Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Bank Of America Chicago Marathon!!!

Hey everyone!

This is one of those posts where I wish I could have just videotaped the entire thing to show you how awesome the Chicago Marathon was. But since that didn't happen, I'll do my best with words and pics to show you just how totally spectacular this event is. For real.

Matt and I arrived in Chicago late Saturday morning, which honestly was causing me some anxiety because I like to arrive a couple of days early for an international marathon. No worries, it was cool. ;)  

I watched Jurassic World and then became totally mesmerised with the en route map.

 This view never gets old.

The expo is insanely far from the start and finish area but we lucked into a complimentary shuttle that was taking runners to and from. Chicago knows what's up. ;)

This expo was packed. There were SO many people. I figured it would be a lot like the Boston expo, and it sort of was I guess, but I felt like there were more people when manoeuvring through the crowds.

After spending some $$$ and spending too much time on our feet we cabbed it back to the hotel to carb up and I had yet to introduce Flat Heather!

Here's what I planned on wearing:

But then there was so much talk of the heat that would arrive that I panicked and made a super last minute tank swap:
Since Matt and I were running our first marathon together in two years (gasp) I was reminded of how much less time guys spend debating over outfit choices and colours, lol. 
Pre race dinner at Blaze Pizza:

We got up and super dark o'clock (4:30 am. which really felt like 6:30 am to us with the time change). One last check at the weather. The marathon crew had issued a "Yellow Alert," which what I could tell was a lot like a traffic light system. The start would be cool and shaded and during the back half of the marathon the sun would gain power, quickly. Yikes.

I think I'm ready.
This morning's race plan: Out run the heat! LOL Yeah, okay we'll see about that.
We hit up the complimentary breakfast with tons of other runners at our hotel for a feast of bananas and pancakes with coffee of course. And then in the darkness of Sunday morning we left our hotel with a handful of other runners, which then turned into bunches of other runners, into hundreds, and then thousands of other runners up Michigan Avenue. I thought, "These many runners heading in unison to the same direction has to mean that today is going to be great!"

After finally entering the gates I got to see just how organized this marathon was!
But first a photo opp!
We were corralled into chutes and then into waves by colour and then into corrals by letter! And THEN into groups by pace. Yeah, I guess with 45000 runners you sort of need to be this prepared. Matt and I were worried that we would not get to the corral on time, but we had tons of time! LOL. The reason we were stressed about it is because if you do not arrive at your corral by 7:20, you do not get in. You then will have to start at the back of your wave. Yikes. No big deal I bet you're thinking since it's chip timed, but with so many people you would then expend a ton of energy weaving through other runners. 

Matt and I got separated at the corral A/B boundary and I chilled on the curb between two other women. One of them said, "Well she's (me) wearing Boston shorts so I guess she can sit with us." LOL, I had no idea they were even together so of course I looked mortified and then they giggled. 

I was quite chilly and would not part with my throw away until 5 minutes before go time. We sang the national anthem and then we were off!

Even at the beep of my Garmin I still wasn't sure  what I expected of myself during the marathon. I really knew I wasn't in peak shape, but I knew that I wasn't out of shape either. I just had tapered way longer than I ever had before, with my last 21 miler happening during the first week of September. 

As we started running I noticed how fresh my legs were. So fresh in fact that my sub 8 pace felt completely effortless for the the first several miles. Spoiler: Near the final parts, things changed quite drastically.

As you leave the start you are almost immediately entered in a tunnel sort of thing where the fan screams are echoing so loud it was near deafening, but oh so super cool!!! Unfortunately here was the first time along the course that my Garmin lost satellite reception!!! I didn't panic, much lol, because this race was totally decked out with pacing groups, not single bunnies. Groups! I could still see the 3:30 bunnies up ahead and the 3:35 bunnies close by me. Note: at another point when satellite reception disappeared my Garmin was reading 23:45/mile! LOL Yeah, so not that accurate of a race for me since I was definitely clicking along at a much faster pace than that. Can anyone tell me if this was because of the tunnels or buildings???

You have to really love the big crowds to enjoy this marathon. And man it was BIG!!! I felt like every block had it's own finish line party going on with music, screams, drinks, food, cheering fans and signs. It was amazing! There were over 2 million spectators!!!! I got to see so much of the city because the marathon runs through 24 different neighbourhoods!!! Chicago, you sure are pretty cool. 

Running through China town! 
Two songs that really pumped me up! 

1. Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones


2. Pump of the Jam, by Technotronic of course! 
Completely awesome crowd motivation!

So everything wasn't all unicorns, glitter and rainbows of course. And I think that's what makes the finish line so much of a vicotry because the marathon can turn into a real beast, real quick. 

I sort of needed to pee at the start. Sort of. Not a whole lot and the lineups were huge! So of course, I thought, "meh, it'll pass." It did not. There were Porta Johns every couple of miles and I saw runners dodging off course to go into them several times and I almost convinced myself to go in. Almost. Then at around 15-16 miles I decided that I was wasting too much mental energy debating on it so I said, "Screw it," and headed off course! This is the first time in my marathon history I ever did this. I clearly needed to go since I was in there so long and my belly hurt from holding it, TMI??? LOL. 

When I came out my toes and hips/quads were cramping and I felt so stiff and rusty. I tried hard to get back into the groove, but by then I was already getting depleted. I took a Gatorade at every single aid station right from the get go and a gel at every 5 miles, including at the start. 

There were so many photographers on course and I didn't see some of them....I'll show you why LOL:
I'm 99% sure this is what it looks like right before you think you're going to die from heat and dehydration, and you don't see the camera man. LOL. The only thing that got me through the final miles was the fact that I'm super stubborn and I bribed myself with some super tasty treats. ;) Mental strategies to the max. LOL
The marathon was shaded for over half of my run before it was full fledged sun. The tall buildings were spot on for providing shade. (fist pump to the tall buildings). I was coming in and out of my bonk and finally I decided I'd run mile for mile. This was my 12th marathon and I somehow forget after each one just how tough the last few miles are. I stopped and walked at a couple of aid stations and it took real convincing to start running again. By this point it wasn't cramping, it was pure exhaustion and heat. I wondered if I had gotten in my last 20 miler would this part feel easier? I did a lot of mental coaching and positive self talk and before I knew it I was at the 40k checkpoint! Then I knew I could do it.
This was actually between 35-40k I'm just not sure where exactly. But I do know that I realized that I was still going to qualify with a sub 3:35 if I even maintained 9 min miles here.
Then it was game on!

There were awesome signs along the course! I laughed at so many but my favourite was, "Run like it's the start of the Hunger Games!" Some other notable efforts were: 
  • "Bitch betta run!"
  • "I trained for months to hold this sign!"
  • "The Kenyans are drinking your beer!"
  • Anyone watch Breaking Bad??? Well one of my favourites was a huge poster of Jesse's face with the caption "Run Bitch," on it. It was awesome! LOL.
  • Of course what would a marathon be without a huge Ryan Gosling face with his signature, "Hey Girl," expression? ;)  
This course was completely flat and awesome! The only incline I ever heard of on this course was just before the finish. You round a turn and then proceed to some sort of ramp that has a sign saying 800m to go. The ramp felt huge to me, but I'm sure was more like a speed bump in real fact. I told myself that I had logged so many hot humid fast 800s over the summer in training that this should be cake, but it wasn't. Then I saw 400m, 300m and then it's all a blur...

The Finish! Oh beautiful Finish!

Free finish line beer, yes please! I drank it as I hobbled over to meet Matt.

Chicago had rockstar finish line goodie bags just like Boston! And when I couldn't decide what flavour of protein shake I wanted, they gave me both! ;)

Here are my splits and stuff: 
Place Gender993
Place Age Group237
Place Overall4826
Finish Time03:33:16

The bling! 

Team Callaghan! ;)

The Nike store was awesome! They were having a post race party with a dj, dancing staff and runners, free food and free medal engraving!

Matt and I stayed long enough to snap this pic and then headed to Dunkin and Chipolte for some post race treats! 

I am super proud of myself and Matt for our efforts at the  Chicago Marathon. I had such a blast and totally surprised myself at this awesome race! Congrats to all runners!!!!!!!!!!

If you stayed tuned until the end of this super long recap, you deserve a medal fo your own! I'm off to nap with my best furry chick now since we didn't get home until 3a.m.!!!! Have an awesome day and thanks for stopping by the GGR blog!

Did you run the Chicago Marathon??? Tell me about it!
How was your weekend of running???

Happy Running,
Heather :)


  1. That Chi town heat is no joke! Loved the re-cap! Love how competitive you are, it's inspiring! I still don't get the DD hype, but maybe because I'm a Cai girl ;) xoxo, ganeeban

  2. Congrats Heather & Matt! You're awesomesauce

    1. Thanks Charlotte! :) Hope to see you in Moncton!

  3. Awesome job to both of you! Crazy how warm it was for an October day! Love all your pictures...I couldn't imagine running with that many spectators!

    1. It was like our August!

      The spectators definitely helped pull me along!

  4. Congrats!!! Great job!!

    Love beer at the finish!

  5. Great job!! That race seems like so much fun, I am going to have to make it some year.

  6. Way to crush Chicago. You did awesome. Everybody talks about how awesome Chicago marathon is. I am going to try to get there next year

  7. I'm amazed at your finish time...especially because you took a pee break!! haha. Congrats on another fantastic marathon!!

    Blaze pizza sounds like a GREAT pre-race dinner. Pizza in general is just the perfect food pre-race, but Blaze is especially yummy.

    1. Thanks Ali!

      We LOVED Blaze! It was our first time there. Are you telling me there are several of those in the US?

  8. Way to go Heather. Congrats on another great race. I want to run Chicago now. Keep your chin up :)

  9. Congrats on your race! Sounds like an awesome time! How did Matt do? I had a blast pacing the 10k at Valley Harvest!

    1. Thanks Anna! I'm so sad I missed the Valley. :(

      Matt ran 4 seconds faster than me (3:33:12). If I only knew I would have totally pushed harder ;)

  10. Congrats Heather! Another great race in the books! How did Matt do?
    I had a blast pacing the Valley Harvest 10k :) And now I'm ready for PEI half!!!!!

  11. Heather!!! Congrats x 100000 on another awesome marathon finish. Please, please, please write up a blog post with your top five tips for taking perfect race photos. I swear you always look like a running model!

    My Garmin acted up as well. Before the race another runner told me that she wasn't going to start her Garmin until the 3 mile marker. I guess I missed the reason why because I thought that comment was weird. As we were running in the tunnel and I lost signal I realized this must be what she was talking about. My Garmin said I ran a 7 minute mile for the first mile LOL! My mile 2 pace was also off by a couple of minutes as well. Next year I think I'll just start my Garmin at mile 3!

    Thanks for sharing the story about Sam having piriformis with me. It is so encouraging to hear about other people who have come back stronger than ever!

    1. HAHAHA, Thanks Kristina! I hope you saw my near death photo above, lol.

      I could not believe my Garmin! It has NEVER acted up, especially in a race. I felt betrayed! ;)

      Rest up Kristina. You'll be back pounding the streets in no time. ;)

  12. So many thoughts... I shall number them.

    1. "I like to arrive a couple days early for international marathons" <---- I want to be you when I grow up!!!

    2. We loooooved Jurrasic World! How do you stay calm with flying? I need help with that.

    3. Where is Flat Matt?

    4. I like that color coding warning system Chicago gives. I wonder if they started it AFTER the Chicago Marathon where many could not finish due to the heat? I forgot what year that was?

    5. Were there more crowds than at Boston?

    6. "So everything wasn't all unicorns, glitter and rainbows of course. And I think that's what makes the finish line so much of a vicotry because the marathon can turn into a real beast, real quick. " <----- THIS! I totally know what you mean.

    7. I have stopped to pee at least once in every half and every full I have done- even my PR! My trick is that I don't even go in the port o john if there is a line. I just go behind it! That's what I did in my PR marathon and I was just like, aw eff it, I'm going for a PR here! That being said, I have never had to #2 during a marathon (only 15 times before the start of one) so obviously if I had to #2, I'd HAVE to go in a port o john!

    8. What was Matt's time???

    9. I was following you and you REALLY picked it up at the end. My first alert said you were clocking 7:56 miles, then the next alert it was an 8:30 (prob included bathroom stop) but by the end you were doing 8:09s, or you averaged in 8:09 overall, I forget. But my point is you really made up some time in the end, which is AWESOME!

    CONGRATULATIONS, HEATHER! You ran a great race and BQ'ed!!! :) From your description of the race, I think I have solidified my decision to put my name in for the lottery!

    1. Thanks Megan!!!

      I don't know that I am calm when I am flying as much as I am realizing that it is out of my control and I'm okay with that, plus I have to try and keep Matt calm, lol. Jurrassic World was awesome! I saw it in theatre and screamed out loud a few times and embarrassed my sister, LOL.

      I don't think there's a flat Matt as much as a crumpled up in his suitcase like a guy Matt. ;)

      The year Chicago was real hot was 2007 where they halted the marathon and pulled runners off course.

      There actually were more crowds than Boston! Last year after the Boston bombings there were about one million spectators on course and Chicago had twice that. It was very clear that Chicago had more just by sight and sound. Plus the weather was definitely favourable in Chicago on Sunday for spectating. There were also several runners near me at all times.

      I HAD to pee. I drank too much water before hand because I felt dehydrated from the flights there. The hardest part was the energy I wasted holding it in.

      Matt ran 4 seconds faster than me (3:33:20). He said it was not his day and was just not 'into it.' He has a backup plan. ;)

      Yes, my pace was not as consistent as per usual in a marathon with the bathroom stop, leg cramps and then general exhaustion. I really got pumped during the last two miles or so so I tried to crank it up a notch, much harder to do at this stage of the marathon, lol.

      Definitely run Chicago!!!!!!!!

    2. Clearly I'm still sleep deprived: Matt's time was 3:33:12

    3. Thanks for replying to all my ramblings. :) I laughed out loud at "crumpled up in his suitcase Matt" haha! Loved reading your re cap.

  13. I was tracking you!! Congratulations on such a strong, fast, race!! You're amazing!!!!!!!!!

    I would love to visit Chicago (and maybe run this race) someday ;)

    1. Thanks Kaella!!!

      You should totally go there! Awesome city and race. :D

  14. Heather I read this a few times but I can't get a signal in Montana to comment! Currently on wifi...just wanted to say congratulations on a fantastic finish!
    You look so amazing in your race pictures!! So strong. It is wild you and Matt had such close finish times. I am glad you had a great trip and race.

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