Chicagoland Marathon Race Recap

24 May

This post is very difficult to write, and one that I am not excited to be writing. It will most likely be lengthy and filled with emotions. So saddle up, readers…hope you’re ready for this bumpy ride!


Saturday morning I was up at 4am, and out the door by 4:45 headed to the airport for my 6:30am flight. I had planned to be in Chicago at 8am, and hang out and wait until Diana and her husband Lee arrived at 10am.

Well, those plans changed. Following a very delayed flight, and changing flights 3 times, I finally made it to Chicago at 4pm in the afternoon (Diana and her husband were there at 10am, in case you were wondering). I arrived at the hotel in Schaumburg, IL just in time to leave for dinner. I was raging, and ready to punch someone (preferably an American Airlines worker). But I made it.

7am at the airport. I am doing a great job of hiding my anger!

Diana, Lee and I had a lovely dinner (they are so sweet to let me play 3rd wheel all weekend), and got plenty of carbs stored up in our body. We visualized the race together, and spoke about how amazing it was going to be when we crossed the finish line under 3:45, and earned Diana a BQ.

Stuffed and happy!

Loving our new shirts!!

We were all so positive, and so upbeat about the race. We KNEW things were going to work out. It wasn’t an option for them not to.

Following dinner we headed back to the hotel and got everything ready for the race. We pinned our numbers on our shirts, planned our GU stops, marked down where Lee would be spectating us, and had one last pep talk.

Ready to run!

Foot is all taped!

I got back to my room, and got in bed. I was happy and excited. I had really good feelings about our race, and the 26.2 miles we faced in the morning. I wasn’t worried about the weather, and the fact that it was supposed to be unseasonably warm. It was all good…and it would all work out. Because as I said earlier – it had to.

Sunday – Pre-Race

I shot out of bed at 5:45am on Sunday. I was ready to run. After getting myself prepared and compiling my gear, I walked down to Diana’s room. Diana was nervous, but excited as well.

The weather was on TV in her room. I saw that it was already 70 degrees at 6:15am. I slightly panicked, and then shut off the TV. I told them there was NO reason to watch. We could not control the weather, but we could control our bodies (so we thought…).

Our next stop was the starting line. We headed outside and got in the car. I sarcastically yelled, “OMG it is so chilly out here!!! Why didn’t I bring my sweater???”. Truth was, it was very warm. But we refused to acknowledge it.

Following a photo shoot, we got to the start. We were so excited and nervous, but we were ready. This race was going to be our race today. No doubt about it.

Staying in the shade for as long as possible.

Heading to the start.

Can you spy Di and I?!? And the bitchy lady in the background that kept making fun of us for our “overly matching outfits”?

Sunday – Race Time

We crossed the starting line, and hit our watches. Mile 1 was a warm up mile to get our bodies ready. We would let people pass us, but we would see them again soon once we were in the groove. The temperature at the start: 76 degrees.

The course was two loops, with multiple out and back sections.

The first few miles went by pretty fast. But one thing was clear: it was HOT. I had sweat dripping down my face 2 miles in. I am not a big sweater (and besides…girls glow), so I knew this wasn’t a good sign for the 24.2 miles to go. But I ignored it.

I kept Diana and I on pace according to our pace bands. We were hitting our miles, and we were on track to run a 3:42.

Staying positive!

oh hey!

Then, it got really hot.

Around mile 10 Diana said to me, “Ali, I am so hot. Why is it so hot today?” I replied, “Di, I know it is hot, but we have to deal with it. We have to fight through. We can beat it”.

Then we saw Lee, who handed us ice cold bandanas to wrap around our necks. These felt amazing and were finally a relief from the warm weather. We continued to take water at every water stop, and tried our hardest to get fluids in our bodies. We were doing everything right. But the heat was quickly getting to us. And there was very little relief from the sun beating down on us.

That bandana around my neck and sports bra was ahhh mazing!

The halfway point in this race was brutal. We had to run next to to the 13.1 finish line, and keep going to do it all over again (A few weeks before the race, the course was changed. Due to the course change, we would be running a two loop marathon. I am going to throw it out there now that two loop marathons should be illegal).

Diana was becoming very overheated, and dizzy. I grabbed us two bottles of water and opened one for her. We stopped, and I ordered her to drink. Between the two of us we drank two bottles of water in about 2 minutes. We started running again, and I was able to grab another bottle of water from Lee. I kept forcing Diana to drink more while we were running, as well as myself. I was worried about her. In all of training runs and hard workouts, I had never seen her in this state.

By mile 15, we faced the realization that a Boston Qualifying time would not be happening today. Realizing this was heartbreaking. And having to admit it out loud was even worse. We had worked so hard, and Diana deserved that BQ so much. It just wasn’t fair.

On another note – this course totally sucked. We had to share this tiny little path with bikers and recreational runners/walker/children. It was ridiculous!!!

We stopped and regrouped (while chugging more water). Then we decided there was a new goal today: finishing.

I never imagined that I would make it a goal of mine to finish a race. I was stupid to think it would never be something I had to solely work towards. I may have a gift and natural ability, but that doesn’t mean a marathon finish will always come easy (and boy did I realize this during the race). No one is entitled to always have a finish. And I will never forget that.

We had no idea that our tall friend wanted to hug!

Around mile 17, Diana was feeling 100 times better, and I was feeling 100 times worse. My legs were cramping with the worst leg cramps I had ever experienced. I was so hot, my asthma was terrible and I felt like my body wouldn’t work anymore. I kept making Diana stop so I could stretch out my calves. I urged her to go on without me, but like a true friend – she stayed by my side.

When my watch beeped mile 18, Diana asked which mile we had completed. I replied with 18, and she responded with, “Shit…the race hasn’t even started yet!!!!”. Every marathoner has it drilled into their head that the race starts at mile 20. And we had nothing to do but laugh when we thought about that phrase. Our race started at mile 1. No doubt about that!!!

Trucking along at mile 19, and kind of hating life.

Mile 23 came, and I started to have a complete meltdown. I made us stop once again, and I started crying. Running is my “thing”. It’s my constant in life. Running is always there for me. Running I can always do. Life might throw me curve balls (and I have received way too many lately), and I deal with it by running. But during this race, running threw me a curve ball too. And I wasn’t handling it well.

Trying with all of my strength to stay positive.

Diana was so supportive, and got me through me through my cry fest. I couldn’t have kept going if it wasn’t for her.

Finally we saw the finish, and it was the most excited I had ever been to see a finish line. We pumped our legs as hard as we could, and got our bodies across. We smiled through the heartbreak of our missed goal, and managed to take a pretty darn good picture to cap off the race.

YAY! And please notice that apparently it was too hot for spectators to come out.

Accountability partners until the end!!! And I also look like a giant in this photo. I am only 5’4…I swear.

Official time: 4:13:43

Sunday – Post Race

Although we were happy to be done with the race, we were very upset. We hobbled over to a curb and sat down. We drank more water (I swear I drank at least two gallons of water in a 4 hour period), and took a moment to just sit and reflect.

Couldn’t have finished without you!

I got out my phone and was floored by all of the sweet messages from friends and family. Everyone is so thoughtful, and I am beyond thankful. I then checked the weather. It was 88 degrees. 88 degrees is hot if you are walking outside. We were running a MARATHON. No wonder we were dying.

It turns out that only 102 women and 154 men finished the marathon. This was significantly lower than the number that signed up. Many runners opted for the half marathon due to the heat.

The biggest surprise of the day was that I somehow managed to get 3rd place in my age group!

Double medals!

The best way to describe the way I was feeling is mad. I was so mad that the weather sucked. I was mad that I watched Diana put months of training into this race and it didn’t work out. I was mad that we lost control of our race due to the heat. And I was mad that I totally blew up the second half and felt like I held Diana back from running faster (Di, I know you are reading this yelling at me right now!).

We headed back to the hotel and got showered and packed up. Then we checked out and went to lunch. Chicago pizza hit the spot, and the huge beer was even tastier. Although we were feeling blue, we were keeping our heads up. Diana was staying so positive, even though she was sad.

Lee was the best cheerleader EVER!!!

We finished off the weekend with more awful traveling. After two cancelled flights, we checked ourselves into a Holiday Inn at 2am, and got about 5 hours of sleep before we had to go back to the airport and try it all again (American Airlines, I HATE YOU!!!!!). By the way, when you are sad, tired and physically feel awful, the airport is the last place you want to spend 8 hours of your life. By Sunday night I was snapping at anyone who looked at me the wrong way.

Post Race Thoughts

After I finally made it home on Monday afternoon, I was still upset, and Diana was too. It made us sick that the Chicago weather on Monday morning was 50’s with overcast skies – near perfect weather for a marathon. In all of our efforts to find good out of the weekend, we simply couldn’t. There was no positive spin to put on the race. Everything about it sucked.

Although I should be celebrating my 2nd marathon finish, I continue to be saddened by the thought of a missed goal. And mostly, I am sad for Diana. She deserves that BQ. She worked so damn hard. It just isn’t fair.

My body is quickly recovering, but my mind and soul are not. After my first marathon, I was on a high for days. Since this one ended, I have been at quite a low.

Each day gets easier, but I still don’t understand why things worked out the way they did. Why did the weather have to be so outrageous? Why did they have to change the course? And why did months of training have to go to waste like that?? If you know the answers to any of these things, please let me know.

I earned you.

This marathon might have sucked, but that doesn’t mean my determination is gone. And I’d be lying if I said plans for our next big race weren’t already in the works ๐Ÿ˜‰



32 Responses to “Chicagoland Marathon Race Recap”

  1. Michael May 24, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    You did a great a great job, Al. We are all very proud of you!

  2. Corey May 24, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    First, I have to say that you got some awesome running pictures during the race! I am jealous of those ๐Ÿ™‚
    I know it is hard to see now, but I think you absolutely can take a few positives (or at least lessons) from this race. The first being in your own words “No one is entitled to always have a finish. And I will never forget that.” This race taught you what we all learn at some point, and that is to respect the distance. I am not suggesting you didn’t before, but I think when you have one of those moments where you don’t think you will finish, you have a new kind of appreciation for the ability to finish. This happened at my first marathon and I was asking the same things – how could this happen after I put in all the work and all the training? But it just gave me a different mental approach to the next race and WOW did I appreciate getting to mile 20 of that next one still feeling good. You will always reflect back on this race and remember how much it broke your heart, but you will appreciate the others SO MUCH MORE. And Diana WILL get her BQ…and hopefully you will be there to pace her for it! I can’t wait to hear your plans for redemption! After all, the best way to get over post-race blues is to race again ๐Ÿ™‚

    • mileswithstyle (@ahatfield08) May 24, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Thank you so much for this sweet comment, Corey!!! You are absolutely right about the positives I can take away from this race. I think I had always respected the distance, but not really grasped the distance (if that makes any sense). I know that after this race, I will love the next one that much more. It has not taken away my determination…it has quadrupled it!!!

  3. krissy m. murphy May 24, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    I know this must have been such a tough post to write, but Ali, I think you definitely will be glad that you were able to articulate all these thoughts so well, so you can look back at this in the future. You’re a strong, awesome person and runner and as much as a crappy race SUCKS, you don’t!!!!

  4. Nancy Hat. May 24, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Couldn’t agree more. And to quote Michael, “We are all very proud of you!”

  5. fashionablemiles May 24, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Congratulations to you and Diana for sticking it out and finishing! It really does become a mental battle when you know you aren’t going to reach your goals for the race. Believe me when I say you will be a stronger runner, both mentally and physically, from this race. I speak from experience (both finishing a tough race AND not finishing a great race)- allow yourself to be sad and grieve what wasn’t, but don’t let it define you because we all know anything can and will happen on race day. You’re a strong runner and I look forward to watching you rebound- and pace Diana to her BQ! (y’all should come run Houston with me in January)

  6. iwillsmile May 24, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    i read the words “angry” and “sad” but what i feel coming through more than anything is some serious determination! sorry to hear that you had such a frustrating experience but i am excited to hear about what you’re going to do next! this post actually motivated me to get excited about my upcoming marathon training ๐Ÿ™‚ you’re a rockstar Ali!

  7. Stacy Scalfaro May 24, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Ali, you know my story with so many missed goals. I will say this…..the harder you try the more you appreciate it. Every race teaches you something. You learned that you can’t control the heat and you also proved that you never give up. If qualifiying were easy or even running a marathon were easy then it really wouldn’t be worth bloggig about. It’s no easy task. Sometimes we have to reflect on the journey and not just the race. The journey to race day taught Diana that she could do things she never dreamed. And you my friend are a shining example of what true friendship is all about. You ran by her side becasue you believed in her. You sat aside your pride and finished. There is a lot to say in just that. I have have even more respect for those runners to never give up than the ones who sometimes just make it look easy. You are human and you are stronger because of this journey. I will be hitting the pavement with you as soon as you are ready. Back to the drawing board, but you know you won’t be alone. Love you Al.

  8. Jocelyn May 24, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    Congratulations Ali on finishing and a 3rd place medal!!

  9. Nicole May 24, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    You have always been my running inspiration. I am not sure I would have started distance running if it wasn’t for you! Just because you didn’t achieve the BQ for Diana doesn’t mean that you are any less of an incredible runner. And just because you didn’t achieve your goal at the stupid Chicagoland race doesn’t mean you can’t still achieve it. There is this really cool race in CA you know me, always trying to get people to visit! It is a looped course but Santa Rosa mornings are typically cool in the 50’s. It’s August 26th…just something to think about if you are looking for another event! And one positive note about this race is you got that awesome photo with the tall guy. Something to laugh about for years to come! I think you need to get back out there and go for a run – it will be good for you – and make you remember how much you love running!

  10. RunToTheFinish May 24, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Way to be an awesome running partner!! It is always a bummer when race day doesn’t go as planned and HELL to the no I’m nto ever running a two loop marathon. that would definitely do a trick on my head.

    Heat is a huge factor and one that often doesn’t get enough credit for how it can impact your day. You guys pushed through so congrats and know that says a lot about you.

    I am headed to chicago in a few weeks for my race, but it’s only 13.1 so if it’s hot i will struggle but for half the time ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. May 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Congratulations on finishing your 2nd marathon as well as placing 3rd in your age group. I am very proud of you. What you have accomplished is more than a lot of people ever will! Keep that chin up ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Daphne @ Candy Coated Runner May 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Congrats on finishing AND placing! It sounds tough, but now you know you’re even tougher!

  13. jaystancil May 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Great post! Excellent recap of the race and the eventful trip. You and Diana did great continuing to power through to the finish. Running in heat is difficult. You ran a smart, determined race. You have much to be proud of.

  14. Karla May 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Ali- This is a GREAT recap! I know exactly what you went through however I wasn’t trying to BQ. Sometimes things don’t go as planned but you have to look at the fact that you are healthy enough and strong enough to finish a marathon when its 88 degrees out. You put in a lot of training but it is all part of the journey! Look at it as another stepping stone in life! you can say you completed a marathon in extreme heat! You were smart enough to stop, think and decide that you weren’t hitting your goal, but made a plan to finish strong. That is something to be proud of!! I know it is a bummer to not have your friend reach her goal, but she also chose to stick with you! And I’m sure you had fun being miserable together!! Recover and get back to running and you will be ready for the next challenge!! (PS – you look great in your pictures!!)

  15. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf May 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    First off, congratulations on finishing and with a 3rd place finish! Holy cow 88 degrees?!?! That’s hot. You and Diana did an amazing job with so many variables out of your control. I know that you both must be disappointed but you both showed more heart and determination than most people ever will – sticking it out together.

  16. JMJ May 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Congrats on gutting it out and finishing. You 2 are so lucky to have each other as running partners. It really stinks to train that hard and that long for a goal time, and in the end factors that are out of your control (weather) play the biggest role. I think we have all been there and it stinks. Great job. Sounds like a redemption race is already in the works.

  17. joe h May 25, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    race day can be unfair you but you were tougher. sorry it didn’t go as planned but that wasn’t cause of anything you did or could control. this race tested you and you earned HARDWARE. good on you!

  18. Holly May 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Great post {and great pictures!!} I marathon is SUCH a challenging event, both physically AND mentally…way to remain determined and get it done! I’m a huge believer that there is victory in the matter what the time. We put so much into training {dedication, time, perseverance, etc} that we set our eyes on a goal, which is great when we achieve it, but making it through the training and FINISHING is a HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT! Sorry for your disappointment, but I think you rocked it and know you will totally dominate the next one!

  19. Anonymous June 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    Ali you are just amazing! I love to read your blog. I am sure that you were disappointed in yourself but no one else is or will ever be. I love reading how you felt everytiime you run. Keep your positve thoughts and modivation. You modivate me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. thedancingrunner August 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    I love your blog and all of your recaps! I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2010 and can I just say how unpredictable the weather is there?! Great job getting thru it and on the AG win!

  21. mark matthews September 21, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Followed this post from somewhere else. A BQ is so hard because we have to be trained perfect and have the weather be right and all the stars align. It took me ten years. There were many times I had given up, figuriing I would never get there. Here’s my story. You’ll get there too.

  22. Jeff Maher April 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    Wow- I know I am late to the game commenting in April of 2013 and a week before you and I and 27,000 other runners run Boston, but that was a FANTASTIC recap of your experience. It is critical to recap immediately because so much is forgotten within days. I do it for every full I do and it is a great resource for reminding yourself later what you may have done that worked and what didn’t. My first marathon was Chicago ’07. They cancelled it halfway through due to the heat when it peaked at over 90! IN MID OCTOBER! I know what you went through. Way to stick it out. I walked the last 9 miles because the only way I was collecting a medal was if I saw every inch of that 26.2. Six hours and 14 minutes, talk about sucking! Great job to you both!

  23. iphone่กŒๅ‹•้›ปๆบ June 23, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Good article. I’m facing a few of these issues also..


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