It was pretty damn lousy.
This is the first time I started a marathon when it wasn't chilly outside. I was fine standing around in a singlet and shorts at the start. It seemed like a bad sign, and it was.
Kyler and I were running together. We'd written "Just" on the back of his shirt, and "married" on the back of mine. Other runners kept commenting on it. We realized later that it would have been smarter to put it on the fronts of our shirts, so that the crowd would cheer for us, too.
I was sweating, with a drop of sweat trickling into my ear, around mile 3. Not egregious, but not fantastic when you have another 23 miles to go, and the day is looking sunny.
By then, there was a different issue. After the start, the race course goes underground for a while, and then goes right through the valleys of tall buildings in downtown. That in and of itself didn't both me in the slightest, especially since I knew I would be craving that shade later.
The problem was that it threw off my GPS, to the tune of 0.7 miles. Ahead. So that when my GPS said, 4 miles, we hadn't quite gone 3.5.
My ankle started to bother me around mile 8, just a little. By then, it was also feeling pretty hot.
I've never been in a marathon before where at mile 10, I knew that this was an impossibly terrible idea.
The wall hit around mile 15. By that point in the race, the mild annoyance of the GPS being off was taking a psychological toll--I'd run nearly half a mile thinking, "10 miles to go" when I was crushed to see the signs for mile 16 ahead.
Even when you know better, it's hard to feel better.
My ankle was bothering me more. It's hard to know what to do about something like that during a race. I've never had trouble with my ankle before, except during one training run. It was fine as soon as I stopped running that day, and I'd forgotten about it. I didn't know what was wrong with it, and if it would get better or worse.
It got better.
Then it got worse.
If, perhaps, I had been by myself, I might have taken the safe road of acknowledging that it just wasn't my day, and either dropped out or resigned myself to walking.
But it's hard to do that when you're a charity runner, when dozens of people have supported your cause and are hoping for the best for you.
It's especially hard to do that when your spouse of one week is running at your side. If you drop out, there's no reason for him to have run the first 10 miles that slowly. He voluntarily decided to run with you, instead of trying for a PR. Giving up would be disrespecting his sacrifice.
Maybe it's just marathoners, but it can be hard to tell the difference between "giving up" and taking the wiser course. Sometimes those look like the same thing.
By the time I hit the wall, the pain in my ankle had led to pains in my knee and, more troubling, in my left hip. The one responsible for keeping me out of the 2008 Chicago marathon.
I stopped to walk at an aid station. The pain stopped immediately when I stopped running.
This is where the decision gets really hard. It's clearly not an injury if it doesn't hurt when you're walking, right?
I don't know what happened for the next few miles. It was a blur of people cheering, blazing sun, and feeling distinctly off. That horrible feeling of attempting a long run on a warm day, when you get off kilter with your hydration, so that you're still thirsty but you've already had too much to drink.
One of the things people like about the Chicago marathon is that there are people cheering you along nearly the entire way. In previous races, I've thrived on that sort of thing. Perhaps I've changed, or perhaps I've just gotten to enjoy my solitary training runs in nature preserves, but it was very distracting.
Around mile 18, Kyler started to sing "Eye of the Tiger"--something that usually perks me up enough to eke out a few more miles. This time, I felt so awful that I could barely keep from crying.
The last 8 miles were a painful slog of running and walking. The few times that I felt cool enough to run well (after dumping cups of water on my head and neck), the pain in the ankle, knee, and hip still prevented it.
By mile 24, it was only torture. In addition to the worrying pains on my left side, there was a new pain in my right foot. It had to be a big blister, with a toe rubbing another toe the wrong way. Not serious by any means, but not fun. I watched for a medical tent, hoping to ask for a bandaid, but somehow didn't see one.
At that point, it was also apparent that getting to the finish in under 5 hours was going to be a challenge.
It's a strange sensation, when you try to move faster, and your body, instead of following directions, hesitates. As if it thinks you'll change your mind, if you have that extra moment to contemplate.
I had been dreading the slight incline leading up to mile 26. As it turned out, it was nothing to worry about.
Just after the finish line was even more excruciating. I wanted to stop, sit on some grass. There's a long, long fenced in chute that you have to walk all the way through. The walk from there back to Charity Village was too long, too. My goal was to get back the the ACS tent and pick up my gear bag, to call my sister.
I made it back to the tent, but then ended up sitting outside it on the ground for a good half hour. By the time I got my phone and managed to call, my sister was already on the train, taking my mother-in-law back up to her car.
We sat around for a long time before walking to the El. We stopped to cheer for some people straggling in as the clock read seven hours.
When we had to transfer from one line to another, I could have taken a seat, but let another marathoner take it. I ended up getting a seat when, after a moment or two of standing, I decided abruptly that sitting on the nasty floor of the El was a good idea.
We made it back to my sister's, and after showers spent the afternoon half awake on the couch, watching t.v.
Oddly enough, this experience, hasn't necessarily put me off marathons. But I never want to try the Chicago marathon again.
(The wedding, though, that was fantastic!)