Running (Chicago Marathon) 2:37:44  26.2 mi (6:01 / mi)
Marathon running is tough.
Woke up at 5.00 and had some weetabix. It was still dark, but the temperature was pleasant. We were staying about 35 minutes train/tube ride away from the centre. At the station there were a number of other runners and the train gradually began to fill up on the way to the city centre. Everyone was dressed in running gear and was looking nervous. We got to the city centre just as the sun was rising and it was clear that it was going to be a gorgeous day (but warm day) - there was not a cloud in the sky. I said goodbye to Clare and wished her luck - not sure who was the more worried out of the pair of us.
I was lucky to have qualified for the top 100 so we had our own tent to get changed in. All around the starting arena there were people of lots of different, ages and sizes, but as soon as I entered the tent it was full of skinny determined looking athletes. I helped myself to as much free stuff as I could (drinks and energy bars for after the race) and went for a warm up at about 7.20. Ten minutes easy running, some stretching, then another 10 minutes with a few gentle efforts.
This year for the first time the elite elite went off 5 minutes early (7.55) - I assume so that the TV cameras could focus on the race. After the elite elite started we moved on to the start line. It was really cool to be right on the start line knowing that there were 40,000 runners behind me. It was a bit comical after the gun went; most of my start group went off really steady, but there was a surge of people from behind us who went sprinting off searching for their 5 minutes of fame (they came back pretty quickly!).
I deliberately went slowly for the first couple of miles - missed the first mile marker but saw at 2k that I was a little off race pace. My garmin was not working in the buildings but I was confident of the pace that I was running.
Went through 5k at 18.18 - slightly off pace (I was looking to run even splits of 17.40) but told myself not to worry and just tried to keep running at a steady pace. I gradually kept reeling people in for the next 10 k or so and went through the next 5k splits in 17.38, 17.29, and 17.44. The route was dead flat and I felt really comfortable. I started to feel that I was trying at about the 20k mark but still felt really good. Up to this point my heart rate had not gone above 155 (max 173), but from the 20k point it started to rise, which was a culmination of the heat and the extra effort. Went through halfway bang on pace (1.15.02).
I was thinking at this point that sub 2.30 was definitely doable and I started to run with a pack of other runners and the pace rose slightly (did the next 5k in 17.22). At the 30k mark it was starting to feel like hard work (heart rate had risen to over 160) and my hips were starting to tighten. I just kept on trying to relax and keep running at a good pace. The field had really started to thin out at this point and for the next 5k or so I ran by myself with no one within 100m of me. This meant that I got loads of support and people were yelling my name (I had written it on my vest - a bit self indulgent but worth doing). However despite the yells of encouragement it just got harder and harder to keep on pace. Went through 35k in 18.11.
Between 35 and 40 there was a lot less shade and my legs really started to tie up. Ran through 40k in 19.31 and I knew that sub 2.30 was out the window. At this point I was just worried about finishing in one piece and not blowing up. Before the race I thought the last 5k would be fine and to just imagine the route home from track, but in reality this did not help in the slightest - it actually did feel just like running back from the track with my legs totally stuffed, shame I did not have OJ and Mike for company!. Got cramp in both hamstrings at this point and had to walk twice (for about 10 meters at a time). As soon as I stopped everyone kept bellowing at me to keep going and it forced me to start running again.
During the last 3 k or so I got passed by a few runners but there was nothing I could do to keep with them. Things got better in the last mile where adrenaline took over.
Was disappointed with my time but not really with my race as a whole - I did as well as I could have done on the day and got my nutrition and hydration strategies right.
It would be good to blame the weather but I am not sure how much it took out of me. It was 85" at the finish, but there were loads of drink stations that meant staying hydrated was not a problem.
Finished in 81st place overall, which was pleasing - at least I earnt my top 100 start block.
It was a bit comical when I finished I could barely walk and about 5 people came up to me to see if I was ok - think I must have looked pretty ropey.
The next 30 minutes or so I was in a bit of a daze but managed to get some more water and food down me and made my way to the finish to see Clare finish. Was dead proud to see her accomplish her first marathon and it was a bonus that she heard and saw me cheering her in.
I would definitely recommend a big marathon to all runners - the atmosphere is amazing and there was a buzz around the city for the rest of the day.