Seeking a BQ at the Chicago Marathon

by Michele Marcus

Hi. It’s me again. The girl that runs a marathon, hates it, writes an article about it and swears to never run another one. Guess what? I ran another one. I think runners have a lot of determination with a dash of crazy thrown in. In my case, I think there may be some extra crazy in the mix. I had completed two marathons and attempted a third and had a miserable experience at all three of them. Why would I do this to myself again? The memory of the pain from the last marathon was still fresh in my mind when I was trying to decide if I should start training again. I had signed up for the Chicago Marathon before I ran my last one in April. I had a decent marathon time in the spring, but didn’t get my goal. Since I had already signed up for this one and because I am so stubborn and can’t quit until I achieve a goal, I decided I’d give it another try.   

I initially picked Chicago because I work for Bank of America and get a really nice employee perk, guaranteed entry to the marathon and half off my entry fee. As a runner, this was just way too good to pass up, so I took advantage. I mentioned to my friend, Carl Larsen, that I was signing up for Chicago. He said he was running it again and would pace me to my BQ. I was so excited to be able to run with him. Every time I told someone I was running Chicago, I would tell them, “And I’m running it with Carl.” It gave me some extra motivation to train hard for the race. I mean, I had to be able to keep up with him. He is a beast.   

Training went really well and I even logged a 300-mile month in September, which was way above my highest mileage month. Unlike two of my other marathons, I had no injuries. And, for the first time, I got a 20-miler done…not just once, but three times Needless to say, I was feeling confident. Between the training, the weather report and my running partner, I knew I finally had this one.   

Carl kept me pumped up with the constant posts, pictures and videos he tagged me in on Facebook in the week leading up to the race. My excitement was building each day and it seemed Sunday couldn’t get there fast enough. When we finally got to race day, I was so thankful to have a veteran of the race to follow around and show me where to go since this race is absolutely enormous. As we stood in the corral waiting for the start, he was a bundle of energy and his enthusiasm was contagious. I could not wait to get going. There was some awesome music to really get the adrenaline going and we started inching closer to the start line. Finally, we were off.

I had been told there were crowds at this marathon, but I was still amazed at the number of people that lined the streets to cheer on all the runners throughout the entire race. The race has huge, loud, energetic crowds that really keep you motivated and energized.   

The course winds through Chicago from Grant Park, up to Wrigley Field, down to US Cellular Field and then back to Grant Park again. It is scenic, flat, and fun. In all the excitement, we started off too fast and ran our first 10K about two minutes faster than we planned. We finally came to our senses and settled into our planned pace that we then held for most of the race. The race went really well and I finally got my BQ and a 22-minute PR with a time of 3:39:07. I was thrilled to finally meet my goal after two and a half years of trying. This was by far the most enjoyable marathon I ran. Being able to hit my goal and cross the finish line with such a good friend makes this a race I will never forget.   

There were several things that kept me going strong in this marathon compared to the others. The biggest part was running with Carl. He is so upbeat, fun and inspiring. He was constantly checking on me to make sure I was feeling good and kept me pumped up and moving forward. Second, my boyfriend, Nick, came to watch us. I knew we would see him on the course at some point, but I didn’t expect to see him so often. He popped up in eight different places along the course He mapped his run later and said he had run about 12 miles…crazy. Every time I saw him, it gave me a smile and big boost. Third, I had many people tell me that they would be following me through the runner tracking the marathon offers. The site records my time for every 5K along the course. Every time I passed one of those mats, I thought about all those friends following me from home. I felt truly blessed to know how many people spent their morning watching my progress.   

I can’t say that I’ve changed my mind about marathons in general. I mean, they are really tough and you get to a point where the run is more about mental toughness and pushing through pain than it is physical ability. This race was no exception and the last four miles were definitely painful. The walk back to the gear check and then to the train station was pure agony. Would I say I’ll never run another marathon? I don’t know yet. I’ve just qualified for the 2017 Boston Marathon so I’m not sure how I can pass up on that experience. I guess I have a year before I have to make that decision. Since Carl also qualified, I’m sure he’ll talk me into it.  

This story originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of In Passing.