The Chicago Marathon, Unabridged.

**Warning: this post will be very long, somewhat detailed and short on pictures (it is ME, after all, and if there’s one thing I wasn’t thinking about yesterday it was documenting the thing with anything other than MY MIND’S EYE…).**

Saturday night, I somehow fell asleep around 9p.m., amidst neighbors partying it up. I slept for a good five hours until I woke up at 2a.m. having to pee. I didn’t take it as a good sign that my first thought upon waking was, “Wow, you’re gonna die today.”

Needless to say, I didn’t fall back to sleep after that – I was too busy trying to change the negative thoughts into positive ones – like, “Ok; maybe you’re not going to die. Maybe you’re just gonna have a bad experience,” and my alarm went off at 3. I took a shower, ate breakfast, and got a bag packed with gels, shot blocks, gatorade, water, my fuel belt, flip flops, and an extra change of clothes. I pinned my bib on my shirt (I think a 5-year-old could have done it better), got the rest of my outfit on, and after buzzing around with nervous energy for an extra 10 minutes, it was time to go.

I left my house at 5a.m. and almost had a heart attack when I realized that the Brown Line was only going to Belmont. I texted my friend Angela (whom I was supposed to meet at Fullerton) to take a cab and I’d meet her downtown, and then remembered that the Brown Line and the Red Line converge at Belmont – so, for the moment, that crisis was averted.

We met up at the Fullerton Red Line stop and took that downtown to the Loop, getting off at Harrison and walking over to Grant Park. I left her there; she was going to gear check and I was gear checking at my running group’s hotel. I momentarily thought about taking a cab, but I figured it would be a good opportunity to walk a bit – loosen up the muscles and get rid of some of the nervous energy. I knew the general direction of where I was supposed to go, so I started walking that way, using my phone as a map to guide me.

It turned out that my route was barricaded, and not once, but TWICE, had to convince security to let me through. “Please,” I said. “I’m just trying to get OVER THAT WAY.” I made my way up Columbus, but didn’t realize I was headed toward lower Randolph, so when I found the hotel, I had to figure out how to get UP there. All I could see was a parking garage to get into the hotel, but both of the in and out doors were closed. I saw a cop and figured he might know – maybe some inside police secret – but he said no, this wasn’t his area, and politely went back to Facebooking on his phone.

I began to panic a little. I had already been on my feet enough (the walk was about half a mile or more) and all the wandering wasn’t helping. I turned back around, passed Officer Facebook, and saw that two cars were about to go through the parking garage. Careful not to get run over, I ducked in the doors, and made my way up through the lobby and to the third floor where my running group was. By that point it was 6:30a.m., and just when I thought I’d have time to chill a bit, we were rushing outside to put our bags down and take a group photo. It was a very cold, chilly morning (about 40 degrees) and the coaches were giving inspiring speeches, telling us to be in the moment, that we worked hard for this, and to finish strong. I, for one, could not stop screaming and cheering. I was about to run THE CHICAGO MARATHON.


It was after we got back inside that I made up my fuel belt (two bottles of water, two Gatorade) and put four gels in one of the pockets. I then noticed that my phone was at about 67% battery, and so I let it charge for a bit. By the time we left for the park (about 7:10), my phone was only at 75% and I thought for sure that it would die. I texted my mom and told her that it might, but very sadly made the decision that I wouldn’t be listening to music during the entirety of the race. There was no way I could if I wanted my phone to survive.

Kathy and I in the start corral. She was rocking arm warmers and a bandana; I just made sure to get dressed.

As I was standing in the corral, I don’t remember thinking anything other than, “man, I wish I wasn’t standing right now,” but by the time I had the bright idea to sit down, our wave was moving. That took a bit, and I didn’t actually cross the start line until about 8:15 or so. I was running with a friend I had trained with, Kathy, at first, and we both encouraged each other – don’t run so fast, use your arms when you walk, etc. I saw my friend and pacer, Margaret, by the Chicago Theatre and my family (my parents, and my younger brother and sister) shortly after – and when I saw my family I got so excited that two of my water bottles fell out of my belt.

After mile 3, Kathy picked up her pace and zoomed out of my sight. I stayed slow for a bit longer (though I couldn’t tell you if that was intentional or not). Around mile 4, I took off my long-sleeved shirt and handed it to my friend Ashley who was cheering me on. If you’ve never tried to run and change simultaneously before, I recommend you try. Highly entertaining, for everyone involved.

I really enjoyed miles 5-8. Bands came out to sing us through, the weather was cooperating (yes, it was cold, but I’d take that any day over heat) and I saw the family again at Addison and Broadway. It amazed me that there were so many spectators and supporters, and I really felt as if I was in the moment. I was doing relatively well, I thought, but as I got closer to the 10th mile marker I started to fear it – in the past, that’s when I started to falter on my long runs.

I got through it okay, saw the family again at the halfway point, and my brother ran with me for two seconds giving me a bottle of water. I took three gulps and handed it back. I wasn’t truly paying attention; all I could think about was that one half was down and there was another half to go. I kept on.

I saw them one more time before the finish, and I was so grateful. On my walk breaks, I would text to see where they were and vice versa. I also got Facebook notifications from well-wishers and texts from friends encouraging me. It all helped.

Around mile 16, I started walking on my run interval. I was tired, my legs were tired, and I knew I had to keep running but every time I tried I made a sound that was half-crying and half-wheezing, so that I sounded like a donkey in distress. I took the break and walked as fast as I could, had water, Gatorade and another gel, and pushed through.

I walked again through an interval during mile 18, knowing that I was losing steam. I thought about turning music on then, but I didn’t want to lose my battery. I saw my friend Angela running then and made sure she was okay, and kept going. I knew one of my besties Krystal was waiting for me at mile 23, and so I just kept thinking about that. I thought, “I have to make it there. Once I make it there, it’s only three more miles.”

I got through 20. Then 21. Then 22. I kept wanting to cry, doing my half-crying, half-wheezing thing. The streets were so beat up, the sidelines desolate. I was trying to run through people who were walking – AND WALKING FASTER THAN ME! I remember getting to 23 felt like an eternity. I looked for my friend as I approached 35th and State… and I couldn’t find her. I slowed down. I started walking.

“I think I missed you, ” I texted. I started panicking.

And then, out of nowhere, Krystal appeared. “Amanda!” she said. She was running alongside me, holding a sign.


I pushed through, and up ahead was my friend who parted ways with me around mile 3.

“Kathy!” I said.

She showed me her watch. “It’s dead,” she said, sadly. “I wanted a record of this.”

“It’s okay,” I said, firmly. “I still have mine. We’re going to get through this together, ok? We’re gonna do this.”

Mile 24 brought more walking than running, bananas and blankets. I ate the banana (even though they are not my favorite), and checked my time at the 25.2 mile marker. My watch said 6:10. That meant I had 20 minutes to complete the mile. I briefly thought about chancing it all and walking the thing, but I couldn’t. Not now. Not after being so close. Not after being almost done. The day before, one of my friends gave me a tiny slip of paper that read, “Don’t quit when you are tired. Quit when you are done.”

I wasn’t about to quit. I wasn’t done yet. Kathy and I got to the hill past Roosevelt. I tried to run up, but I couldn’t. There were a million walkers ahead of us. I got through that crowd, and Kathy asked me, “Run after the turn?”

“Yeah,” I said.

Before the race, she had said, “They say that you’re a different person after you run a marathon.” Now she said, “Hey, Amanda. I’m so glad to have met you and so glad to meet the new you.”

“You too!” I said. “Let’s go.”

Sprinting toward the finish.

I saw the finish line ahead and sprinted toward it at an 11-minute pace. My watch clocked a finish time of 6:22 (my official time was 6:22:24 – not bad, Garmin).

After that, all that was left was to get my medal. Except Bank of America fucked up, and ran out of medals. They sent me this nice “it’s not you it’s us” letter:

Dear 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Finisher,

We hope you had a great experience at the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. We have identified you as one of the participants who may not have received a medal upon finishing the race. We sincerely apologize and understand that you may be disappointed in not having been able to immediately commemorate your hard work with a finisher medal.

We are currently exploring how this could have happened. We’d like to assure you that you will receive a finisher medal as soon as we are able to send them.

The mailing address that we currently have on file for you is the one that you entered upon registering for the race. If you have since moved, please e-mail your updated address to us.

Congratulations on your finish at the 35th anniversary Bank of America Chicago Marathon. We thank you for your understanding.


Bank of America Chicago Marathon

“How this could have happened” ? You’re a BANK. LEARN HOW TO DO MATH.

So, when I get my medal, I will take pictures of me wearing it and sleeping next to it on my pillow. Maybe I will run 10 miles beforehand to make it look authentic. :)

And maybe I will run 10 miles when I can learn how to walk again (it’s been difficult, today). I wonder what’s next for me…

Have a good night, everyone.

294 Responses to “The Chicago Marathon, Unabridged.”

  1. Alex

    Wow Amanda! Just wow!! Don’t quit when
    You’re tired…quit when you’re done! I get
    Choked up just typing it. That, in one sentence sums up the marathon. And you did it! What an amazing awesome experience for you. I remember you telling me about sone of your struggles around the 10 mile mark and how you struggled through in the race is just plain fantastic! It is truly inspirational, for me, to see a first time marathoner finish the race and especially when they had to fight as hard as you to get there. So congratulations! And your friend was right…to quote Dick Beardsley,”Once you cross that finish line…no matter how slow, no matter how fast…it will change your life forever.” I know it has mine and I am sure it will yours! Congrats again and I look forward to Winter Warriors.

  2. Liz

    I’ve been sitting here babbling to my roommate about how impressed & proud of my friend Amanda I am. I’m sure she’s like “SHUT UP” but I don’t care!

  3. Karolynn

    Congratulations Amanda! I found your blog though Kathy’s fb page, sorry again we weren’t able to meet up for the 20 miler. My experience at the marathon was much like yours, especially this part, “I kept wanting to cry, doing my half-crying, half-wheezing thing.” This really summed up the last 5 miles for me. LOL But we did it, even though we don’t have the medals to prove it. I hope to see you running with CES again…after we are able to start walking again :)

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