
    CONGRATULATIONS!

    I read your blog all the way from Milan, Italy. I am also 26 and I’m also a runner, facing similar training schedules!

    Unfortunately, Italy does not organize marathons or races as skillfully as you do in the US… and we don’t have crowds cheering us on :(
    Actually, during the Milan Marathon, people would insult us and shout out names at runners. All of this because traffic was blocked in the city center.

    Anyway, I wish I had races to look forward to like the Boston Marathon.
    Who knows? Maybe I’ll fly over :)

    Congratulations again!
    B.

  8. Rae says:

    Congratulations! What an awesome story!

  9. Nicole says:

    enjoy it because your amazing. this post made me tear up! i’m glad i was there when you needed me! we need to get together again!!!! :) :) amazing amazing job! you ROCK

  10. Mike says:

    Congrats on the Boston Qualifier time! That is awesome! And your quote perfectly sums it up “I know, I know, it’s not like I qualified for the Olympics. I mean, thousands of people do this every year. But I will now admit here, that in my entire life, I’ve never genuinely felt truly proud of myself until this exact moment. I unabashedly felt proud of myself and it was one of the best days of my life.”

    Not many people can say they qualified for the Boston Marathon, and for regular people like us who are not professional athletes, qualifying for the Boston Marathon (or maybe completing the Ironman Triathalon) is probably the pinnacle of athletic achievement. Have fun doing Boston!

    Poshpiras – that is too bad to hear about how the Milan marathon went and how people were calling runners names and insulting you. That is really hard for me to imagine. Running a marathon is one of the most physically and emotionally draining things to do, and hearing insults and being called names probably made you feel terrible. I can assure you that in the US all crowds cheer you on, and if you do one of the big US marathons (Chicago, New York, San Diego, LA, etc) there are massive crowds the whole way with people cheering you to the finish line.

  11. Juls says:

    Great story and dang, YOU ARE FAST! See you in Boston Girl!

  12. My only complaint about this race report is the end, that after such an AWESOME BQ in harsh conditions, you then downgrade it by saying oh it’s no big deal, it’s no Olympics. This is an awesome accomplishment that many of us can’t even dream about and you did it and I am so so proud of you! CONGRATULATIONS!

  13. allison says:

    I freaking adore you! You are sooooo incredible. I love this passion of yours and I am very proud to be your friend. You are truly inspirational.

  14. Caroline Little Sis says:

    OH MY GOD. I AM IN THE STUDENT UNION..AKA LIBRARY READING THIS AND I JUST BROKE OUT INTO TEARS… OMG THIS STORY IS SOOOO AMAZING.. LETS PUBLISH IT. PLEASE… OMG IM STILL CRYING …

    CONGRATS …

  15. Laura says:

    I must confess. I have been secretly reading your blog for a little bit here. Why so sneaky? I think because you belong to that class of runners that I do not – the runners that run fast. But such a huge accomplishment warrants a comment. Congratulations!! Especially in Chicago this year – sounds like the heat was a beast. I hope you were able to sign up for Boston before it closed!

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  17. Markemmanuel says:

    Congrats on your BQ! I’m so happy that you achieved your goal that day! That was a hard day for a lot of people! Have fun in Boston!

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  19. Naomi says:

    Okay, I’m so behind on my blog reading so this is long overdue…GREAT race report and more importantly, huge congrats on your BQ, especially on such a hot day! So, so amazing!

  20. danica says:

    So I FINALLY got the chance to read this and Page I must say, I’m SO proud to call you one of my friends! I knew you could do it and I’m glad you had that magical day. :) You so deserve it and I’m so happy that it happened for you in this magical way! I can’t wait to get together with you again and give you a BIG hug! xoxo Congrats again!

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  23. ERG says:

    What a captivating race report! You really capture the emotions of it all :)
    Congrats on a BQ in a very tough race.

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  26. Kim says:

    Love this story. It gave me butterflies! Good luck next weekend :)

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  31. Nicole says:

    Loved reading this! I can’t wait for my qualifying moment! I might cry too!

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  33. Kelly S. says:

    Ah this post popped up on the “posts you might enjoy” an d am I running my 4th marathon this weekend and hoping for a BQ! This is EXACTLY what I needed to read today and I am in my apartment packing for the race and freaking out! I can’t wait to be sobbing at the finish line Saturday with tears of happiness! :)

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