World marathon majors, have you ever heard about that? When I wrote my bucketlist about 100 things I want to do in my life I listed that as one point. Up and til Sunday the 8th of October I had completed the NYC race but on the list I had still Boston, Tokyo, Berlin, London and Chicago to run. Those races are an exclusive collection of marathons that runners from all over the world strive to get a spot to. I was extremely lucky to get one to Chicago.
The road towards the 20th time I finished the marathon distance began on Friday when I boarded SK flight from Stockholm to Chicago. 9 hours later I walked through immigration in the windy city which at that time was a rainy city. Saturday I spent visiting the marathon fair, carbo loading at Shake Shack and doing shopping. HERE you can find my shopping guide to Chicago. The marathon had a 5K breakfast run on Saturday morning but I was not participating in it. Better to rest the legs for the up and coming 42K.
I went to bed early (thanks to the time difference!) and woke up with a good feeling which is crucial when doing a marathon. The race started at 8 for me and the other runners in wave 2 so when I got up at 5:30 I had time to visit Starbucks on the way to the start for a breakfast consisting of one Frappe, one coffee and some nuts. I don’t like to eat heavy stuff before the race so this light and energy filled combo was perfect.
The marathon day
Just before 7 am I entered my start corral in Grant Park after passing through the security check. After the attack at Boston marathon I have seen the security check at several US races that I have taken part in and I suppose it will soon be reality in Europe aswell. I went to the long toilet line and had a last stop there before we got called to the start. Now it was time for me to run the marathon distance for the 20th time. I will always have a lot of respect for the distance. It is far and everything can happen. It is not a distance you practice running during training sessions so when you do it at a race you need to have a plan and most important, know your capacity and limits.
The sky was clear blue and it was a perfect morning for running when we all took off towards the sky scrapers in downtown. Two years ago I was running a half marathon in Chicago and the course was almost the same but with stretches making it twice as long this time. A flat and fast course which is the kind that I enjoy the most. I had no predetermined time goals for this race. It can sound weird but I was just running for pleasure. That Chicago marathon is one of the top 6 marathons in the world with 40 000 runners and the spectators standing close together with one more creative cheering poster than another made the race to such a great event. There is something special with running races in the US. Everyone goes all in in everything and all things that can be made massive are massive.
How did my race go?
Kilometer 0-10: this part is more or less warmup where you kind of know how the race will go. I did immediately found a pace that I was happy with at around 5:15-5:30 min/km. It was quite crowded and to be able to keep up with my speed I had to criss-cross among my fellow runners which made me ran almost one kilometer further than 10K when I passed the 10K mark. A marathon is far so of course you want to take the shortest way on the course.
Kilometer 10-21: It was still very crowded when we continued alongside Lincoln beach park alongside Lake Michigan. I still had a good feeling, enjoyed the race and followed my plan without any particular efforts and finished the half marathon distance in less than two hours. Cheers for that! I refueled with energy chews and got a sugar rush.
Kilometer 21-30: I think this was the very best part of my race. I had a good flow and passed by several other Swedes that I passed by. Although my finish time was not top priority I was of course closely monitoring my GPS watch to know that I was on track. Sub 4 hours is always fun. But at this point I had been running 2,2 kilometers further than the official course so if the kilometer markings were not put up wrongly I thought it to be difficult to finish sub 4. Not impossible though so I changed focus from a fun race to beating the sub 4 finish time.
Kilometer 30-42: At this point in the race you have been thinking through almost everything you can imagine so apart from focusing on putting one foot infront of the other I ended up recalculating the mile markers to kilometer ones, still hoping the kilometer markings were not placed on the correct spots. But no, they were on the right places. Then I continued doing calculations about what pace I had to keep in order to finish sub 4. If I would finish sub 4 according to the distance at my watch I would make it but according to the official course I would not. My legs were still quite okey thanks to that I had treated them with ice power at 21 and 30K (best thing for a marathoner) but it was getting very hot and I badly needed salt. The energy stations only had sweet stuff and if it was something I couldn’t stand more after having two servings of sweet energy chews it was sweets. In desperate need for salt I had a zip or two of the Gatorade which tasted disgusting and I so well know that my tummy cannot handle, but what to do when you desperate need some non-sweet energy?
I took the risk. Of course my tummy wasn’t happy with the Gatorade and it started to cramp at the 39K mark and for the first time in the race I had to walk a few hundred meters and I crossed the marathon distance at my watch at 3:54:?? (to bad it was not the official course then I would have had a new PB) but I still had close to three kilometers to go. The very worst kilometer of the race and the very best kilometers of the race. It felt that someone was putting knifes in my tummy thanks to the Gatorade and I didn’t wanted anything more than crossing the finish line. 3, 2, and one kilometer left. 800 meters, 400 meters and then. I was over the finish line. Every time the feeling is unbeatable. And that is a reason for that I keep on running marathons. Or one of them.
So 20 marathons done, the question is will there be a 21st? I plan for that. I planned to run 5 but once you are in to it, it is impossible to stop. And running vacations are unbeatable. So where to book the next marathon?
/ Pernilla the marathon lover