I had an awesome time at this race. If you are in the midwest, I recommend you add it to your race schedule for 2013. It was a big race, the largest I’ve ever done by far. But, it was really well organized and staffed. The pre-race communications were great, so I knew where to park and pick up my packet at the expo, where to park on race day, etc. And the spectators and volunteers rocked! So many funny signs, families cheering us on, and other surprises along the way. I had a huge smile on my face nearly the entire race. (Yes, I am that dork that runs a race with a big grin on her face.)
The expo was a little smaller than I would have thought for a race of this size. In one gym, participants picked up their bibs and were able to check the imbedded timing chips. They also had a booth set up with Joe’s Pacers. I stopped by and decided I’d run with the 5 hour marathon pacer since my goal time was 2.5 hours for the half. In a separate gym, they had vendors set up and t-shirt pickup. There were a few clothing vendors, and of course, I had to get a couple of cute running shirts and a sweaty band. One of the shirts says Bad Mother Runner on it with a pink skull. I also got sucked in and bought some race merchandise clothing. It says Illinois Marathon on it. I hope that doesn’t make me a poser.
Race day began at 4:00 am for me. Yawn! I had laid out my clothes and showered the night before, so I quickly made coffee, a PBJ for the road and threw on my clothes. I was on the road around 4:45 am for the hour-plus drive to Champaign. On the ride there, I drove through several downpours. I was really hoping the rain would pass before it was start time. I’ve run in light rain before, but nothing like what was coming down then.
And luck would have it, the rain did stop before it was time to line up at the start line. It was cool and damp, so I was cold while waiting for the race to begin. I lined up in my corral and chatted with the pacer for a bit. Since I’m a slow poke, our corral didn’t start until nearly 15 minutes after the official race start.
The first few miles were crowded and a little weird as everyone tried to set their pace and spread out. I kept the pacer in my sight, and tried to enjoy the sights along the route. After just a few miles, I had warmed up and was wishing I’d have picked a short-sleeve or a tank to wear instead of long sleeves. I fought a bit of a side cramp around miles 4 and 5. I don’t know why it came on, but I was able to run through it. For the most part, I felt good throughout the race. I kept the pacer in sight, but I often felt like I could be running a bit faster.
Finally, around mile 9, I decided to go for it and I passed the pacing group. I was running around a 10 min pace and I felt strong. Around mile 10, I had the pleasant surprise of running into two runner friends who were running the full marathon. I slowed down and we chatted for a bit, but then I surged ahead because I knew that 2:30 goal time was going to be mine. I continued to feel great until mile 11. At this point, I was starting to feel fatigued. But I kept pushing it, not wanting to slow down. The course had taken us back into campus, so there were a lot of people cheering along the road. I tried to feed off their energy, and I also told myself I was too proud to slow down with that many people watching. Mile 12 came, and I was starting to struggle. My breathing became labored and it was time to rely on my mental toughness to get me through. I wanted to walk, but I settled on slowing down to around a 12 min pace instead. My legs were feeling heavy and tired. I just wanted the race DONE at this point. Mile 12.5 came, and the marathoners broke off from the half-ers. I started to pick up my pace again, knowing I was almost done. The course kind of winds around until you enter into the tunnel to go onto the field at the football stadium. Once I hit the tunnel, I heard the roar of people cheering and I saw the finish line. I tried my best to pick up some speed, but the sudden change from pavement to Astroturf threw me for a loop. It felt like I was running on squishy springy carpet. I crossed the finish line, and was bummed when I saw the race clock was over 2:30. Then I remembered the corral start, and I looked down at my Garmin and stopped it. I wouldn’t know my official time until later than day, but I knew I finished in under 2:30!
Official time was 2:27:42, well below my previous time of 2:40 something.
I had a difficult time finding Nick and the kids because there were so many freaking people! It was crazy. I finally found them, and I swear, seeing the looks on my kids’ faces when I’ve finished a race is one of the best things in the world. They are so excited to see me, and I just love it.