Chicago Marathon

Well, I can’t quite believe it’s been a week since Chicago marathon.

Early Friday morning, my friend collected me, and kindly took me to the airport. After a good luck hug, I checked my bag and made my way through to the departures lounge. I was excited, both to be going away, to see friends and run.

I landed mid afternoon, and was collected by Cortney, who I was BEYOND excited to see! Tamsin and her husband, Alasdair, landed a few minutes before me and were also staying in the same air b&b with us. We loaded Cortney’s car and were on our way to meet everyone.

As you might remember from last year, at the NYC marathon, I stayed in an air b&b organised by Charlie. As most of us got a place through the ballot, she decided to get a group together again, for Chicago. If you have ever considered running either marathon, definitely get in touch with Charlie to find out more about the air b&b. It’s so much fun, stress free and super well organised! She’s doing it all again next year, so get in touch if you want to be part of a super fun weekend!

That afternoon, after meeting everyone and dropping bags, we made our way to the expo. I was super excited, as there is always a real buzz, and lots of shopping, freebie collecting and photo taking to be done! We grabbed our bibs for both the 5k shake out run on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday.

Once we had explored the expo, I made my way to meet my parents for dinner, whilst the others headed back to the air b&b. They arrived on Thursday afternoon and were staying until Monday, to cheer me on and explore Chicago! It was wonderful having them and I’m so thankful for all their support they give me with all my crazy running adventures!

Saturday morning we woke early and headed to the centre of Chicago to run the 5k. It was FREEZING and the wind so bitterly cold, that I lost the feeling in my hands within minutes of starting the run. Al, Tamsin, Saskia and I all started in the same wave and I stuck with Al and Tamsin for the entire run.

It was a beautiful, clear morning, the sun was shining and the buzz was pretty electric at both the start, during and end of the course. We made our way through the streets and ended in the park/where the marathon started. After the run, we had quick photos and then made our way to breakfast!

After brunch we headed to do some shopping and to try and find some Nike kit that the expo didn’t have. With no luck, I ended up ordering what I wanted online, to be shipped to my friends, then on to my house. Slight palaver but 100% worth it!!! Off to find warmth, some lunch and other snacks, we then made our way back to the air b&b to shower and sort ourselves for the next day. We ordered food to have in, that night, and after dinner, I made my way to my parents hotel. They’d kindly upgraded their room (my dads the best!!!) so I could have my own bed, a good nights sleep and a short 5 minute walk to the start in the morning.

A tummy full of pasta and flat-lay done, I was settled in bed feeling okay. Nervous but okay. I had trained hard for this race and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from what I came to Chicago for!

My alarm went off at 6am. I got up, ate my breakfast, used the loo about a thousands times and got dressed. My parents were up and getting themselves sorted, so I said my goodbyes, they wished me good luck and I was off. A sick feeling in my stomach but ready, I made my way to my corral.

Due to the high rise buildings and the majority of the race being in the city, I was told my GPS would be off from the start. Having no clue of pace or where I was on the course, Charlie told me to stick with the 4 or 4:05 hour pacer, so that’s what I did. We started pretty much on time and for the first 5 miles I felt good. I’d ditched my throw away jumper but kept my gloves as I knew I’d struggle to keep them warm. The course had been tight so far but the atmosphere amazing – especially for such an early start!! I saw my parents around mile 5.5, which was amazing and gave me the little pick me up I needed.

Continuing with the pacer, Charles, the miles flew by. He was brilliant. Updating us with pace and asking how we were doing. Around mile 12, I missed my parents but continued to feel good. My hips a little sore, I knew I was running a bit too fast but I also knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it was going to hurt and be a battle, either physically or mentally, but I was ready for it.

Along the course we continued and so did the miles. I went through bursts of feeling good and then not. An instagram follower ran past me, congratulating me on my efforts and telling me how inspiring I was. That gave me a real boost and looking strong, he ran on. At mile 20, I could feel myself slowing down. I’d lost Charles at this point and now it was down to me. The crowds had been, and continued to be, brilliant the whole way round, so I used them to keep me going for the last 10k. I broke it down in my mind to two park runs. I focused on my surroundings for distraction and felt strong. At mile 25 I saw my parents then heard Charlie. She ran into the course screaming in my ear telling me how great I was doing, as I sucked back the tears. I picked up my speed as I saw the 800 metre sign, just half a mile, I’ve got this. Round the corner and UP A F**KING HILL, a medic was standing at the top encouraging us on. I hit the 400 metre sign, felt sick and thought I was going to throw up but continued to run hard. There it was, the finish, finally. I ran as hard as I could and crossed the line. I had no idea of time, my watch had said I’d ran 28 miles but I couldn’t care, I was beyond ecstatic. I bumped into Charles, who’d just finished seconds before me and knew I’d come in close to the 4 hour mark. 4:00:09 to be exact.

Proudly making my way to collect my medal, I couldn’t stop smiling. Everyone was congratulating each other as we made our way to collect a foil wrap, water and food. I made my way to where I’d planned to meet my parents and gave them a massive hug. I’d done it, I am a marathoner (again!) and beyond proud of myself for it.

Slowly, we moved on to join a few of the other runners from our group, for brunch/lunch! It was really lovely to see them, have a quick race catch up and congratulate each other. Some food eaten and coffee drunk, we made our way back my parents hotel so I could have a bath and rest a little. I wanted to get back to the air b&b to see everyone, but my parents joined us that evening for dinner, as it was their last night in town. How we lasted for as long as we did, I don’t know! I was beyond ready to get to bed, and surprisingly slept well that night.

Monday morning and we all slowly woke, quite early. We made our way to the Nike store to get our medals engraved for free, before meeting some of the others for breakfast. Our plan was to then visit a few shops, The Bean and other parts of the city. It was another beautiful, sunny, cold day but the walking around was definitely helping our legs. What an amazing weekend it had been!

We said goodbye to Al and Tamsin before heading off to skate at the Chicago Blackhawks ice rink and watch them play against Edmonton. It was a really fun night! The skating easier than I thought it might be and the game so much fun to watch! I’d not been to game before, but it was great fun, fast paced and eventful!

And just like that it was Tuesday. Cortney and I met Charlie, Ellie and Michael for breakfast before saying our goodbyes and heading to yoga then the store, before checking out and loading up her car. Our plan now was to drive to Toronto for some more exploring and running fun – but I’ll save that for another post!

Chicago, you were amazing. I got what I came for and had so much fun along the way. I worked so hard for my, nearly, sub 4 hour time. I can’t thank Charlie enough for all the support, tough love, putting up with my pestering messages and so much more. You truly are a wonderful friend and I wouldn’t have achieved what I did, without you.

To my parents for their continuous support, love and for standing on the side in all weather conditions, shouting me on and waiting for me at the end of every training run and race.

To the wonderful group of friends, both to those I have met and to those I haven’t, thank you. Thank you for your supportive and congratulating messages, always being there when shit, literally, hits the fan, offering advice, answering questions and so much more. I am the runner I am, because of you all.

Photo credit goes to Michael for this one! An awesome shot!

Thank you everyone for reading, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have running and writing it!

Emma xx


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