My Chicago Marathon experience in 2001 drove my training for an entire year. I didn’t take much time off and trained through the winter months with weekly 10 mile long runs. Not qualifying for Boston, hitting the wall at mile 23 and missing a few long runs in training for 2001 made me hungry for a second chance. I was driven to not repeat the same mistakes and accomplish my goal this time around.
I trained all the way up to 24 miles for my peak long run and was consistantly hitting 40-60 mile weeks. I had also changed jobs over the winter. I went from a desk job to a truck driving job that included unloading between 80,000 -120,000 lbs by hand a week. I was in the best shape of my life. I didn’t get 6 pack abs, but I did come close with a 4 and a half and a half pack.
My friend Dave took this year off from running Chicago, so I was on my own for travel and hotel. I drove in to Chicago for the Expo on Saturday and had planned on a quick 3 mile run on on the bike paths on Lake Michigan, but it rained quite a bit Saturday, so I canceled that idea. My hotel was about a 30 minute drive to the Shedd Aquirium parking lot, which would become a marathon tradition for my parking needs. Cheap and not much of a walk to Grant Park and the starting line. 2002 was the first year for a seeded starting corrals and I had been able to earn a first corral position from my time in 2001. I remember pulling up my sweatshirt to show Security my specially colored bib number as I went down the roped off area to the start corral. I felt like a rock star at that point. I got there early enough (about 30 minutes before the start) to do a little warm run in the corral before it got too populated to do anymore running. I lined up about 10 feet from the front of the corral and could see the elite runners warming up out on the course. I started to notice that I was trapped in this holding pen waiting for the start and now needing to relieve some water weight. Well I guess I am going to have to see if the course has any port-a-johns.
The gun went off and it only took me about 14 seconds to get to the starting line chip timing pad at which point I started my Ironman stopwatch. Running down Columbus Dr. I remember looking up to all the fans looking down from a bridge. They were cheering like crazy and it was just an awesome feeling. Shortly running under that bridge and through a short tunnel, a follow runner past me in the crowd veared right in front of me and passed gas. Thanks a lot Mr. Smelly! Nothing like the stentch of a Big City tunnel followed by a methane chaser.
I did notice that the crowd was not nearly as dense as the year before since the start corral put us in front of everyone, but the elites who were long gone within a few strides after the gun. It was nice to run without fear of being clipped or tripped.
(to be continued)