In October 2012 my friend and running buddy Martha Hall ran the Chicago Marathon. It was such a great event for her, she asked me if I would like to run it with her in 2013. What an honour to be asked to participate in one of the five biggest marathons in the world by a friend who considered me worthy of accompanying her on such an adventure.

Right now I have to explain that Martha and I have known each other over 30 years. Though we lost touch after school, our lives have had parallel experiences. Via the gift of social media, we were able to reconnect with each other back in 2009 as I was recovering from the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life; Lyme disease. When I hatched my plan to run the New York City Marathon, Martha was immediately on board. As a marathon veteran, she convinced me that I could run a marathon, though I had so many doubts. Having Martha run my first marathon with me was one of the most special gifts life has given me, my loving and supportive family being the best gift ever, and amazing friends another. I owe my whole marathon tutelage to Martha, the good folks at Marathon Training Academy (Angie and Trevor Spencer), and of course, my running posse, AKA, the Real Runners of New England.

So, yes, I was delighted at the prospect of running the Chicago Marathon with Martha and experiencing this incredible event as well as visiting a city with magnificent beauty and incredibly friendly people. And so, with my running posse, training began at the end of June 2013.

As any runner will tell you, training comes with it’s ups and downs, sacrifices and rewards. This was the 4th marathon I trained for (I’ve run 3, had to pull out of the 4th due to injury). Feeling my fittest in the years since Lyme disease wracked havoc with my body, I decided that I should train at a level that I felt would push me a bit. I added a bit more speed workouts and cross training workouts to my weekly routine. It was all going so well. Sixteen weeks of training seemed to fly by. Then came the taper. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I guess it’s called “taper psychosis” and I had it big time. All of the sudden, I felt as if many of my Lyme symptoms were returning; joint aches, upper shoulder and back pain, sore feet and headaches. Doubt consumed me for the first time; would I be able to actually run at all on marathon day? The two week taper dragged on, and though I ran short distances during that time, I struggled to find my groove. I started to wonder if the goal I had set myself at the beginning of my training would be achievable.

Arriving in Chicago, we headed to the expo to pick up our bibs and acquaint ourselves with the information necessary for a successful run. I was fortunate enough to qualify to be in the first wave, starting in corral C. My goal was to run a 3:35 marathon and as such I decided for the first time to try running with a pace group.

Marathon morning arrived. With the usual dose of nerves, what I like to call “jelly belly”, and dressed in my signature Brooks Running attire (lyme green nighttime mesh hat, lyme green Epiphany short sleeved top, Infiniti shorts, low cut Brooks versatile low-cut socks and my lyme green Adrenaline GTS13) I headed out for the short walk from my hotel to my corral. The one thing I forgot was the closing time for my corral. Arriving at 7:15, I forgot my corral closed at 7:20am for a 7:30am start. As it turned out, I made it into my corral with one minute to spare and no chance of lining up with my 3:35 pace group. I was on my own. However, this is what my training prepared me for. You see, all throughout my training, though I did run with a group of other women and men, they were all much faster runners than myself. On my long runs, I’d start off with the group, but after about 10-13 miles, would have to fall back and run the remaining distance by myself. I felt prepared for the challenge of taking on the marathon alone, relying on my Garmin as I had done on so many other runs.

In a big marathon like Chicago, you forget what it will be like to run with so many people. You forget that it may take several miles to find your space to run your race. However, by mile 8 I was able to do this quite comfortably. I have to say as well that the race support at Chicago was phenomenal!!! The supply of fluids and fuels all along the route was amazing. The volunteers were friendly and helpful and the crowds were wonderful. Running in such a supportive atmosphere made the run go by quickly. The course was great as well with may turns so as not to get bored running in complete straight lines. I reached mile 13 at 1:47, as I had done in so many training runs. Miles 13-20 seemed to fly by. At mile 20, like most runners, I was starting to feel fatigued, but I knew I had enough left in the tank to finish. At mile 21 I saw some friends of mine who live in Chicago; what a tonic to see friendly faces cheering you on. From miles 23-26.2, I had to dig deep. I started to really feel leg fatigue, though my breathing remained easy and calm. I finished at 3:42:46, and though I did not meet my goal of 3:35, I had a good, strong race that didn’t leave me too fatigued. The best part of the whole run, though, was that for the very first time in my marathon history, I did not have blistered feet!!! That, and during the run, none of my Lyme symptoms occurred and so far, so good. I’m back to cycling, lifting weights and doing shorter runs and feeling great. Who could ask for more?

Below is a video recap of the marathon experience filmed on my iPhone spliced with photos also taken from my iPhone. Enjoy viewing!

Chicago Marathon 2013 from angela coulombe on Vimeo.

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