Chicago Marathon 2011 Recap


That was my final time for this year’s marathon. While I can’t say I’m not disappointed, since originally I had planned for a 3:30 to 3:40, but given the conditions, I don’t think it was all that horrible. This year’s race I started back in the 10:00 minute/mile group right before the race started, so it took me 10 minutes roughly to pass the starting line. Last year, I think it was around 8:00 minutes to cross the starting line. I tried to squeeze my way through but there were just too many people. Actually, for those planning on running next year, there’s one way in to the main section that is not fenced. Afterwards, you need to climb over the fence. I found this out the hard way and not really wanting to risk hurting myself right before the race, I decided not to scale the fence at the 3:30:00 pace group area.

Anyway, when I finally crossed the starting line, I think I made a huge mistake on trying to weave through the huge crowd of people. It took a lot of energy and at the end, I didn’t really make much progress since my first 5k (which seemed to zip by) was at a 9:15/mile pace. Also, my Garmin watch wasn’t picking up my pace accurately due to the high rise buildings and the first mile being a tunnel caused me to run for brief moments a lot faster than I should have.

After the first 5k, it became a lot easier to move around and I was able to start cruising at an 8:00/mile or so. At mile 4, I looked for my girlfriend who happened to make a surprise visit that weekend to cheer me on for the race (She’s quite wonderful :)) but I realized that there were two sides divided by a median and I had no idea if she would be on the left hand side or right hand side. It wasn’t until mile 9 did I finally see her since we kept on missing each other.

By the halfway mark, I was feeling a little tired but kept cruising at an 8:00/mile pace. By this point, I had caught up with the 3:40 pace group and I decided to run with them for a little bit since my chip time was a little over 2 minutes slower than theirs and so if I finished with them, I would end up with a 3:37 or so so which was fine with me given my fatigue at the time.

Unfortunately I never ended up finishing with them since once mile 16 hit, I hit the “wall.” It happened rather quickly too, I was tired for most of the race but once mile 16 hit, I just became really tired all of a sudden and that began my Marathon “meltdown.” Mile’s 16-17 was pretty rough, I picked it up at 18 or so only to hit a second “wall” after running an 8:30 somewhere between miles 18-20. At this point, I was utterly frustrated since I was exhausted, it was getting really hot and I knew my pace was dropping fast.

From miles 20-25, I watched the 3:45 group pass me, then the 3:50 group, then the 3:55 and finally the 4:00 group. When I saw the 4:00 pace group pass me, I nearly cried since I worked hard to train for this marathon and I was getting no where close to my 3:30:00 goal. I walked a lot from miles 22-23 around the Chinatown area since my IT band was starting to hurt strangely, luckily this went away at mile 24 or so. At mile 24, there was an announcer that applauded everyone’s efforts and emphasized that there were only 2 miles left and to finish strong. He was pretty inspiring and I was able to pick up the pace for about a half mile. I then walked a little bit more until mile 25. Once I saw the sign for mile 25, I picked up the pace one last time and was able to finish the last 1.2 miles at about an 8:00/mile. I saw Brittany while running down Michigan Ave and that was really encouraging. I kept increasing my pace with so many people in the crowd cheering and Roosevelt’s little hill was annoying but I kept going knowing it would end really really soon. I saw the finish line and I began to kick it in but I had to laugh while finishing the last 100 meters or so since I found it “fitting” given my race experience that the last song was a slow country song. Either way, I crossed the finish line and Chicago Marathon #2 was officially over.

14 weeks of training, starting at 9-10 miles a week and picking it up to 20-25 then 27-32. This was the longest I’ve ever consistently trained for anything and without getting injured in the process. While I’m not super thrilled about my time and I’ll probably try to break 4:00 next year or something, I’m definitely happy that I didn’t get injured in my training like I did last year. They say that you have to add more base mileage into your training to avoid hitting the wall quite so early but it baffles me how some people can do 40-50 miles a week given the time commitment with work and other stuff.

For those planning on running the Chicago Marathon next year or sometime in the future, here are some tips/notes:
1. If you have someone coming out to cheer you on, definitely let them know which side of the road you’ll be running on. Brittany had a plan to see me like 8 times during the race but due to sheer volume of runners and not knowing which side she’d be on, I only saw her 3 times, once at mile 9, another at mile 19 and finally at mile 25. So be sure to know which side to run on so they can see you through the crowds.
2. If you’re going to be using a Nike Watch, Garmin Watch or some sort of GPS watch, realize that it will struggle for the first 5 miles or so given the high rise buildings and the tunnel that you go through immediately after the start of the race (this really screws up tracking for a good bit).
3. Register for a Corral start as soon as possible. I qualified for Corral A given my 1:35:57 half marathon time but I didn’t register early enough and ended up in the Open Corral.
4. If you’re stuck in the Open Corral, get to the race early and start lining up around 6:45 AM. I foolishly lined up around 7:15 and tried to creep my way to the 8:00/mile pace group but failed epically since it was hard to get through so many people.
5. If you don’t like porta-potties, use the restroom before coming to the race or get to a coffee shop around 6:15-6:30 since the lines get really long after that.
6. Start slow, you might lose 1-2 minutes in your overall time from this but you’ll save probably 20+ minutes near the end since most people waste a lot of energy early on and hit the wall a lot earlier than they’re supposed to.
7. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated. I didn’t see anyone collapse this year but last year I saw someone collapse from dehydration and it’s definitely a scary thing to see.
8. Try to get in as many pictures as possible (Pics are expensive, it’s like $100 just about) and SMILE! lol. I was reviewing some of my photos from and there are several pics where I look miserable, lol.
9. I didn’t do this this year but I would recommend bringing a walkie-talkie if you have one available since the cell towers are overloaded before/after the race.
10. Parking at the Millenium Parking Garage was $26 this year. Stairs are not your friend after a race.