Chicago Marathon 2018, my 6th Chicago Marathon and 12th marathon overall is done!
First, the stats:
Overall Time: 5:37:30
Average per mile: 12:53
Air Temp: 59-62, occasional light rain
Start Line Cross: 8:53 AM
Finish Line Cross: 2:31 PM
Potty Breaks: 4, all in first half, all #1, one accident
#Times I saw my crew: 3
I feel great about this race. I don’t think any of my other marathons compare to the high and the sense of accomplishment that I felt yesterday. This was an average Chicago time for me – some have been slower, some have been faster. I was 1:09 slower than my PR. None of that mattered, though. I started wanting simply to finish feeling good. And I did that.
I did have a rough time goal of 5:45. I ran close to the 5:45 pace group for the first seven miles, but I was feeling like that pace was just slightly slow, so I went ahead.
First, What I Think I Did Right
1. Galloway Training
Learning how to legitimize walk breaks for more consistent performance has been a fun journey. My results this year prove that for me this method beats “banking time” or hammering a faster first half. It feels so good to finish still feeling good with fairly consistent pacing throughout the day. I imagine that as I continue to train, some form of structured walk breaks will be a part of my training.
2. Nutrition, Hydration and MORE BANANAS!
I worked on reasonable carb loading throughout the weekend, and I hydrated effectively for several days leading up to Sunday. I carried my water bottle and refilled it at aid stations as needed. I took more GU on the course than had in other races, and I consumed 4 bananas – 2 pre-race, one at mile 8.5, and one more in pieces as they were offered. I tried hard to stay ahead of nutritional need. I think it helped the energy stay even.
3. Reasonable Corral Placement, Pace Group
I was in the last corral of the last wave. I declined the opportunity to run in the second wave with the charity runners. I don’t love the feeling of people needing to pass me. So, I was truthful when I registered about my predicted finish time. I also found a 5:45 pace group that was committed to structured walk breaks. I recommend running with a pace group. It is the best way to relax and trust the process. As it turned out, I stayed a few minutes ahead of my group.
4. Ran With a Friend
I was thrilled to learn that my friend Cynthia Sandusky was running in the same corral with me. We found each other and planned to kind of stick together. We ran side by side for the first 18.5 miles, taking our walk breaks together – except for my potty breaks. I took one around mile 3, and spent the next 3 miles catching up. Running with someone makes the time go by faster, and it allows for encouragement. We committed to each other that if one of us slowed, the other would go on. She pulled back a little before 19, and I knew it was OK to go ahead and finish at my pace.
5. Name on Jersey
My charity, Team World Vision practically insists on this. I’ve always felt a little awkward about it. However, I submit because I’m a rule follower. Here’s the thing, though. Even though it is a little cheesy, there is nothing like the crowd support that results from it. People were calling me out all day, by name, encouraging me. I could see the adrenaline result in my pace from time to time. Over a dozen times, groups of people would chant, “Greg! Greg! Greg! Greg…” These were funny moments. At one point, a couple of people behind me asked me if I was some kind of celebrity. I turned to show them my shirt, and we all had a good laugh. At one point, a guy behind me said his name was Greg so he wanted to stick close to me for the crowd support. Chicago rivals New York in crowd support, and it makes a huge difference. It feels good to be constantly encouraged and cheered on.
6. HOKA shoes
I’m really glad that the trend has swung back so hard to cushy shoes. My friend Jarod Root introduced me to these shoes when I was dealing with Plantar. I think they got me back to running. No disrespect to all the minimalists out there – it’s all good – but I love my HOKAs. I’m open to something better coming along, but I sure do love these shoes.
7. Affirmations / Mantras
I tried really hard to only think positive thoughts, like, “You’re doing great. You can trust your training. You are strong,” etc. When I got to the last 10K, I counted down first the miles, “Only 6 more miles, Less than 6 miles,” etc. When I got to the last 30 minutes, I counted segments down. Since I was running/walking in 5-minute chunks, at 30 minutes, I had only six segments left. Then 5. Eventually, “C’mon, Greg, you’re on your last segment.” I said out loud, “You’ve got this” probably 100 times throughout the race, mostly in the last half.
8. Taper and Rest
I followed my tapering instructions as per my plan. On the day before the race, I stayed off my feet as much as possible. We ate lunch out, a few blocks away from the hotel. Then, we returned, rested, ordered Uber Eats (spaghetti), watched a movie, and went to bed. In past years, we’ve spent much of Saturday walking around the city. I think it is better to be as fresh as possible on race morning.
I was fortunate to know the course since this was my 6th time to run it. There were minor changes this year. I think the changes were good. Mostly, the West side of the course was shorter or broken up more.
What Didn’t Go So Well
1. Nerves. I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous about a marathon. I really had to try to calm myself down on race morning. When I entered the start corral, it started raining. I felt oddly discouraged about that. It wasn’t until well into about mile 6 that I was able to calm down and enjoy. Part of that was related to the next point…
2. Hydration / Potty Management
Fortunately, I had no digestive issues during the race. That was good. However, I had consumed quite a bit of water that morning. As it turned out, there was a little confusion about the amount of time it would take to get into the start corral. For instance, it looked like we were merely lining up at a security gate, In fact, I was actually in a bag check line that was moving slowly. I didn’t have a bag, as our TWV tent offered private gear check. Consequently, I wasted 15 minutes that I would need later.
By the time I got through security, it was already time to enter my corral. I had to urinate, so I got into one of the long port-a-potty lines. I waited and waited, really needing to go until they announced that the start corrals were about to close. There was no way I was going to get to use the bathroom before the start corral closed. So, I entered the start corral and got lined up.
I decided that I would simply have to find the first available toilets on the course or wait to find a tree in Lincoln Park, about 4.5 miles in. Normally, hundreds of male runners find trees in that area.
I really needed to go, so running and walking were both pretty uncomfortable. By mile three, it was nearly excruciating. My back was hurting. I told Cynthia that I was going to have to peel off at the next toilet and then catch up to her later.
When I exited to the toilet, there were only four people in line ahead of me. I was initially encouraged by this. But then, when my body realized I was close to relief, the need to go became more than urgent. I danced, contorted, and tried my best to hold it for another minute. Unfortunately, I had passed the point of no return. I realized my effort would not be enough. I apologized to everyone around me just as the fountain erupted. So I watered that street right out in front of everyone. People politely looked away.
It. was. humiliating.
Just then, a toilet became available, and I went in to finish. Gross.
I managed to catch up to Cynthia and my pace group just about the time I needed to go again.
I made four potty stops in the first half of the race. I obviously stopped taking in liquid for a bit to try to adjust. My body was clearly plenty hydrated.
Those are really the only things that did not go well. I ran consistently. I am proudest of that. There was only a 36-second variance in my slowest and fastest splits. I usually feel good with anything under a minute. My halves were within one minute of each other. That is very consistent. I feel great about this.
I finished feeling good. Ready to stop, of course, but I never hit the wall. In all but one of my other 5-hour-plus races, My first half has been quite a bit faster than my second half. This race proved that a slower start really does make a difference. I proved it to myself.
No finish has ever felt better to me. I was very emotional from about mile 20 to the end. When I saw the turn onto Roosevelt ahead of me, I knew I had it. And when I saw my beautiful wife Marla and best friends Mike and Lisa standing there waiting for me to make that turn, I felt better than ever. For a moment, I felt like there is nothing I cannot do.
Chicago is my favorite for many reasons. That corner. That hill, that final downhill to the finish line is worth every mile of training and every bit of pain. Crossing a marathon finish line is one of the best feelings there is.
I am so thankful for my family and friends who constantly encourage me and cheer me on in my marathon endeavors. They are the best. I don’t know how people do it without a lot of support. My first call as soon as I get my medal is always to my daughter Clayre, who got me into this mess in the first place by talking me into running this race in 2010. I usually can’t say much when she answers the phone. I mostly cry, and try to say, “I did it!” And she says she is proud of me.
Thanks for reading. I will try to keep you updated on more adventures in running.