2017 Chicago Marathon

by James Byars — on  , 


I ran my first marathon in 2017 - it was the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and it was incredible. I am going to write a little about the experience so I remember it better and so others can enjoy.

Why did I decide to do this?

If you have been following my posts you know that I have been running for a couple years now. I started with a 5k and worked my way up to a 10k and half-marathon. I was never really sure that I wanted to run a marathon because I knew how much strain it put on the body. With the encouragement of others I decided to join the Ronald McDonald House charity race team. In exchange for being able to register for the race (normally one must qualify), I pledged to raise $1500 in order to keep families close.

Marathon Training

The charity race team provided us with a self assessment and based on the results recommended a training plan put together by a professional running coach. The plan was very similar to what you might find when looking for plans online.

I began training months in advance, gradually increasing my mileage. Working through the different workouts specified in the training plan. I travel a lot for work so it proved challenging to adhere strictly to the plan - I did my best.

Throughout the training I dealt with pain. From blisters to knee pain, to shin splints, I just had to persevere.

Race Day

I woke up extra early in order to make it to the pre-race hospitality tent provided by Ronald McDonald House Charities. Nutrition is very important and even though I don’t always eat the best wanted to make sure my body had what it needed for the event.

It was about a 35 minute walk to the hospitality tent that morning - I think I left the hotel at 5:30 AM.

From there I went to the starting line, all runners are grouped into a corral - I was in ‘H’. Once our time to start came, we made our way up to the starting line and waited for the official ‘GO!’.

The first 13 miles flew by, I had a great pace going and was thinking all would be well. Was I ever wrong. Starting in the 13th mile my knees began to feel swollen. Each step shot pain through my knee. By the time I got to mile 14 I decided that I needed to let the pain die down so I slowed to a brisk walk.

I began to feel encouraged as the pain went away after about half a mile. I start to run, wanting to get back into my groove from the first half. About a quarter mile later my hamstrings locked up - cramps, mainly in my left leg. I had no choice but to walk, limping heavily. A police officer monitoring the course asked me if I was OK - of course I said I was fine, just a cramp.

As I worked the cramp out I decided to pick up running again and was OK doing so. Until about a half-mile later, when the cramps came back. This was somewhere in mile 15. I walked, waited for the cramps to subside, then ran until they came back.

I did this cycle from mile 15 - 24. It. Was. Miserable. At one point around mile 19 I remember being so exhausted and in so much pain that when attempting to wipe some sweat off my nose with my hand I missed my entire face. I went back again, after laughing of course, and I missed a second time. This scared me a bit, but I had been informed of the effects running for extended periods would have on the brain. I persevered.

Finally, I see mile 24 coming up. I have been doing this run/walk thing for a few hours now over nearly 10 miles. I wanted to finish strong. I was not going to walk across that finish line. I started to run, cramps and all, and I did not stop until I crossed that line.

Post Race

I cried, but no tears came out. I cannot explain what came over me, but I cried. I was too dehydrated for tears to exist. As I made my way back to the hospitality tent I was so excited to find somewhere to sit. Being on your feet, running, for 5 hours and 15 minutes is a lot.

I did it.