Chicago Marathon

Chicago, I always knew you would be my first. Oh goodness, where do I even start?

The Expo. It was the biggest expo that I've ever been to. I kind of felt like I was at Disneyland for runners. They had a really cool wall that you could scan your number and your name would appear with "Amy Owns 26.2" or "Amy Owns Chicago." I actually waited in a line to get this silly picture but I'm glad that I did.

Not quite yet in this picture, but just hours away from owning! 
Nike Chicago (formerly Nike Town, which just opened back up after about 6 months of remodeling) had this pretty cool thing going with the hashtag #ownchicago and the @chimarathon tag. There was this screen (that Nike Chicago also tweeted) that was made of twitter names. The more that you tweeted about it, the bigger your name was. Apparently I tweeted about @chimarathon a lot. 

@RunningArmyWife in red on the left! 
So I thought that was pretty dang cool. Then I went over to try to sign up for one of the official Nike Pace teams and hit a conundrum. There was a 4:10 group and a 4:25 group. Not a 4:15 group. Dangit. I decided that I was cautious too often with my pace so I decided the heck with it, I'll sign up for 4:10. I still figured I could use the 4:15 pace tattoo as a backup plan. This actually meant that I had to move back in the corrals (for some reason I ended up in a fast corral that I should have had to qualify for) so the number up in the picture above is not actually the one I ran with. 

The Morning-Of. I woke up at 4:30. Well, that's what time my alarm went off anyway. Jumped in the car with my parents and my brother and drove into the city in the dark. 
Seeing the Chicago Flag and the American Flag made me even more excited. 
My family stopped and had breakfast (still dark) in a Dunkin' Donuts downtown. I ate exactly one Pop Tart, which has been my "long run" breakfast ever since I discovered that it worked for me earlier on in training. I had my gels in my Camelbak, along with my iphone so my parents could use "Find My Iphone" to know where I was. 
My brother, me, my dad pre-race 
Then around 7:15, I said bye to my parents and headed off to the start. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about how hard it would be to find my corral and pace group. But it wasn't hard at all. 

I was a little annoyed to see that it was supposed to be 4:15 group that apparently got changed after the sign was printed. Oh well. Then I turned around and literally 3 feet away from me was a friend of mine from my old running club. 
Me and my friend Julie
45,000 runners and we end up next to each other in the corral? Pretty amazing.  

I kind of wish that I had taken more pictures at the start, since I had the phone. But I was just too nervous. So I put my phone away at 7:45 and waited anxiously for the 8:00 start. 

The Race. I'm not sure if it was girl-issues or just the emotion of the moment, but I got a little teary-eyed as I crossed the start line. I know! The start line? I guess it was just all that training for 18+ weeks had lead up to this moment. I quickly told myself to "man up" and concentrate, so the moment didn't last long. I ran with Julie and the pace group for about the first 8 miles or so, but they were going just a bit fast for me so I decided to drop off. 
The Garmin did work pretty well, except for a couple times in the Loop area. Just too many tall buildings. I'm pretty sure my first mile was not an 8:20. We ran right into a tunnel so I think that's what made it screwed up there. I also don't think that mile 3 was 10:58. But honestly, the rest of the splits look pretty dang close. 

I got into a pretty good pace and stayed pretty much around 9:45 on my own.  My parents took this quick video of me around mile 16. My mom is shouting "1 mile to Kelly!" because my best friend Kelly (a 2-time Chicago Marathoner) jumped in and ran with me for miles 17, 18, and 19. She was so encouraging and awesome, and it really helped looking forward to running with her. 

"It's going to get really hard, but you have to decide to keep going," Kelly told me at one point. She was awesome. Up until about mile 20, I wouldn't have said that the marathon was really any harder than I've worked in a half marathon. In fact, I would go as far as to say that mile 1-15 were actually pretty fun. Then 15 up to 20 was bearable. Then it hit me at 20. 

Hal Higdon said "there is something about crossing the 20-miler barrier, often referred to as 'The Wall,' that tears us apart." Even afterwards, it was amazing how many people I heard talking about those last 6 miles. All the sudden, everything started getting really really tight and hurting everywhere. My feet, my legs, my back, even my butt muscles hurt. If you look at my splits above, you can see my times start to drop. I just wasn't prepared for it mentally. Up until that point, I was on pace for a 4:15. The reason I ended up with a 4:20 was all in those last 6 miles. 

The Finish. It was pretty amazing to see the finish line. I got a little teary-eyed but I can't say I was super-happy at that point. I was happy with my time, but honestly I felt so crappy that it was hard to enjoy it. I honestly don't even remember if I raised my arms or not (like I kind of wanted to when I pictured myself finishing) because it was all sort of a blur. I do remember that I instantly felt cold. I got my little foil wrap thingy to put over my arms and I got some Gatorade. Then I had to walk .8 miles (I measured on satellite later) to meet my family at the Team Salute tent. 

The .8 mile walk was every bit as (if not more) miserable than the last 6 miles. I was in pain from the tightness in my muscles. The cold was making everything tighter. I was cold. I wished that James was there. I was thankful again for my huge sunglasses, because I cried a little bit (again) because of how miserable I was. 

Post-Race. Once I got back to the tent, everything got better. I got about 6 coats and sweatshirts piled on me, some hot coffee, and Kelly and my family was there to hug me and tell me congratulations. Eventually the trainer that Team Salute had in the tent helped me stretch out my of the tight muscles. He pressed half a dozen places and asked me if it hurt. I said yes to pretty much all of them. "Wow, you're in bad shape aren't you?" Honestly, I was kind of proud to hear that. If I had been in good shape, I could have pushed myself further, right?  

Then I got home and immediately got under my covers and went to sleep. Without even changing. I still even had my numbers on (the race bib and the pace group number on my back). Then I woke up in panic because I realized I was nauseous from being so hot. I think once my legs finally warmed up, they got really inflamed. So I took an ice bath (NOT fun but I told myself the pain was nothing compared to what I just did. It still sucked) and some ibuprofen. I guess I just wasn't expecting it to suck so much after the race

Conclusion. I completed my first marathon! Seriously, praise God. I didn't hit the time I was hoping for exactly, but it was a bit of a shot in the dark, since it was my very first one. I'm actually really happy with my time. I'm incredibly proud of myself for training for this all pretty much on my own, but I was still really sad that James couldn't be there. 

It's now really strange to be done. The whole year has been a countdown to the marathon, knowing that James comes home really soon afterwards. It's almost surreal that it's over now.  Now what am I gonna do with myself for these next couple weeks? I guess I do need to start packing.. :) 
<3 Amy


  1. Reading this gave me chills! I am running my first 5k on Saturday, and this is such good motivation. I am not a runner by any means, but I absolutely love reading about your running adventures.

    1. Molly, if you are running a 5k, you're a runner! It all starts with that first 5k and then you're gonna be hooked! I'm glad you like reading. :)

  2. Way to GO! I have just started training for my first half, I can't even imagine right now doing what you just accomplished. Good Job!

    1. thanks! and have fun! the half marathon distance is my favorite.

  3. YEAH!!! I love the step-by-step recollection of your day. You set a high standard for your next one (I know you won't stop with Chicago :) Super proud and happy for you, Amy! And I'm glad Kelly was able to run with you for a few miles. :)

    1. Thanks Bekah! And seriously I got done and I was like no, I'm never doing that again. But now I am finding myself wondering.. how much faster could I go? :) but I have to admit that I do like half marathons a lot more.

  4. Fantastic job! You owned it, for sure! Your splits are so even. I'm jealous. And you powered through the last 6 miles even though it sucked. That's the way to do it! And an amazing finish time to boot!

    I was in the exact same boat after my marathon in April; the big goal was accomplished and my husband wasn't home yet. Those in between months sucked big time for me. (The last few months were kind of like the last 6 miles of a marathon.) Try to stay busy and keep hanging in there. You've been so strong! As hard as it may be, you can hang in there a little bit longer.*

    1. Thanks, Amy! :) I felt special that you stalked me during the race haha. Yeah I was thinking about you and how you did your marathon earlier in the deployment. I think I got a bit lucky in how it ended up being near the end of ours. I'm done and I'm getting the "post marathon blues" and not really knowing what to do with myself. At least it's not going to be too much longer!

  5. Great job, Amy! I'm a bit of a runner myself, I've only don't halfs though. Thinking of doing a whole marathon in the future. Maybe once my soldier is deployed. Though, we'll be stationed in Alaska, so training in the cold may be really tough...we'll see.
    Thanks for sharing your story! When does your hubby get home? Has it been a year-long deployment? Have you had much communication with him during it?

    Here's a quote by Elizabeth Elliot I've found to be helpful in this time of waiting for my own soldier to finish Ranger School: "Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living!"

    Press on, girl! Enjoy those runs and the people God has placed around you! :)
    God bless!

    1. Thanks! I can imagine that might be tough training in Alaska.. hopefully you could at least find a treadmill on base though! Yes it's been a year-long deployment, but he's due home soon! I'm actually driving back to the base in a couple weeks to get a head-start on house hunting. I can't really say anything more specific than that, but it's definitely soon! And yes, we've had pretty good communication. A lot more than we thought we would have. The skype calls are pretty rare (the internet kinda sucks there) but we are able to instant message and email 3-4 times a week on average.

      I love that quote! Thanks so much for your comment!

    2. Ah, ok...yes, I hear that the year-long deployments are fairly standard. I think we'll be facing one starting next year. The semi-frequent communication will be nice and in that way, makes a deployment easier than Ranger School.

      Cool! House fun! :) Hope that goes well and things fall into place smoothly.

      So glad he'll be home soon! How wonderful! :) Push through to the end...almost there!:)

  6. Congrats on your first marathon! That is such an amazing accomplishment and so awesome that your family was there to support you. I totally know what you mean about getting emotional as you are running your first marathon -- there were several times I started to tear up during mine as I was just in disbelief that I was doing the marathon after so many months of training. You did a great job and it sounded like a great race. Congrats you marathoner!! :)
    ~Linz from

  7. Thanks Linz! Yes I'm so happy that my family was there! :) It's crazy when it finally happens, isn't it? Thanks for reading!


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