Yesterday I ran the Illinois Marathon! I’m so happy to have completed my second marathon, although it was much different than I had envisioned.
Backing up, I took Friday off to prepare & travel down to Urbana Champaign for the race. M was running the half marathon, and Lilian, my marathon training partner, was also going to be running the full. We left Chicago just after lunch, drove down, and headed to the Expo.
Expo was fun even though it was a little smaller than the big Chicago race expos. We had fun checking out the gear, perusing old Illinois Marathon (previous 2 years) gear they were selling for $5, and getting baked goods from the Great Harvest bakery. They also had a “taping booth” at the expo, where someone would tape up a sensitive area for you. I got my knee taped since it has been bothering me a bit.
After going to the hotel, napping a little, we then headed off to dinner at the Great Impasta. It’s a great Italian place if you are ever in Urbana-Champaign! I had my great standby, pasta with marinara, although I added mushrooms (excellent choice!). I couldn’t finish it, likely because I had filled up too much on their excellent soup & bread!
After dinner, it was back to the hotel for laying out our gear, and then into bed! By the time I went to bed, the KT Tape that had been applied at the expo was coming off… maybe because I had lowered my yoga pants too soon after it was applied and the edges kept pulling at the fabric? who knows. In the middle of the night I re-applied with some Kinesio Tape we had purchased, and re-applied. The tape has to sit for at least one hour before exercise, so I didn’t want to wait until we woke up since there’d be a lot to do and I’d be starting my race soon after waking!
5 AM rolled around, and I was roused from my very good sleep! I ate my banana and munched on my Clif Bar, got dressed, packed up & headed out to the race!
At the race we met up with Peter & David, two brothers who are training for Ironman! They were running the marathon, but as a part of their training for the major event late summer! M also ran into someone else he knew from when we lived in Madison.
After checking our gear, Lilian & I went in search of bathrooms. There were tons of them inside the University of Illinois’s Assembly Hall, but it seemed like there had been long lines for all of them. We headed back out for the port-a-potties, and were able to make it in & out just before the 7 am Marathon start.
The gun went off, and we began running with the 5 hour pace group. I had decided to run with that group because that had been about the pace of several of my recent longer runs. The pace leader was energetic, although right away Lilian & I noticed he was running faster than an 11:27 min/mile pace. We glided along in the beginning, although I was bugged a bit by the Kinesio Tape I applied, and pulled off part of it. I felt better, and we continued onward.
Since we’d been rushed at the bathrooms before the start, Lilian & I stopped off at mile 4 to truly relieve ourselves, and ended up separating there. I didn’t see her when I came out, and we had agreed ahead of time it would be OK to separate. I ran onward, and began chatting with other runners. My goal was to meet back up with the 5:00 pace group.
And then the half marathoners began rushing past us! First, the front runner with the bicycle guiding him, relatively quiet, and then larger groups of people. They were fast! Many I didn’t notice until after they were in front of me. One guy just lifted his arm over me—had I stuck my elbow out I would have elbowed him, he was that close! It also made me realize how different it is to be a shorter runner. Shorter legs, etc.
I had put a race bib on my back with my name for the pace group, so it was really nice to hear (mostly women) runners pass by and say something like “Good Job, Lauren”. It really touched me that even though they’re at a sub-7 minute pace, these ladies were still considerate of who they were running with, and each person’s individual battle that day.
By the time we reached Meadowbrook Park around mile 8, I had gotten the pace group back in my sights, although the path narrowed considerably and there were quite a few half marathoners passing me. This park was relatively open (read: wind blows through!) but also scenic. There were quite a few statues in the park, and also spectators at various clearings and pavilions. M’s 1:40 half marathon pace group (yes that’s a 7:38 mile!) breezed past during this part of the run, and it was nice to see him briefly and get some pep from his pacer who kept yelling “Positive! Positive! Positive!” throughout.
In Meadowbrook Park there was one bronze/metal statue of a person, who someone had tied a mylar blanket, running shoes & a race bib to. I loved it and the quirkiness this brought to us around mile 9!
At mile 10 I finally was within running distance of the pace group, and kept pace with them. Once they slowed down at the next aid stop, I jogged on up to meet them. It was nice to have the pace group, although it still felt a bit fast… both for me and according to the watch! When we hit the 13.1 mark, we were 3 minutes ahead of schedule!
I kept up with the pace group until after mile 14. My knee had begun nagging me, and I thought it might be because of the last piece of Kinesio Tape still on my knee. I pulled it off, and almost immediately upon running again realized it had been helping rather than hindering! I did my best running, but these were the hard miles for me. My knee was hurting, I was run-walking to alleviate the pain, and I began to realize how much I had sweat out… My skin was caked in salt! I knew I had been drinking a lot of water, but was worried that I wasn’t replacing the salt & electrolytes quite as quickly. I don’t love the taste of gatorade, so I had been having a sip or two, or swishing it in my mouth, at the aid stops.
Just after mile 18 I stopped at the Medical tent. They were able to bandage me up, gave me some gatorade, and then I was on my way again! Definitely felt better although not quite perfect. Mostly running miles 18-20, although by this point we were squarely in residential neighborhoods. At mile 20 I began walking for longer stretches, not for my knee but because I was tired! At the medical tent we had been at a point where you could see the runners ahead crossing as well, and someone had told me that the distance in between was only 2 miles. Well, ha ha because it turned out to be 5! It wasn’t until mile 23 that we got back to that Centennial Park (where the medical tent had been), and at that point I committed myself to running as much as possible back to the finish.
This was also the point where many people begin to decide that they will walk larger parts, so it felt good to be able to pass people, although not quite at the same pace as if we had all been running. I played catch-up with several people at these points, and we would pass each other over and over again. This was also a point where I began to get dizzy & a little woozy. When we were making a turn or having what looked like a complicated intersection, I’d ask someone exactly where I was supposed to go. At mile 24 we came up to the largest hill of the race, which was made better by at least being scenic next to a golf course. I powered up the hill, and then back down.
I kept wondering when I’d see familiar territory again, which would be hard since I’m not too familiar with Urbana Champaign! But it wasn’t really until just before the 26 mile marker that I recognized where we were. I had my Garmin to tell me how far we’d gone, so I knew at least that much, but not the visual cues that one might have in a more local race or a race that had a longer start/finish overlap.
Mile 25 felt faster, and at Mile 26 I was “sprinting” as best I could. At mile 26 you turn right to head into the Illini Stadium, but the wind was blowing from that direction very strong! I was trying to turn, but was getting blown away! After 26 miles I wasn’t quite strong enough for the winds anymore. Once in the correct direction, I ran as hard as I could into the stadium, and into a 5:21:53 finish time!
After finishing, I got my medal and wandered around a little. I was looking for fluids, but all I could find was the recycling bin with empty water bottles! ha ha. M came up to me and helped me to get some gatorade, and then a bottle of water, and walked me over to the “Self-Service First Aid” where we got bags of ice. Some for my knee, some for the back of my neck to help cool me down. We iced a bit, and then headed to sit down on the stadium green with others who had already finished.
Peter & Dave were there, and they had run together in an impressive 4:15 time! It was Peter’s first marathon, and an improvement over Dave’s time from last year. M also ran a great half marathon, and accomplished a 1:36 time… a PR and a comfortable race!
I laid out and iced some more (all over – each knee, quad, hamstring) and drank water & ate some banana & bagel. We chilled and waited for Lilian to come in and finish! I unfortunately had timed my need to go to the bathroom & pick up my gear to be right when she came in. I missed it! Lilian did great and knocked off 22 minutes off her previous marathon PR! Go Lilian!
After we’d all had some time to rest, we made our way (slowly!) to Chipotle for some refueling. You’d think I’d be able to put away a burrito after running 26.2 miles, but I wasn’t able to finish it! I ate half my burrito and munched on chips & guac and sipped regular Sprite instead. Changing out of the running gear was made possible by the Chipotle rest room, lots of wet wipes (Yes to Cucumbers!) and a well-packed gear-check bag.
Then we packed ourselves into the car for the trip back to Chicago. It was a little sore, but many Swedish Fish were eaten, water & sprite guzzled, and even a donut at a gas station rest stop! It was so good to get home!