Monday, October 13, 2008

The 2008 Chicago Marathon

It's in the books. The crazy part is that it really is over. It's sad, very sudden and re-emphasizes how much work goes into three and a half hours. Here's a recap of the day's events.

The day started pretty normally. The alarm went off at 5:00 and I did my normal race-day routine. I was ready to go by six and headed out to catch the L down to the loop. Here I am before walking out of the door:

I got down to the "B" corral and was able to run into both Matt Rauls and Walter Martinez. Both of them had solid training sessions and were both hoping to come in around 3:15 or so. One of the things about runners is that they are resilient. Even though we all knew the conditions weren't optimum for posting the times our training had told us we were capable of, we'll most likely still try until our body tells us not to.

The gun went off just before 8:00 and we were off. It took me just about a minute to cross the starting line. I mentioned a couple weeks ago, there were three goals: 3:20, 3:22-3:23 and finally sub 3:30. I needed everything to be perfect to hit a 3:20. I knew that the weather probably ruled that out, but I still wanted to give myself a chance in case the stars aligned. I ran the first couple miles a little fast and hit the 3.1 mile mark at a 7:46. I was hoping to be closer to 7:55 here. The more energy I can save early in the race would hopefully mean more for later when it's more likely you'll run out.

I saw my awesome support crew at the 3.5 mile mark. They were split up on both sides of the street, so Tiffany told me that a large portion of the Running for Cru crew was on the other side of the street. I gave them a wave and they were cheering and yelling. It was pretty awesome.

I motored on and hit the 6.2 mile mark at a 7:40 pace overall, so probably ran those three miles a bit too fast. Somewhere around that point, I started to feel my strained calf a little bit. It was only for a couple miles, but I was hoping I wouldn't notice it this soon. I hit the 15K (9.3 mile mark) at a 7:42 pace overall, so I was able to back down the pace a touch.

At mile 11.5 or so, I hit the Cru crew for a second time. I was really looking forward to this encounter. At that point of the marathon, it's becoming the real deal. Anybody can run 5 or 10 miles. Tiffany was also ready with a Gu and a change of hats or headband. I can always see the support team from a little bit away as Iron Mike (my father-in-law) always holds up a sign that says "ZAB." As I saw the sign, I could also see a sea of white shirts with the Running for Cru logo on them. It was really cool. I have had decent sized crowds out to support me before, but this was something else. It seemed like there were at least 20 people in the group.
Here's a shot of some of them:

I also wanted to get a new hat from Tiffany, so as I was running toward them, I took off my hat, was waving it and begin yelling, "Hat! Hat!" and pointing at my head. I got the new hat from Tiffany, tried to say "Hi" to the crowd and went on my way. Here's a shot of me approaching them:

At that point, I was feeling pretty good. My wet hat had been replaced by a dry one and my legs were feeling pretty good. I soon hit the halfway point at 1:40:59, a 7:42 pace. At mile 14, my calf and hamstring started to get a little tight. I figured it usually goes away, so I just tried not to think about it.

I hit the 25K (15.5 miles) mark holding a 7:43 pace, so I was still hanging pretty tough. Sometime around 16, I could feel my second toe on my right foot. When I say feel, I mean it felt like the nub of the toenail that was left was digging into my skin or something. This was the toenail that I had lost in the half marathon. I had trimmed it down to the cuticle just after the half marathon and popped the blister that was under it. I was surprised that I was having issues with it. I had run my last last 20 miler with it and felt nothing. I think it went away by 17 or so, but I don't really remember.

I hit the 30K (18.8) mark and had dipped down to a 7:48 pace overall. I think I hit the proverbial wall sometime around that point. I was just out of gas. You try to dig deep and there's not much there. You end up having to push harder. Even though you're pushing harder, you're running slower because you're out of juice.

I knew that the Cru crew would be upon me soon again as Chinatown approached. I downed a couple of bananas from the volunteers and was downing Gatorade and water with regularity. I was also dumping water on my head. At that point, you try anything to try to stay cool. I had made up my mind that the heat was not going to beat me this year. Even though it was very much beating me down at the time, I didn't allow it to enter my head. My brain was obviously telling my body it needed to slow down, but I wasn't going to lose the psychological battle and admit it was too hot.

Here I am strolling into Chinatown:

And here I am talking to Tiffany in Chinatown:

I remember grabbing the bottle of water from my mother-in-law Lynn, drinking some of it and pouring the rest on my head.

I hit the 35K mark carrying a 7:53 pace overall. The next couple miles are kind of a blur. You head south down toward the Cell, cross the Dan Ryan then head south to 35th before making the turn back north on Michigan Ave. At this point, I was contemplating going to the bathroom. I was debating whether I could make it to the finish line without stopping to go or if I should finally take the plunge and go in my pants. I was sweaty so you really wouldn't be able to tell, but I am just not sure of the logistics of peeing and running at the same time.

I decided to pull over around mile 24 and hit a port-a-john. I jumped in and it was crazy hot in there. I went and hopped back out. It probably cost me a minute, but I felt a lot better. I was calculating in my head what I needed to hit a 3:29. I was at 3:12:30 or so with 18 blocks to go, so I was going to need to run sub 8s to finish under 3:30. I hit the 40K (24.8 miles) mark at 3:19:12 and hit 25 at 3:20:2o or so. I had 1.2 miles to go and needed to run it in under 9 minutes and 39 seconds. I hit the 26 mile mark at the top of the Roosevelt Bridge at 3:28:36, meaning I had to run the last .2 miles in 1:23 to still come in under 3:30. I had run that last part a hundred times in my head. I just mentally pushed the fatigue and heavy legs out of my mind and sprinted toward the finish. If I finished with a 3:30:01, I would have been kicking myself in the ass. I made it with a second to spare and came across in 3:29:58. In the running world, that is a 3:29. I placed 2100 out of 33,000+ finishers.

As I moved through the finishing corral, I stopped to have the chip on my shoe cut off. As I looked down, I noticed there was some blood on the top of my shoe. My second toe had bleed through my sock and into my shoe. I will put a couple pictures of my toes and shoe. I also have a blister under my big toenail. Notice the purple that covers much of the toenail. That's basically a blister under the nail. Do not look at them unless you really want to know what they look like. The marathon isn't like a stroll in the park. Bad things can happen to you. You push your body beyond its natural limits. If this is the worst thing that happened to me, I can feel good about the effort and luck I had on Sunday.

Here are a few pictures post-race:

All in all it was an awesome day. A marathon is never easy and this one was no different. It was definitely the most special run of my life. There times in the marathon that I told myself that raising almost $33,000 is way more impressive than anything I could do running the streets of Chicago. I really felt like I was honoring Cru and was proud to have his name on my chest. As some of you saw, the marathon is a celebration of life. People dedicate their runs to loved ones. They run it after overcoming obstacles. I think Cru deserved at least 26.2 miles of celebration.

It's very inspiring to see these 33,000 runners come out and do something so simple as running and do so much good. I feel like all of the members of the Running for Cru team came out and Sunday and celebrated the life of Cru. Even though I was the one running, I was just one spoke in the wheel that made all of this happen. So, to everyone who was able to come out on Sunday, I'd like to once again thank you all very much. You'll never know what it's like to have that kind of support when you are undertaking the marathon. I also appreciate all of the support that came from those who couldn't make it. I am just happy I could be a part of it. I really felt like Cru's light was shining bright on Sunday and it's because of all of your love and support.

Thanks again,


Tom@RunnersLounge said...

Paul, congratulations on a great marathon!

You ran amazing, and what a moving report the way you brought us all the details. A beautiful tribute to Cru.

Was a pleasure meeting you on Friday and I look forward to staying connected with you and your running.

Keep up the great work!


Walter said...

Great job on Sunday, and a great report!! As I mentioned briefly on a RW post, it was a treat to see your supporters out there. After meeting you and learning about your fundraising efforts, seeing the ZAB signs and the people with the "Running for Cru" shirts were a highlight of my race-day experience.

Congrats again, and I hope that we can stay in touch!!


Kristin said...

Congrats on a great race! It was definitely a warm one out there. I'm sorry I missed Cru's crew but it was nice knowing you all were out there.

Take care,
Kristin (friend of Melissa & Joe)

ExSoccerGuy said...


Just got around to reading the whole report. 33,000-ish runners; $33,000-ish raised for charity; run just under 3:30 in tough conditions. Nice symmetry.

You just need a race with 32,000 runners where you "only" raise $32,000 and you'll get your 3:20.

Great to have met you, and keep in touch.


Mark Matula said...

I'm brand new to running, just ran my first Half this past weekend and was devouring information at I happened to see your blog URL in your sig on the runnersworld forums and immediately knew who Cru was. I work with Ken's folks and was at Cru's funeral - what a sad situation. I just wanted to commend you on your incredible fund raising and what sounds like a great run.

screaminzab said...

Hey Mark-

Thanks a lot. It really was an amazing day.

If you ever need any tips or advice on running, let me know. I am not an expert, but I do have about 5 years of running experience now. Hope the half went well.


zbsports said...

Looking back the old days...That was a very awesome fun!!!