2017 Chicago Marathon.
On Sunday October 8th 2017, I crossed the finish line of my 5th marathon hand in hand with my dad. It wasn't a pretty journey & it wasn't what I pictured in my mind ahead of time, but I can confidently say being handed that medal was one of the proudest moments in my running career- not because of time, not because of a PR, not because of a perfect race, but because there were moments in that 26.2 that I thought I may not be handed that medal.
I woke up Sunday morning in great spirits, although I had hardly slept at all, I felt excited and ready to be at that start line. I excitedly walked to meet my parents between their Airbnb and my apartment, and had every nervous, anxious, excited feeling all within me. Everything went smooth traveling downtown to the start of the marathon. We met up with my friend Laura from my CARA training group. While waiting in the corral, the temperatures felt perfect- cooler with a breeze, but we knew the warmer temperatures would sneak up on us especially with no clouds in the sky and the sunrising over the lake as we stood there waiting. We went in with a solid game plan, a plan to run the first 13 at an 8:25 pace and then back down to an 8:30 pace as the temperatures rose and see where we could go from there. My dad often starts the first half of his race a little strong purposely, especially when he knows hot temperatures are coming- I had never done that for a race but we decided we should try. We felt strong and the conditions felt great for the first half, I glided through the first ten miles- with only a little worry about the paces that felt hard to read with the thousands of people surrounding me. As we journeyed through Lincoln Park and Lakeview and then into Old Town, I saw people I knew at least every mile- tons of "DEVIN!!!" "WAY TO GO!" "RUN THE MILES", and I was feeling so loved and supported. After we saw my mom at mile 12.5, I started backing off a little while my dad and Laura maintained the pace. As this happened I started worrying why my body was backing down a little and I could feel mental challenges beginning to sneak in. By mile 14 I was suddenly feeling like I had already run a marathon, which is a terrifying feeling to have at mile 14 of 26.2. I called my dad to have him back off and come back to me, he tried to get a sense of what was going on and how I was feeling, I told him that I was already feeling it so I thought that backing off a little would be a good idea since we had so much more ahead of us.
At this point my mental positivity started quickly decreasing, my body began to feel tired, and I started wondering how I was going to make it to the finish line. From about mile 15.5 on I was STRUGGLING. At about 16 I stopped to quickly go to the bathroom, and while I was in there my dad called my mom, he told her I was struggling but he would get me through and she needed to be praying for me. I got another wind back in me about a mile later, I was smiling and I chatted with my dad a little bit, during this time he was pep talking me- reminding me of my running abilities, breaking the race down into smaller segments, reminding me that I could do it and that I was strong enough mentally and physically. Unfortunately that burst of energy and change of attitude was very short lived, and then entered a rollercoaster of the rest of the marathon. I would perk up for about .25 mile and then I would slowly change my attitude back into a "what if I don't finish" mentality, my face would change, my pace would slow. The temperatures were getting hotter and at this point I was drinking at the water stations in addition to DUMPING full cups of water on me to keep myself cool. The heat is hard for me both physically and mentally, so with the temperatures quickly rising and the sun getting more intense, I was struggling even more. My dad kept going along in front of me trying his hardest to keep me at a pace I wouldn't be disappointed in, at this point I had let go of my 3:45 and I had even let go of a PR, two things that I thought I had a high chance of doing with the way training went this year.
I saw my mom at mile 20.5 and I stopped to hug her, something I never do while running a marathon. So many emotions while stopping there, I asked my dad for a hug too and he encouraged me that we needed to keep on pushing through and that I could do it. From there on out, every mile marker I saw I reminded myself that I was doing it, I was pushing through and I could certainly make it to that finish line. At mile 23, there's always a group of my friends cheering on the bridge, I ran to my friend Hilary, who was told two days before the marathon that she has a stress fracture and can't run, and gave her a painful hug then kept moving on. As I turned the corner onto Michigan Ave, it was the first confident moment I had in miles, I knew at this point how close I was to the finish line. My mindset changed, although my pace did not. I kept pushing through watching my dad ahead of me encouraging me to stay on pace. I saw multiple friends along Michigan Ave, gave them a painful smile & a thumbs up, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. As I rounded the corner at Roosevelt, I saw my mom with the biggest smile on her face, and I pushed up that hill right next to my dad. We turned the corner, he grabbed my hand and we made it to that finish line.
As I was handed my medal, I started to cry and I looked at my dad and said, "I really didn't know if I would get this." He hugged me and we continued the post marathon zombie walk, as we were handed snacks and drinks and ice. At this point I had absolutely no idea at all what my time was, I grabbed my phone to check the Chicago Marathon app, laughed and said, "Dad. I got a 3:59:59." to which he replied "Thank GOD!!"
So, The Chicago Marathon was not at all what I envisioned, and I mentally struggled harder than I have EVER struggled in a marathon. I didn't get my 3:45, I didn't get a PR, but I did get to cross the finish line of the Chicago Marathon with my dad. I learned that starting out a tiny bit stronger, doesn't quite work for me- a steady pace is what I'm comfortable with, and what I will do in future marathons. I learned that you can't fully prepare for the mental struggles you might face on the marathon course. I learned you can't control the weather, and sometimes Octobers are much hotter than you want. But. I also learned that I am so very loved by so many people in the city of Chicago. I learned that every year every neighborhood shows up big time. I learned that sometimes a medal and a painful finish are sometimes better than a strong finish with a PR. Most importantly, I learned that my dad knows me far better than I give him credit for. I have never felt so known, coached, and taken care of on a course before. My dad knew what to say, he knew how to make me visualize, he knew to run ahead to get me under 4 hours, he calculated mile by mile what would keep me at a pace I should be at, he called my mom to ask for prayers, he grabbed my hand to get me across the finish line stronger. I will forever be grateful for the way my dad handled this race, and this will always be one of my most treasured running memories with him. Not because of a picture perfect race, but because of a dad who showed compassion, love and strength to his daughter while she was checked out and struggling to get to the finish line.