Fox Valley Marathon! Race Recap

This morning marked my third marathon! Read about my first two marathons here:

  1. Chicago Marathon 2006
  2. Illinois Marathon – 2011

M & I woke up early this morning to get ready and head out for St. Charles, IL, about an hour away from our Chicago abode. Race preparation went fine and we were off!  Except just after we got on I-290 we realized that I had left my water bottle at home.  Back home again, and then off for real!


We made it to St. Charles just after 6 AM and stopped into Starbucks for a posh potty break. Then to the race start! Right after we got into the parking garage, it started to drizzle. This was a relatively small race – the starting corrals took up maybe 2 blocks. A few more (nervous) potty breaks, then Mike & I took some pre-race photos:




Here’s a view of what we’re hoping to see approximately 5 hours from now: 


The race started at 7 AM, and I thought I was lined up with the 5 hour pacing group.  Accidentally with the 11:27 pace half marathon (2:30 finish) group, and I started about 1 minute after the 11:27 marathon group. 


I took just over the first mile to catch up with the marathon pace group, and settled into the marathon pace.  We were winding through downtown St. Charles, a relatively quaint town. I saw Mike at mile 2, cheering me along with a cowbell and on his bike! We were headed toward the riverfront, and made it there within about 3 miles. The miles moved along, and I saw Mike again around miles 4 and 8!



After mile 8 we began crossing over the Fox River and it was an interesting experience to run over massive wooden bridges! They bounce slightly, and I didn’t love the additional jostling to my stomach.  It was a beautiful course, and we saw an egret and heron on the river! We also passed by the water sewage treatment plant, which wasn’t quite as idyllic, and made us speed up slightly.

Then I saw a friend just before mile 11:  Lilian and her mama were out and cheering us on from the east side of the river!  It was so great to see them and get a quick hug while out on the run.  At this point I was running on an out-and-back strip, so I knew I’d see them again on the way back, about 6 miles later. What was disconcerting was that we were passing by runners six miles ahead of us, they were running by sooo much faster than we were – 3:30 pace groups all the way on.  And since this race promotes itself as a Boston Qualifier, they had pace groups at five minute increments through to almost 4 hours.  So not only are the runners faster, but we’re seeing the pace groups passing by much quicker!

After we passed the turnaround and were the faster people on our way back, I saw Lilian & Mama Sanchez again!

Seventeen miles, and the running starts to get more tough.  I saw Mike at mile 18, and I was lagging a bit behind the 5 hour pace group, although they were not very far ahead.  I finally gave him my sunglasses, as the rain was continuing and it was clear there wouldn’t be any sun for this race.

As I passed mile 20, the running got HARD.  My motivation lagged, and I lost the pace group. I began walking more (not just through the water stops).  Around mile 21, we also hit a “lollipop,” where I saw runners continuing straight ahead of me, but everyone is diverted over a bridge and through a loop and back again.  Mike was at the lollipop stick, and cheered me on.  I am not very happy at this point.

One lady who passed me provided a mantra for me to focus on: “just keep going til mile 21.” I know how this goes, then it’s: “Just keep going til 22” and so on.  Well, it helped!

Another thing that helped me was what I had recently (i.e. yesterday) read on Sweat Once a Day about in dedicating each of the last 6.2 miles to a special person. Although I didn’t plan this out ahead of time, I did use this technique in getting through miles 21-23.  Much thanks out to Mike & my sister Kate in letting me meditate on them during these hard miles!

Then it was a final 5K.  I had about 40 minutes to be able to finish in 5:05, which under normal circumstances would be easy-peasy.  But today I was just working to get done as quickly as possible. At this point I pretty much ran the entire way, only walking at the water stops.  I passed a few more people from the 5 hour pace group… making me wonder who, if anyone had finished with the pacer! (there were only 4 of us when I dropped off, and I had already passed someone who had dropped).

At mile 24 I took my final clif shot to power me through.  As I saw the “one mile left!” sign (since there was also a 20 mile race, this was their 19 mile mark, just .2 after my 25 mile mark), I began to sprint it in as best I could.  You can see my pace increase from the 12 min-13:30 min miles of 21-25, to 11:44 for this 26th mile!

My final .34 miles was completed at a sub 11 minute pace! Initially I looked OK: 


And then I looked not-so-hot. I found a curb to sit on and eat a banana. While there was more food, I couldn’t decide on anything else to eat.  I wasn’t about to throw my hand into a bucket of ice water for a soda.





Lilian was awesome and urged me to get stretched out at the Dreyer massage tent. It was great to get stretched out and a preliminary massage of my legs.  Then we all headed out, and we walked back very slowly to the parking garage.  A quick change, and then got some Starbucks for the ride home!

Race details:

  • Pre-Race Fuel: Bagel Thin w/ butter, 1/2 a Carrot Cake Clif Bar
  • Outfit: Purple Athleta tank top, RRS Compression Shorts, Brooks Glycerin 8 shoes
  • Race Fuel: Clif Shot Blocks, Turbo Shots (3) and Nuun water in my water bottle (refilled once)
  • Weather: drizzling to rainy, 56-63 degrees throughout. 
  • Post-race Dinner:  Piece Pizza & a growler of beer

9 thoughts on “Fox Valley Marathon! Race Recap

  1. kilax

    Wow! You did awesome! Congrats! Despite feeling crummy the last 6 you really finished strong and used a great mental technique!

    I love the pics! It shows hot wet it was there. 🙂 How great that Mike brought his bike to spectate!

    What did you think of the course overall? The lollipop and bouncy bridge sound a bit on the evil side. And the out and back portions 😉

    How are you feeling today?

    Congrats again on an awesome finish and new PR!!!

    1. Lauren Post author

      Overall the course was pretty good! Definitely not wheelchair friendly, which I thought about in relation to the Illinois Marathon (2 years ago I spectated and watched the wheelchair racers come in before the runners). There was also a couple short areas where we were running on grass or gravel – maybe 100 feet total, twice on the course.

      Not that it was sunny out, but it seemed like a pretty well shaded course had it been. Not many hills either. I liked that the pacer would make us aware of the hills and guide us in “short steps”.

      Lots of aid stations, especially toward the end! There was definitely an aid station every mile from mile 18 to 24 or 25.

      A couple short stretches where you had to run single-file, and the stretch from mile 10.5-16.5 was just two across in each direction. When we were on our way back (13.5-16.5) there were fewer runners and we could spread out a bit more, but not as much for the initial “out” in that section.

  2. Erin

    Congrats again! You really powered through there at the end. Those are definitely the toughest miles, don’t you think? And I love that Mike brought his bike to cheer for you.

    It’s funny that you mention seeing the 3:30 people. At least two of my friends who were running yesterday are 3:30 speed marathon runners. I love seeing them on out-and-back courses because it gives me a nice distraction looking for them and cheering for them when they go by.

    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks! I definitely need to work more on the 19-24 mile pacing. Hard since you don’t get to do 20 milers that often (or none in my case this training cycle)! I definitely want to incorporate more speed/tempo work into future training that I do.

      The out & back was just a bit jarring because it took us a little while before we figured out what pace people were running. I typically don’t run with people that fast, so I couldn’t tell if I was getting very slow too soon, or if they were really that fast! Certainly good to watch their form

  3. bobbi

    You did outstanding! I may end up doing that race next year (my sister lives in St.Charles)…

    Your post race is just like I always feel – I feel great, then all of a sudden, not so hot. How are you feeling a couple days later?

    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks! I am proud of myself, although I still have my 4:xx goal to meet for my next marathon! But that won’t be for a while, haha *cough*wedding planning*cough*. I feel pretty good now; certainly sore in my legs but I got a massage yesterday afternoon that helped a lot. And regardless, I’m much improved over my April marathon where I came down with a cold immediately after the race!

  4. Lil :)

    Congrats! You did awesome! I love your peace sign pics!!
    You ALL looked like you were running pretty fast. You are right though, the 3 hours groups passed and i swear they were on their way back in a blink of an eye. I had no idea this was a Boston qualifier, but it explaines why there were sooooo many people in the 3 hour pace groups. For the record, the 5 hour pacer finished alone, nobody around him at all.
    Lady, u are amazing and i’m going to have to steal some of your mental techniques for race day 🙂

    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks for setting the record straight! It was amazing to have you there, and to know that you’d be there to cheer me on throughout and at the end! I can’t wait to repay for you in less than 3 weeks!!!

  5. Pingback: 2011 in Review | Lauren Runs

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