I’ve had a couple of days to digest and wrap my head around what happened this past weekend. Quite honestly I was disappointed once again in my performance. And just like last year, I have to blame the warmer weather to hindering my performance. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this race much more than I did last year. So let’s get started…
6am – I met up with people from my pace group at the JW Marriott. There were a couple of first time marathoners who were absolutely excited and I was very excited for. All year they had trained so well and I was excited to see how they were going to do. They are all plenty faster than me so I did not expect to stay on pace with them, but I wanted to at least run with them for a little bit at the beginning.
6:30am – We hit up the CARA compound at the Congress Hotel so that they could use the gear check and use the bathrooms. I was happy to see Molly and Granato while we were at the Congress. Just seeing familiar faces is enough for me to feel a bit at ease. Like I am not doing this alone. Of course I’m not alone with 45,000 other people, but you know what I mean. In hindsight, we probably should have just hit the designated CARA port-a-pottys by the corrals, but ah well. The lines for the bathrooms were super long at the hotel. I also luckily ran into Jayme from the American Heart Association. She told me I just missed Dan.
7:15am – After waiting entirely too long for bathroom lines we finally made our way out to the corrals. We got there just in time to hear the end of the Star Spangled Banner. We couldn’t get in because the course marshals/volunteers were saying we needed to enter all the way in the back. Probably a good 15 minutes back. Uh no thanks. Someone ended up bending back one of the fences and runners started sneaking in. In order to get to the Nike pace groups we had to show our pace tats, so we showed them and finally got in. Seemed like too much work to finally get settled.
7:30am – Race starts…we wait
7:35am – The mass starts to slowly move towards the start line
7:50am – We finally get to the start line and we are off
We all tried staying reasonably together through the first couple of miles. At the first aid station I knew that NSDRC had some volunteers helping out. I tried to look for some, but couldn’t find any right away. Sure enough as we trotted by I hear a very familiar voice call out to me “Hey Joe!” Sure enough it was Bill the NSDRC site coordinator give me the “hey slow down a bit, it’s warm out” look on his face. I decided to listen.
A couple miles pass and Sarah and Neal lose us just as I thought. It appears Jenn keeps up with them too. In my mind I wanted them to leave so they didn’t have to wait for me, so I was glad to see them disappear into the sea of people. Christin was the next to go. She had some tough training runs this year, but I knew those made her very strong. I knew she would take off eventually but wasn’t sure when. I think we lost her around mile 6. So then it was Maggie and me. She told me she was just in her head too much. I reminded her how incredible she was during training especially during our 20 mile run. She said she was tired and I told her all of the adrenaline has run low and now it was time for her training to really show her what she could do. I know she is faster than me so I kept reminding her that if she wanted to go, she could. Of course I didn’t want her to, but that wouldn’t be fair for me to hold her back.
Somewhere around mile 3-4 there was a small 8oz bottle in the middle of the road getting kicked around. I decided to kick it out of the way so I kicked it to the right side of the street, but RIGHT AT another runner! I was totally freaking out, and somehow miraculously the bottle went right between the runner’s legs like a soccer goal! It was an awesome non-running moment. Maggie was there and saw it to verify it! So far I was 1-1!
Mile 5 – Tripped over the carpeted bridge. Was slightly peeved
Mile 8 – I knew Diana and Noel would be around somewhere like they were last year. Sure enough I spotted them wearing similar colored clothes as me. I don’t know how they knew what color I was going to wear but they nailed it!
Mile 9-10 – The climate was starting to get a little warm soI decided to start slowing down, stretch, and walk a little bit. It was at this time I lost Maggie. I knew it was going to happen, but I felt like it was time. It felt like I was wounded at war and I was telling her to save herself. I had some discomfort on the left side of my chest, so naturally I got a little worried. I stopped instantly and walked. Turns out my shoulder was just a little stiff so I walked. I hit the aid station and surprisingly saw JR and George. It was good to see familiar faces along the course. I gave them some sweaty high fives and went on.
I knew at this time I was going to start seeing a bunch of my friends and family, so I started to get excited and sped up a little bit. And took some shot blocks.
At Mile 12 – I saw Mariano halfway up the hill. He totally didn’t see me running so I had to run to him. I stopped and talked to him for a moment, and felt great as I ran off. Shortly after that as I turned the corner at Adams I saw Mary Jo’s family as well as my cousin Roderick and Melissa. I was hoping I would see them at some point throughout the run. Now I was real hyped up!
Mile 13 – I saw Tony and my nephews on Adams and I felt great, a little further and I saw Jaz, Abby, Erick, and Joe were there and we did a quick change into my blue CARA tank and white hat. I had a banana and loaded my bottles with ice. And Joe and Erick ran with me for a little while. Joe even played Joe Esposito’s “You’re the best around” from Karate Kid on his iPod speakers. That’s right, he brought mini speakers!
Mile 14 – There was some kids playing basketball in an alley, so during one of my stretching stops, I asked them if I could take a shot. Got the pass, and drained a 20 footer. Must be a good sign! Yup, 2 for 2!
Mile 15-17 – SUN! There was no escaping it. Every turn I took it felt like I was going back into the sun, how is that possible? I started walking a ton and texted back and forth with the group looking for motivation. I was all too familiar about this feeling..then I sent this message to our GroupMe text group:
Mile 18 – Thank God! I finally got to Christine! She agreed to run the last 8 miles with me. I told her my feet and legs were hurting and i needed to sit for a minute to get off my feet. She brought me animal crackers. YUM!
Mile 19 – We ran into big Annie and she trotted with us for a bit. I was glad to see her, I remember she was running quite a bit this year too. There was two guys throwing a football on the sidewalk. I decided I needed to lift my spirit with an easy reception. I whistled and I caught an 8 yard pass for a first down. That’s right, 3 for 3! Sam finally caught up with me. I knew it was going to happen eventually, and he was all smiles. I gotta admit, I was pretty jealous of him, but he was definitely having a good time. So I was happy for him!
Mile 20-21 – The sun would not let up. It was just draining me. I kept thinking about how last year was worse, and I shouldn’t complain about this year. I couldn’t help but get annoyed with the fact that there was not a single cloud to save us. We lost Sam at some point while I needed to stretch. Once again I felt like my demise would help another person to finish great.
Mile 22 – I finally got to my family and friends and was defeated. I was ready to give up. I had nothing left and was ready to just stop. My friends and family were so great and they just would not let me quit.
Mile 23-24 – It finally happened. I accepted the fact that today was not my day and I just wanted to finish safely. Christine and I hadn’t had a ton of time to catch up, so I decided to enjoy a conversation with a friend on a very nice day. We walked, we laughed, and we caught up. It was like we were back at UIC again. I knew we had to finish this thing so I told her to do something for me. The last two miles, I wanted to run. So no matter what, make me run.
The last 2 miles – Time to run. Christine was great. She went ahead to get me water and ice when I didn’t have the strength to maneuver to the side of the road. When I would start to fade she would literally hold my arm and start dragging me to run. And most importantly she kept telling me “Go back to your intention”. I thought about this over and over. Why was I doing this? Why was I putting myself through such hell? I want to be able to look at my family and friends and say with confidence that you can do whatever you want to do, because I have done it. I may not have done the best runner that day, but I was the best Joey I could be. And that’s all I could ask for. I saw Joe, Abby, and Erick on the side and they asked if I needed anything like ice, and I was all good. They ended up giving some ice to another runner, but then I was off, I had to keep moving.
I knew my cousin Mylene would be around mile 25 so I just kept going and going till I saw her. She was with her husband Andy and their kids. I gave her a big hug as apparently this is one of two times I get to see her all year. No tears this year with her. But just like last year, I was ready to finish.
Michigan Ave. felt like forever but I started hearing music and the announcer. It was time. I hear someone yelling from the left and it’s my brothers, my nephews and my wife cheering for me. That was what I needed for the last push. I took off up that last hill, Christine exited on the left, and I had the last 200m left. I saw Mike and Mariano at my right while I saw Christine running along side me on the left. I took off my hat and lifted my sunglasses onto my head. I wanted to see every moment of this finish line.
I end every race the same. I remind myself that I am a better person with every step. I think about my family and friends especially Jaz. I think about how my life will only get better. And I remember my dad. I close my eyes a second before crossing the finish line and send a kiss to the sky for my dad.
…and with that, I finish my 2nd marathon.