This marathon was such an inability to ignore the reminder of the power of AND.
I just got back from running the Chicago Marathon. Even a week later…
I am proud and frustrated.
I am grateful and annoyed.
I am beyond happy and discouraged.
I know I gave everything I could on that day AND I know there’s so much more.
That’s basically the short story of a very long race. I have felt so many big feelings, which is not common for me. I don’t “do feelings.” I accept the circumstances and then I work to fix the things. This race felt bigger for me. It felt like a big shift and I knew that it was not something that I could muscle through. God, the universe, whatever you believe, it felt like I was being pulled to feel through the feelings rather than push through. So that’s what I’ve spent the last week doing.
I have been sitting in the hard place of that “AND.” And acknowledging that it’s ok to feel so many big things at the same time. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m somehow broken or not meant for this.
Now that I’ve processed, I know how to share while protecting my own peace.
It’s ok to have a lot of feelings post race. It’s ok to be disappointed AND proud. It’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling.
This is the first marathon I trained for when I wasn’t counting down my workouts left or telling myself I didn’t have to run after race day. I enjoyed being in training so much. I knew there was so much good stuff there for race day. When my coach and I went through strategy and goals pre-race, it all felt so doable. It was the first marathon I could picture myself crossing that finish line and seeing my goal time on the clock.
Long story short, that’s not what happened. Finishing antibiotics a week before a marathon did not agree with my stomach.
The Recap by Miles
Pre-race, I got to meet an IG friend and another athlete I coach in person for the first time before heading through security. We got to hang out in the starting village. It was so nice to have a mellow group to just be with—helped with the nerves and all the things. Plus it made it way more fun!
I felt great at the start. Everything seemed to be clicking. Even with my GPS being totally off, I felt like I was nailing the effort for the early marathon miles. It was cold as heck, but I tried not to waste too much energy on thinking about it.
First 3 miles were amazing. This race is unmatched in crowd support. The cheers, the smiling faces, the sheer beauty that is Chicago. Second time around, it is still as amazing as the first.
Then it was time to take my first gu around 40 minutes in. t did not go down easy, despite practicing for months with this same everything. Oh well, choked it down and moved on.
Around mile 8 it was time for the second gu and my stomach was not having it. I got it mostly down and then started feeling not great. Full on nausea and stomach pain. I was planning on seeing my family around mile 11.5, so I told myself to run until I saw them and then I could take a bathroom stop and re-evaluate, hoping by then I’d feel better.
I did not see them when planned, which I knew may happen with the sheer size of the crows (they missed me around mile 3 and I ran horizontally to get a hug and a kiss (#worthit!). So I was pretty OK with it. Texted me hubby I missed them and I would see them at mile 26. By this point I had made it to the half, I knew I needed a bathroom stop and more fuel.
I then pulled off for the bathroom and a quick water refill. I switched to gummy bears (which I had also practiced with on all long runs over 13 miles), hoping the switch would help with the nausea. It didn’t.
I had to make another bathroom stop around 17. Stomach felt awful and I was going through it. I knew I had slowed after the last stop, but as long as I kept it easy paced I could keep running. When I tried to pick up the pace I had terrible stomach cramps and needed to find a bathroom. So ‘easy’ paced it was. At this point, I was so uncomfortable that I wasn’t even upset that I would miss my goal time. I just wanted to finish and keep enjoying the race, so that’s just what I did.
After the second bathroom stop, I said eff it. No more fuel. Something it not working. It’s 8 miles, lfg.
So thankful I had carb loaded because I’m sure it’s what saved me and allowed me to run every step of the race.
I remember hitting mile 20, then mile 22, then mile 24, and 25 and every time tearing up because I was still running. I have never had the experience in a race and it was incredibly empowering.
I ran up ‘Mt. Roosevelt’, hung a left into the finish and ran it alternating between crying and a huge smile on my face.
Even though I struggled, it also felt like a party for 26.2 miles and I loved every second of it.
Chicago Marathon 2023 Race Results
Despite all the things, I finished with a 5 minute marathon PR.
I was more present in this race than any other marathon. I smiled so much of the race my face hurt.
I was reminded more times than I can count that people are good. And that I am honored to be a part of the running community—an imperfect group of people who choose hard things.
I had fun.
I cried. For the first time ever in a race. I cried with joy and gratitude.
I shared my races goals before and I did not hit my A goal, but I did get B and C goal—which was to execute everything in my power perfectly and truly have fun. I did both of those things 💯.
After talking with my nutritionist and my coach, we all think that the main cause of such epic stomach stuff despite using fuel I had so often practiced with and race paces I knew how to dial was in the antibiotics shortly before the race. If you missed it, I was diagnosed with bacterial bronchitis 11 days before the marathon and finished antibiotics 6 days before the race. I did everything in my control to get my gut healthy again, but sometimes you just need more time, which I didn’t have. As frustrating as this is, at least I know I did everything in my power to show up and have a good race day. And even though I missed my a goal, I had a good race.
I have told all of my athletes and I’ll say it again, the thing about racing is that it will break your heart. It is one day in an entire lifetime of days and sometimes, it’s just not your day. But that’s what makes it so magical. That’s what makes runners so amazing. That we keep showing up. That we keep choosing to do the hard thing. That we keep trying to make ourselves better – and by doing that – we make the world better too.