This weekend was the Illinois Marathon, an event for which I have been training since January. It was the best marathon training I’ve ever had. I was actually in shape going into training and I didn’t have any injuries. I felt great during all the long runs. I set a huge personal record in the half-marathon on March 20. According to McMillian’s calculator, with that half -marathon time, I should be able to run a 3:46 marathon. However, I was training for a 3:55, which was my realistic goal. My happy goal was 3:50, but as long as I finished under 4 hours, I wouldn’t consider the race to be disastrous.
On Friday, we left Woodstock around 3:00 for the almost 4 hour drive to Champaign, IL. Some friends had already picked up our packets in case we got in too late, so we walked around the expo until it was time for the pasta feed.
Frank Shorter and Lorraine Moller spoke at the Pasta Feed (yes, that is really what it was called). It was hard to hear what they were saying in the room, but I did pick up that they are amazing runners!
The pasta was from Biaggi’s Restorante Italiano. It wasn’t that great. Apparently, the buttered garlic bread and bread pudding were good, but I didn’t get any of that. I had a granola bar when I got back to the hotel room just to get in enough calories for the day. I’ve never been to a race sponsored pasta dinner before and I do not think I will go again.
We got up at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, ate breakfast (a peanut butter builder bar and bad hotel coffee for me) and got ready for the race. At 6:00, we headed down to the University of Illinois campus.
There was no 3:55 pace group, so I got a little behind the 3:50 pace group. I figured if I could keep them in my sights, I was doing good. The gun went off and we started running. The first three miles are always hard for me. I eventually get into a rhythm, but the beginning of a marathon is overwhelming when you think of how far you have to run. We came to the first mile marker, I looked down at my watch and it said 8:24! The 3:50 pace group was just up ahead and was supposed to be running an 8:47 minute mile. I was averaging an 8:23 pace when I crossed the 10K check and averaging a 8:34 minute mile at the half-way point. This was too fast. After the half-way point, I was actually running with the 3:50 pace group, at times I was even getting ahead of them at the water stops. (This was when I learned that his pacing plan was to go out fast and bank some time – this is NOT how you pace. I can go out too fast on my own, I don’t need someone to help me do that). During miles 14-20, I felt really good. We crossed the 20 mile check in 2:53. But then I saw this between mile 20 and 21:
The last 5 and a half miles were terrible. I was not sure if I would even finish the race. Five miles was so long! While I was happy to see the mile markers, it was also very discouraging. I still have 4 miles to run! I cannot run that far! Oh my goodness, still 3 more miles to go! I only had to maintain a 10 minute per mile pace to reach my goal, but that was getting extremely difficult. The water stops started taking longer and I felt like I wasn’t moving even though I was going as fast as I possibly could. We finally come around a corner where you can see the stadium, but it looked so far away. There was a decent crowd lining the streets and through the stadium, which was encouraging. I knew I would definitely finish under 4 hours, but 3:55 was not going to happen.
I did not see myself finish on the JumboTron. I didn’t even see the finish line. I ran into the stadium, but was looking at the ground. I crossed a timing mat, stopped my watch and started walking. But then people started screaming at me: “you’re not done” and “keep going!” I look up ahead and there is the finish line. Oops! I started my watch again and ran the last few steps to the real finish line on the 50-yard line. One minute slower than my goal.
When I finished, I just found an open spot on the field and collapsed. For five minutes I stayed there wondering how I made it through those last 6 miles. I eventually got up, found a bottle of water and met up with my friends. We took showers, went out to eat, had some beers and drove back to northern Illinois.
But we had to stop at a Dairy Queen, apparently it is a spring road trip marathon tradition. Fortunately, Dairy Queen has the dairy-free Starkiss, which will turn your mouth blue. It’s actually not that bad.