09 October, 2007

My Chicago Marathon (sort of) race report

First chance on a computer since race day.

I had a good night sleep on Saturday courtesy of Tylenol PM. Sunday, race day, dawned humid and warm, it was over 70 when I got to Grant Park at 6:00 a.m. Had 3/4 bagel and a luna bar. Stomach was mercifully happy this year, which was a nice change from last year.

Started heading to the start around 7:30, lined myself up near the 5:15 pace group. Temp is already 78 or so. Gun goes off 8:05 a.m. and we stand there a while, start shuffling towards the start line. At this point, we're into the sun and it's steamy already. I finally cross the start line after 21 minutes.

Moving along, it's hot. Get to the first water station just before mile 2, and of the 10 or so tables set up there, 9 were already folded up and stacked on the side of the road because they were out of water already. 1 table had water, and completely out of Gatorade. interesting...

I keep running and we start heading north, feeling ok but hot. Broad daylight, no shade to be had. Next water stop has water but no cups. I luckily was carrying a waist-pack water carrier, so I topped off my bottle and kept going. No gatorade there either. Keep going north and we are into Lincoln Park. Aid station there has cups but no water (see a pattern developing?). We exit Lincoln Park and are along Lake Shore Drive - runners are literally filling their water bottles from the decorative fountains in front of apartment buildings - the kind of fountains you toss pennies into. This is mile 6 or so and the heat is already really affecting people.

We make the turn and start heading south. there's a fair amount of shade on this section of the course, and the homeowners and neighborhood people are fantastic. They're out there w/ their hoses filling cups and bottles for runners, running sprinklers to cool us down, going into the stores to buy water since there obviously wasn't enough supplied by the race organizers.

Anyways, I'm well off my planned pace but still feeling ok because I had my own water supply and topped up my bottle every chance I got, and I dropped to a walk when I was in the sun for too long and started getting hot.

Aid stations are still lacking - whether they have cups but no liquids, or liquids but no cups. One stop where they had Gatorade (important on a day like yesterday, where you need to replace the salt), but no cups, we were literally taking used cups off the ground so we had something to drink from. Not exactly hygienic, huh?

At this point, we've made the turn to start heading west. Sun's beating down, and I pass the halfway mark. People are sitting on the side of the road, laying on the sidewalks, getting loaded into ambulances. It is brutal out there. About 2 minutes later, there's a police man walking down the middle of the road telling people to walk because they're calling off the race. I turn to some runners near me and they couldn't tell if they heard him right either, so we keep running. I pass the 25k mark, which is 15.5 miles, go over the timing mats there, keep running. We've heard a few more cops saying they've called the race. there's a helicoptor flying over us w/ someone announcing something but we can't really hear what they're saying.

Anyways, I've sort of got a 2nd wind at this point, have been going under every sprinkler and hose I've seen, have refilled my water bottle at every opportunity, and feel fine. Taking it slow, but feel fine, and I'm still running.

Regardless, I get to the corner of Jackson and Halsted at mile 16.5 where I should be turning south and they've indeed called the race off. The police barricaded the road heading south, about 10 minutes before I arrived there. We were told to keep heading east on Jackson until we get back to Grant Park. So, we did. No choice in the matter at all. It was probably another 1.5 miles back to Grant Park and I decided to keep running, as did a few others around me, so in all, I covered around 18 miles.

I can't argue w/ the decision to call the race off, once it was apparent how depleted the aid stations were, major medical issues including one death, and I also heard that they had critical shortage of medical staff because of the huge number of people suffering from heat exhaustion, etc.

Could it have been avoided w/ better fluid supply out on the course? I don't know the answer to that. Heat and humidity like that is brutal. And it was pretty scary to hear the sirens going non-stop for hours.

I just know it was a disappointing day for me. I trained well this year for my race, I did the work to get to race day, and I didn't get to go the distance. Of the 35000 runners who started the race, only 24000 finished. And I feel like I've let down all my family and friends who supported my run by making donations to MSKCC.

I'm looking into doing another marathon this fall - I'm trained up and I really want to go the distance - hopefully I can pull some strings and get into NYC at this late date.

Anyways, that's it from here. I hope everyone is OK!!


Raymond said...

Elizabeth, you made a gallant effort and would have succeeded had they not stopped you short. It's sad but remember that you couldn't do anything about it and write it off. Set your sights on another race, and another day. As I said on the forum, we'd love to have you in Philly. Stay in touch and wipe the slate clean.


Tom said...

Hi Elizabeth. You ran a really smart race until it was called off. You had the presence of mind to keep your bottle topped off and keep going. You really indicate you were doing okay and pointing toward a satisfactory finish under the brutal conditions. I really admire your great attitude too.

Hope you find another marathon where you can achieve your goals. Des Moines Marathon is in two weeks, and if you come here, Amy and I will treat you like royalty, and you'll feel like you're in heaven.

Best wishes!


RonTimminsRocks said...

You were smart to approach the race the way you did.
I've run a couple of races in such conditions, but never a marathon.
It's getting harder to find cool weather for a marathon. But marathons should never be run in such weather as Chicago. Never.

But I can only imagine the frustration you and a lot of others must have felt. I whine if it's 65 at racetime.