Thanks to everyone who sent marathon well-wishes and concerns about the insane weather. I finished feeling pretty healthy in 4:16 with a fair dose of walking over the last four miles. On the whole, it was a really fun day despite a few moments of feeling icky. And I came away with a entirely new bunch of thoughts about the marathon craze.
First, this Chicago race is fun. I would venture to say more fun than any other race I've done. The people-watching is absolutely fantastic. At about mile 8, I passed a man trying to increase awareness about prostate cancer who was dressed as a huge pair of testicles. You can imagine the cheers. "Go nuts!" is the only one fit to print here. The aid station volunteers also go all out - I think there's a competition between them. Boystown was my favorite, with a bunch of guys dressed in drag doing cheers. Chinatown was a close second with its dancing dragon. And the spectators are great - very amusing.
The sheer number of runners is amazing. For a lot of people, this is THE biggest athletic event they will do in their lives. I also sense that a lot of people want to do a marathon once to see what it's like or cross it off some life-long to-do list. (In fact, I would put myself in this category.) This means people are really going for it. They are completely psyched up, and that creates an extremely fun and inspiring atmosphere.
Unfortunately, I think that contributed to the problems on race day. It was certainly a very tough day for racing. There were record high temperatures and humidity, which lead to runners suffering from heat stroke, dehydration and the like. Sadly, there was even one death on the course.
With 45,000 people signed up for a race where temperatures typically top out in the 60s, many are not prepared to run in the heat. But everyone who shows up at that starting line has been training for months and they have this goal. It's hard to accept mother nature throwing a monkey wrench into those plans. Some people will inevitably push too hard without realizing the dangers of that, and then get sick.
I was fortunate because two of my long training runs were in Atlanta this summer, where the weather was essentially the same as race-day. I managed to finish before most of the chaos. I think they called off the race and starting telling people on the course to walk about 15 minutes after I finished. Despite my complaints at the time about those steamy and hilly training runs, boy do I feel lucky that I did them.
That's my story. Many, many thanks to Sharon and Dan, who talked me into doing this crazy race and posted amazing finishes despite being out there when the course closed. Big high-fives to Paul and Julie, our amazingly precise fans who braved the heat so we could see some familiar faces on the course. And props to the Hudsons for live coverage on Rocketfever and good thoughts during the race. (I felt them, I did.)
I'll post photos as soon as I get them.