Marathons are Gross: Chicago Marathon 2018

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Sorry these are all watermarked photos, but you know I’m not paying for the actual ones….

Running a marathon is gross for so many reasons. The blisters, the sweat, the chafing. There’s also the digestive issues and the sheer amount of food you need to consume in order to fuel over four hours of running. Imagine a laundry basket filled with two weeks of sweaty running clothes in August. It’s not pretty.

I wrote a few weeks ago about my marathon training. At that point, the longest run I had ever been on was 15 miles. A few months later, I’ve successfully completed my last marathon.

It was far from easy, and yes, it was gross. If one thing became abundantly clear to me over the past few months, it’s that the human body is not really built to run marathons. Especially not mine. But more than a physical challenge, it’s a mental one. My hardest run was not the marathon itself or even the 20 miler. It was a weekday 10 miler.

The week between running 18 miles and running 20 miles, I had a 10 miler scheduled for during the week. I was feeling great, albeit sore, after successfully running 18 miles the previous Saturday. That’s 9 miles down the Riverside Park path, 9 miles back. From my apartment in Harlem, that amounts to running all the way down to SoHo, about a half mile north of the Freedom Tower.

As I laced up to run 10 miles on a Wednesday night, it was extra hot and humid, and my knee, which had been bothering me on and off throughout training, felt like the bones were grinding each other down, sending shooting pains up and down my leg the entire time. I felt like I was running through water, exerting so much effort and getting nowhere. I was hot, tired, frustrated. By the time I returned to my apartment, I was in a foul mood. After fighting tears for the last mile or so, when I got home, I slammed the door, showered, and went to bed.

This was the first time I felt like I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t run a marathon, especially not if I couldn’t handle a measly 10 miles. How could I complete the rest of my training if it felt like my body was giving out?

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I iced my knee relentlessly, cut back on other workouts, especially ones working my leg muscles, and hydrated as much as possible. I kept assuring myself that it was simply a bad run, a bad day, and that as long as I took care of myself, I would make it to race day, and I’d make it through the race.

And I did. The Chicago Marathon was by no means easy, but I trained hard, and it paid off. What’s more, I conquered things during the race that were some of my biggest race-day fears — running in the rain, and needing to use the bathroom. It’s never the physical aspect of running 26.2 miles I feared. Rather, it was all the things that could go wrong, ruin the run for me, and therefore ruin the race and waste my training.

Race day in Chicago on October 7 was cold, about 50 degrees when I started. After waiting for around an hour in my start corral, it also started raining. The rain continued fiercely for the first 8 miles or so. But that didn’t bother me. I loved running through the city of Chicago, seeing all the neighborhoods, being cheered on by spectators (and their dogs). I felt unstoppable for the first half of the race. Then, just as I crossed through the half-marathon checkpoint, a searing pain shot through my knee, I got lightheaded and thought I was going to collapse.

I panicked for a second. I did not want to let the race end for me. I stopped running, slathered my knee in Bengay, drank some water, and stretched. I took some deep breaths and kept running. And running and running.

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I am incredibly proud of my accomplishment. I am proud not only of finishing the race, but of my training. I made time for myself and accomplished things I never thought I could. I’m most proud of never missing a run. I might have been sore or even hungover, but I always made it out and got my miles in.

Everyone asks if I’ll be running another one. I can’t say I’ll be doing one any time soon, that’s for sure. Maybe in a few years, when I forget how hard it was to train, and how rough it was on my body, I’ll think about another one, but for now, I’m pleased with how this one went, and don’t feel like I need to run another.

I will run again, though. This process made me appreciate a great run, and I genuinely enjoyed having hours to myself, running along the river and listening to a good audiobook. I’m already missing seeing the city on my runs, and in a few months, I’m sure I’ll be out there again, hopefully running less than 10 miles at a time.

For now, I’m excited to let my body recover, get back to my favorite classes at the gym, and have my weekends back. It does feel good to be able to add “running a marathon” to the list of things I’ve accomplished though.

Congrats to everyone who ran Chicago, and best of luck to everyone training for a race now!

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