On October 9, 2005, I ran my very first marathon with my very first running buddy. It was a magical summer of training and a magical race, all which led to one of my closest friendships. The Chicago Marathon has always held a special little place in my little beating heart -- I became the runner I am today after crossing that finish line, where I promptly stated, "I am never doing this again." Yup, that sounds like me.
But on October 9, 2011, I will run my 11th marathon. The Chicago Marathon. Six years to the day of that very first time. In six years there have been 10 marathons, 18 half marathons, a 50K and a 50-miler, but it all started in Chicago. On October 9th, when I said I was never doing it again.
I'm excited to commemorate all of it where it all started. Also because we're taking the train to Chicago, and holy shit that's fun. There will probably be no personal record set on Sunday, but six years' worth of everything I've gained in life because of running, is accomplishment enough.
In 2005, A.J. and I were working for a newspaper, and after our marathon, it ran a full-page story called "Diary of a First Marathon," where we chronicled our experience in Chicago. It's interesting to relive the race through the eyes of new marathoners. Turns out, it's not much different today. It's still awesome. It's still awful.
Marathon, you're a bitch. I love you.
Diary of a First Marathon: It took four hours and 48 minutes, but they made it
Monday, October 17, 2005
By Krista and A.J. of (local newspaper)
Staffers A.J. and Krista ran their first marathon—the Chicago Marathon—on Sunday, October 9. Here’s the account of their 26.2-mile journey:
Krista: So, this is great. The crowd is wild; I'd totally run a marathon again. And why are men jogging off the course to relieve themselves already? Good thing I can hold it.
A.J.: I'm the Energizer Bunny and I'm going to conquer this city! You should feel the adrenaline in this huge mass of people.
Krista: One down, 25 to go! I can't believe I'm doing this. And I also can't believe I'm going to be running for at least another four hours. Oh well, I feel like I could go forever.
A.J.: They love us, they really love us! Thanks to our iron-on letters spelling out our names across powder blue tank tops, it feels like the whole city is urging us on.
Krista: People are cheering our names! That's awesome! I knew it was a good idea to put our names on our tank tops. We're so fashionable. That's what this is about, right?
A.J.: The weather is perfect, my fellow runners are friendly, and everyone's chattering. I've never felt better!
Krista: This is fun. I'm actually having fun running a marathon. Unless tragedy strikes, I'd totally do this again. I think.
A.J.: Already mile four? I can handle this … I think I'll register for next year's run after the race. Chicago: You're the best.
Krista: We are completely on target with our time. I guess 18 weeks of training paid off.
A.J.: I thought by now the mass of runners would spread out, but we're either passing or getting passed by folks left and right. It's definitely close quarters.
Krista: Funny that my shirt reads "Krista," yet people keep yelling Kristin, Kristi, or Kristina. Oh well, it's the spirit that counts. Spectators are awesome.
A.J.: About a quarter of the way there, and we're both going strong. We trained 18 weeks for this.
Krista: Nice, less than 20 miles to go. That just seems unnatural to me. Who runs that far?
A.J.: You should see this city. I feel like we're running circles around the Sears Tower. We turn a corner, and there it is. We cross a bridge, and it's off in the distance.
Krista: I really can't get over how good I feel. I think I can actually pull this off. Hey buddy, the name is Krista.
A.J.: The signs, the spectators, the camaraderie. We're just soaking it all in as we tour this enormous city on foot.
Krista: Only one more mile until our first "milestone"—10 miles. I could go for some Gatorade.
A.J.: We just passed Wrigleyville ... though I didn't notice the stadium anywhere.
Krista: Success! Ten miles down, another ten to go. Then, of course, that nasty 6.2 miles. I should start paying attention to the scenery.
A.J.: We decided to break the marathon into three runs, to make it feel like it's less than 26.2 miles. So, two 10-milers and a 6.2-mile run were our divisions.
Krista: I bet the Kenyans are finishing right about now. Lucky.
A.J.: Bring it on, Chicago! We're going to conquer you!
Krista: Are the miles getting longer? I wish the sun would go away. At least the breeze helps—and the crowd, if they would start getting my name right.
A.J.: So, this is the distance of one of our favorite local runs. It helps to put these miles into perspective by recalling our training runs.
Krista: Oh sweet halfway point. Wait, I have to run this distance all over again? OK. Just smile and breathe, or so I'm told.
A.J.: In all the miles we've logged building up to this day, I've never experienced a side cramp. Well, here's a big one. I feel like I can't even stand up straight. If you'd asked me a mile ago, I would have said I'll whip this marathon. Now, I can't handle the pain.
Krista: Smiling ... breathing ... I might still have a handle on this.
A.J.: OK. The cramp is almost completely gone. A ton of stretching mid-stride and deep breaths brought me through it nearly unscathed. I hadn't anticipated that!
Krista: OK the miles really are getting longer. I just need to make it five more miles. Once I'm past the 20-mile mark, the end is so close.
A.J.: We're running alongside the Eisenhower Expressway, right toward the Sears Tower. Is that building everywhere in this city?
Krista: Ten more miles to go. Can I do this? I can do this. Wait, can I? I think I might just stick to half-marathons after this.
A.J.: I'm taking it easy with the hydration. Small sips should keep me sustained through the rest of the run.
Krista: So that "wall" they speak of, I think I'm about to hit it. At least the spectators are starting to call me by the right name.
A.J.: So, this is Little Italy. That reminds me: I could go for a dish of pasta right about now.
Krista: Did that guy just say I'm almost there? Almost where? The end? I'm sure. Eight miles is hardly almost there. Yeah, keep drinking your coffee and waving.
A.J.: Oh, PowerGel, where for art thou PowerGel? The little packets of semi-gross, goopy carbohydrates and calories are waiting for us somewhere in this mile.
Krista: Almost there ... almost there ... almost there ...
A.J.: The cheerleading teams stationed along the course have been handing out strings of beads. I just handed mine off to a guy riding his bike. In return, he lifted his sweatshirt in true Mardi Gras fashion. Any other day, that would have been funny. Today, I hardly registered the humor.
Krista: Seriously. Six more miles? Just keep putting one leg in front of the other.
A.J.: Well, this is as far as we've run in our marathon preparation. From here on out, it's uncharted territory.
Krista: What was I thinking?! Where's my mom? Dad?
A.J.: This is getting rough. But at least we're done with our second "mini-run" of the day. All that remains is 6.2 miles. We can do it.
Krista: Must have more water… and Gatorade… and more water. I don't think I can do this.
A.J.: I can't decide if I appreciate the spectators yelling encouragement or if I want to tackle them. They look so at ease clutching their Starbucks cups and snuggled in cozy sweaters and jeans.
Krista: Ha! Only three more miles? Is that what you said, guy over there with the warm coat and stupid encouragement sign? You run it then. Stupid spectators.
A.J.: Whose stupid idea was this marathon? The signs proclaiming all us marathoners as "crazy" were right.
Krista: Must finish. Almost there. Do I feel a second wind coming?
A.J.: A girl stopped us at a water station to tell us she just vomited and didn't think she could make it any further. She was white as a ghost. You couldn't force me to quit now.
Krista: I'm still moving. My muscles might burst, but I'm still going. I don't know if I should cry, throw up or pass out.
A.J.: OK. just bear down. I can barely feel it anymore, anyway. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don't stop now!
Krista: I can see it. The end. I'm about to finish the Chicago Marathon. I actually did it. Oh, here come the tears ...
A.J.: The finish line: The most beautiful sight we'll ever see. The announcer proclaims "You have just finished the Chicago Marathon." Tears flow as Krista and I, hand-in-hand, cross that finish line. We did it!