2017 Chicago Marathon Recap

Two weeks ago I ran my first marathon.  After 18 weeks of hard training I had done all that I could to prepare for my first attempt at running 26.2 miles.  Overall, my training went really well, and I felt really prepared going into race weekend.  Even though I did cross the finish line, I unfortunately wasn’t able to run the race that I had hoped to.

The morning of the Chicago Marathon I woke up about 15 minutes before my alarm went off, full of excitement but also nervous about what lie ahead of me that day.  After showering and getting dressed I was on my way to the closest L stop by 5:30 that morning.  On my way to the L stop I ate the bagel with cream cheese that I had saved from the hotel’s continental breakfast the day prior, and also started hydrating with water.

My family and I stayed just off of the Magnificent Mile, which meant that I only had about a 10 minute ride on the L that morning.  After getting off the Red Line at the Harrison stop, I walked less than two blocks to the closest Starbucks so that I could get a Chai tea, my go to caffeine source.  Starbucks was almost empty, and I was in and out in less than five minutes.  With my tea in hand, I made the five minute walk to the Ronald McDonald House Charities hospitality tent, which was located on Michigan Avenue just outside of the southern most security checkpoint for the race.  Inside the tent I had a piece of toast with peanut butter to get some protein into me, as well as a banana.

Excited to run on behalf of RMHC!

While I ate the second part of my breakfast, there was no denying the enthusiasm that was present in the tent.  The DJ helped get everybody ramped up for the race, and the Team RMHC team leader provided us with last minutes words of motivation.  I took advantage of the private porta potties available to Team RMHC runners, and then right after taking a team picture at 6:45 I met up with my friend Kathleen outside of the tent.

The 2017 Team RMHC team

Kathleen, her mom, and I made the short walk north on Michigan Avenue to security checkpoint 1, which was the recommended access point for our corral, corral H.  We said our goodbyes to her mom, and then stood in what seemed like a non moving security line.  Given the recent shooting in Las Vegas, it wasn’t surprising that security was very thorough that morning, but we were anxious to get through the checkpoint and to get in line for a porta potty.

While in line for a porta potty, we watched the time tick away.  The entrance to our corral was set to close at 7:45, and since corral H was the last corral in our wave we were anxious about ensuring that we made it into the corral in time.  I was able to use the porta potty one last time and then we bolted for our corral, getting into it right at 7:45.  Talk about a close call!  We slowly moved towards the start line, and at 8:21 finally crossed the start line.  I was off running my first marathon!

Kathleen and I ready to cross the start line in Chicago

Kathleen and I had planned in advance to utilize the 4:1 intervals that we had each trained doing.  Our plan for the day was to run the entire race together, but since she had a big focus on finishing in less than five hours that I’d give her the go ahead to run ahead of me if I started to struggle.  I honestly thought that we’d be able to run the majority, if not the entire race, together, but unfortunately my body had other plans for me that morning.

We spent the first couple of miles weaving through the crowd, and at times I pushed my pace a bit faster than I should have.  I let the excitement of running Chicago, as well as keeping up with Kathleen (who was feeling great that morning), get the best of me, and a couple of my splits in those first miles were way faster than I should have let myself run.

Splits for Miles 1-3:
10:24, 9:40, 9:11

It was hard to not be excited and run faster than I should have early on in the race while running past iconic scenes like the Chicago Theater

Part of the drive to run faster was because my family had planned for their first cheer point to be between miles 3 and 4.  However, they wound up not being where they said they would be in time, and I missed seeing them.  I let myself get frustrated and upset, which was a huge mistake.  I don’t know if this contributed to the indigestion that I started to develop over the next couple of miles, but I shouldn’t have let them not being there affect me as much as it did.

Over the next couple of miles I struggled to keep up with Kathleen.  For a couple of miles she was just ahead of me on the course, well within my sight.  At almost every walk break she turned around to see where I was, and I eventually gave her to go ahead to run ahead of me.  I was starting to struggle from an upset stomach, and I didn’t want how I was feeling to get in the way of the sub-5 finish that I knew that she desperately wanted.  We wound up getting separated around mile 7.

Splits for Miles 4-7:
10:24, 10:27, 10:56, 10:45

Despite how I physically felt, the views and the crowds during the first miles of the race could not have been more incredible.  It was a beautiful morning to run (it was sunny and 57 degrees when I crossed the start line), and running past Lincoln Park Zoo and along Lake Shore Drive provided for gorgeous scenery.

Running north out of Lincoln Park and along Lake Shore Drive

The crowd support as I ran through Boystown and down Broadway during miles 8 and 9 were beyond fabulous, and helped to temporarily distract me from my indigestion.

Splits for Miles 8-9:
10:57, 11:22

Just after passing the 15k mark, I knew that I had to stop at a porta potty, and of course there was a line.  I stood in line for about 5 minutes, and wound up standing next to a woman who was pregnant and due in December.  We talked about how her running while pregnant was beneficial, and I shared some of my experiences with her from when I ran while pregnant back in 2015.  I eventually got to the front of the line, took care of business, and was finally on my way again.

It took my body what seemed like forever to overcome the porta potty stop and get back into a good running rhythm again.  Thankfully, my family was at their second planned stop for the day, just past the mile 11 marker.  My husband gave me a couple of packages of fruit snacks, which I was incredibly thankful to receive since I was fearful of using my Gu packets due to my indigestion.  (I wound up only taking two that day, one before the start of the race and one around the 5k point.)  Although I had Clif Shot Bloks in my hydration vest, my stomach was needing something even more gentle.

Splits for Miles 10-11:
12:18, 11:10

Seeing my husband, son, parents, and sister, and eating a package of fruit snacks, seemed to give me the push that I needed to find my rhythm again.  Although my pace was slower than it had been in the first miles of the race, I finally started feeling a tad stronger for the first time since my indigestion had started.  The closer that I got to the halfway point, the more confident I was about finishing the race strong.  After crossing the half mark, I was even able to push myself to run a sub 11 minute mile.  I don’t know where that energy came from, but I tried to hold onto it for as long as I could.

Splits for Miles 12-14:
11:33, 11:12, 10:10

Just past the 20k mark on the course

That mile 14 split was the last fast split that I saw that day.  My tummy troubles started back up again early in the 15th mile, and before the mile 18 marker I had to make another porta potty stop.  I really hate that I had to stop twice during the race, but I really had no other option.  I’m sad and disappointed because I had been able to complete several long runs, including my 20 miler, without any bathroom stops.  But I couldn’t control my indigestion and there was no way around it, I had to stop.

In addition to my indigestion, my legs also started to tighten up around mile 17.  This slowed me down even more.  At this point, all I kept telling myself was that Tammy never gave up during her cancer fight, and that I couldn’t give up either.  I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and drew on the enthusiasm from the crowd to help me keep going.

Splits for Miles 15-19:
11:53, 11:57, 11:54, 11:57, 13:28

By this point, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was in the 70s.  I was incredibly thankful for the couple of “sponge stations” that had been set up along the course.  In addition, a couple of Chicago fire trucks were brought out and the hoses were connected to fire hydrants.  Wiping myself down with the sponges and running through the mist from the fire truck hoses was incredibly refreshing.  Some spectators were also handing out small water bottles.  Even though I had water in my vest, and there were more than enough water stations along the course, drinking the very cold water from the water bottle that I received really helped in quenching my thirst.

Thank goodness for those cold, wet sponges

The cold water was incredibly refreshing with how hot and sunny it started becoming late in the race.

Right at the mile marker 21 my husband and sister were there cheering, and I received another couple packages of fruit snacks.  My sister snapped a quick picture of me in front of the mile marker, since it was at that point that I had hit my farthest run ever.

Splits for Miles 20-21:
12:25, 12:34

Receiving some much needed fruit snacks from my husband

Celebrating one of many milestones for the day

After saying goodbye to my husband and sister I very shortly afterwards arrived in Chinatown.  I had a blast running through Chinatown, where the crowds were slightly bigger than they had been since leaving the heart of downtown at the half mark.  In Chinatown I got a banana from a food station (the two stations prior had been completely out of bananas), and continued to push myself as much as I could.

Korean drummers just prior to entering Chinatown

You know you’ve arrived in Chinatown when…

Entering Chinatown

The closer that I got to the finish line, the more my confidence grew the reality that lied ahead of me: crossing the finish line of my first marathon.  I slowly but surely made my way towards the finish line.

Splits for Miles 22-26.98
12:17, 12:21, 13:48, 12:29, 13:37, 12:15 (last 0.98 miles)

One of the Chicago Fire Department “hydration units” that I passed during the last miles of the race

I ran the blue tangent line as closely as I could, especially during the second half of the race when the course wasn’t as crowded as it had been during the first half of the race.

Just 0.2 miles away from crossing the finish line of my first marathon

I crossed the finish line of my first marathon at 1:44 p.m.  My official finish time was 5:23:35 (12:31 pace), though according to my Garmin, which paused during my two porta potty stops, I ran 26.98 miles in 5:13:27 (11:37 pace).  Given the indigestion that I faced during the race, and knowing that I pushed through the best that I could, I cannot be disappointed in myself.  After all, I ran a freaking marathon, and my Garmin pace was right on track with my average pace during my longest training runs.

After I crossed the finish line, I was excited to meet up with my husband and sister (my parents had taken little man back to the hotel for a nap), relax, and refuel.  After eating some lunch inside the RMHC tent, changing into dry clothes, and getting a massage, we made our way back to the hotel to meet up with my parents and little man.  We had a big milestone to celebrate!

I’m a marathoner!!!!!

I had nothing but an incredible experience running with Team RMHC

QOTD: Have you ever dealt with indigestion during a race?  What did you do?

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86 Responses to 2017 Chicago Marathon Recap

  1. Jess from JessRunsATL says:

    Wow, sounds like some challenging conditions to deal with, especially for your first marathon! You really proved how tough and strong you are, and your training for sure helped you cross the finish line in a very respectable time! You have so much to be proud of. Big congrats!!!!!!

  2. runeatralph says:

    Looks like you had a great race, even with the stomach issues. You should definitely be proud!

  3. kstewjones says:

    Congrats! Running a marathon is no joke and that feeling of crossing the finish line is one you will never forget! Great job!

  4. Congrats again! Chicago is a great race and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Wendy says:

    I loved reading your recap because you hit all the high points of the race. That back half of the course is deceptively tough with no shade and some really long stretches of boredom. The first time I ran Chicago, I started to feel crummy very early on and finished very similarly to you. I’m pretty sure it was a combination of heat and nerves. But finishing is winning no matter what time you had. Everyone receives the same medal. Congrats and welcome to the club!

  6. Aww man, i’m getting teary eyed just reading this! So many congrats on your first marathon. That is quite an accomplishment. I’m sorry you had tummy troubles but in spite of that you did great!

  7. Renée says:

    Hey Kathryn, first of all CONGRATULATIONS on your marathon ! I can imagine it was a bit disappointing to have stomach issues on race day. It’s an amazing achievement though and officially now your PR! So there is always a chance to improve it. Maybe with some reflection on what you ate during training and all up to the day can help? I know I’m constantly reviewing what I did to hopefully have the next race be an improvement.

    My first marathon was Paris 2015 and I had trained with a very good friend of mine, especially the long runs, all up until the race. We planned on running together, also using intervals of 4.5KM/ 500 m walking. Unfortunately it was Kim who had the upset stomach after about 5K! I really wanted us to run together but all of the extra walking we were doing was killing my foot (I had a neuroma)! At mile 20 I finally said to her I had to go on otherwise I wouldn’t make it. We both actually cried at that moment because we really wanted to finish together. But of course she understood. So I went on and finished about 15 min before her. It took her two years to run another marathon again because it was such a disappointment, but she finally did it this year again and had a HUGE PR from the first time 🙂

    It was an amazing atmosphere in Chicago, but so many of my friends struggled that day for various reasons. Just being a spectator was incredible though, and I’m in complete awe of those who were able to run it ! WELL DONE!!

  8. Great job girl! I’m sorry I didn’t see you at all that day but you were on my mind! I take immodium before every long run. I also am very very careful to avoid dairy and high fiber food (wheat bread, black beans) before big races and runs. The tummy troubs were debilitating in 2013 when I was running 30 races but I finally got my eating under control and I haven’t had any trouble since.

  9. Congratulations on your first marathon! The first one is always full of ups and downs. So great that your family was there to cheer you on.

  10. kookyrunner says:

    Congratulations on completing your first marathon! I’m so sorry that you had stomach issues during the race – I know how frustrating that can be, but you handled it like a champ.

    The back half of the course was pretty brutal but I agree that running through Chinatown was an awesome part of the race!

  11. Chaitali says:

    Congrats on a great race! It sounds like you pushed through some tough conditions. I heard a lot of people struggled with the heat that day.

  12. Matea says:

    Congratulations! There’s nothing like a first marathon.
    I decided to make Denver RnR my first, while living & training in Florida. Let me tell you, big mistake! I can laugh about it know, but I was in a lot of pain then, and finished way slower than I thought I would. I think you did amazing. It’s a long distance, and I for one never know what to expect until it happens.
    I’ve suffered from digestion issues myself, and I love to drink kombucha, it helps calm my stomach. I drink it the day before to be regular. It’s strong so you have to get used to it. I really believe every person and body are different, and every runner has to learn what’s best for them. However, I’m wondering if you didn’t eat just a tad too much, or too heavy, before the race? My stomach usually can’t handle that much, mainly cause of the nerves. Although you had a long time before the race start, maybe just one bagel or toast would have been enough, because they are slightly dry. Even though runners love bread, I don’t find them that easy to digest on race morning. Just a thought. I usually go for bananas, PB, just like you, and oats if available. If I’m not feeling well, I skip ‘real food’ and do chews and all that sport nutrition instead.
    Anyways, good job and here’s to the next race!

  13. vicki says:

    Congratulations on your marathon!!! You did a great job even with your tummy issues. I’ve had a race where I didn’t feel just right, I think it was just careless choices on the day prior.

  14. Congratulations!!! Wow, what an amazing experience. It’s been fun to read about all your training and seeing you finish your marathon! I’m inspired!

  15. AJ says:

    Wow what perseverance!! Great job on your first marathon:)

  16. Lesley says:

    You’re a marathoner! Despite the stomach problems, you still crossed the finish line! I haven’t had indigestion during a race, but sometimes I need to wait until my stomach settles afterwards. I sprung for some Ginger Ale this weekend, and was happy I had it after my run yesterday.

  17. Swimst0807 says:

    Great job on your first marathon!!

  18. Congrats!!!!! No matter what battles you fight on the race course, that finish line is ever-so-sweet. I had a similar experience at Grandma’s 2015…but I was trying to use fruit snacks exclusively and (stupidly) didn’t drink enough plain water and had too much Gatorade instead. The combination of all those factors made for some seriously bad tummy distress (at least that’s my theory). I can laugh about it now, but at the time, I was seeking out every available porta-pot (between miles 15-21) and was not happy.

  19. ariscott says:

    Amazing story, and congrats on finishing something most people cannot do!

  20. Huge congratulations Kathryn! I’m sorry your stomach gave you some trouble. It is a huge accomplishment to cross that finish line! WTG!

  21. Congratulations to you! You trained and worked really hard for this. I hope you are really proud of all that you accomplished.

  22. CONGRATU-FREAKIN’-LATIONS!!! YOU DID IT!!! Tummy troubles are the worst, but you powered through and kicked that marathon’s butt! Way to go, Marathoner!

  23. Congratulations again on finishing your first marathon! It’s really is a distance that you just can’t have expectations for the first time around. It’s SUCH a different experience than any long run–or at least, it always has been in my experience. Of course, it’s impossible to go in without expectations, but I have yet to meet a first-time marathoner who was able to walk away from the race and say, “Yes, that went exactly according to plan and did not deviate at all from how I hoped it would go.” I BLEW UP during my first marathon (hit the wall at mile 14!), which came completely out of left field (in my eyes) and was really frustrating. Even now with six marathons under my belt, I honestly never know what to expect when I cross the start line any given marathon day. It’s a really, really tough distance, and it’s really, really tough to be able to walk away from it without feeling like it beat you rather than you beat it. BUT. All that being said, you still did it, and that’s what really matters!

  24. agsignor says:

    Woohoo! Congrats on your finish. That is really something to be proud of!

  25. Once again congratulations on finishing your first marathon! What a great recap of an amazing race!

  26. CONGRATS!!!!! You are a marathoner! No better feeling. Soak it up!

  27. YOU ARE AMAZING!!!! Congratulations!

    No matter what, marathons are HARD. The weather was brutal out there, I’ve heard, and you should be proud even if it’s not the race you wanted.

    I had to have my gall bladder removed in my 20s and that has led to some very precarious GI issues, especially since I started running. Last year, during the DONNA marathon relay, my stomach absolutely revolted. I made it to the portapotty, but ugh. It changed the entire scope of my day. I do usually take Immodium before a big race, now, just for the security.

  28. Karen :0) says:

    CONGRATULATIONS, Kathryn!! I am so so sorry to hear about the indigestion but you still did an amazing job! I loved reading your recap – Chicago sounds like a great one to run! I really enjoyed following your training progress and now your race! Congrats again!! 🙂

  29. Coco says:

    Huge congrats! Of course you have specific goals going in to a marathon, but don’t forget how amazing it is to run 26.2 + miles! Sorry for your tummy troubles. Once they start there is nothing you can except for what you need to do. 😉

  30. Congrats again on your marathon! You trained well and even though things did not go according to plan, you rocked it!

  31. Congratulations Katherine! You are a MARATHONER!!!! Even though it was not the race you were hoping for you still did an incredible job and did not quit when the going got tough. You can not predict how race day goes even with being fully trained going into it. Now you have a reason to run another one right? Enjoy your accomplishment!

  32. Congratulations on completing your first marathon!! I’ve never faced indigestion issues during a race or even a run and I’m sorry you had to experience that during your first full. I thought it was really sweet that you thought of your friend Tammy during the race when it got tuff and how she never gave up the fight. Congrats again!

  33. Angela says:

    AMAZING! Such a huge accomplishment running a marathon Well Done!!! I’ve been having tummy troubles whilst running lately too, not fun!!

  34. angela@marathonsandmotivation.com says:

    You really pushed through this! Congratulations on finishing a tough race…I hope to run it some day 🙂

  35. tonee78 says:

    Great job! My first marathon I had stomach issues, lost at least 15 minutes in and out of portopotties and dealing with it. You did amazing considering.

  36. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets says:

    Congratulations!! I really enjoyed reading your recap. Running your first marathon is an amazing experience and you did a great job! Sorry you had the surprise tummy issues, but you were still able to run strong! Chicago sounds amazing!

  37. Kendra G. says:

    Congratulations!!!! I would imagine that we must have finished pretty closely to one another. I ran for RMHC as well and finished in 5:23:14! It was not the race I wanted to run either but I did it and so did you!! Chicago was amazing, I am sure I’ll be back for another stab at it eventually.

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  39. Amazing job on such a tough, hot, race day.
    Sorry you were not feeling well – but way to push through

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  41. Congratulation, so happy for! And now that you know what its mentally like to be there, you can grow from this and kick even more butt if/when you do another!

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