Marathon Monday: Jennifer’s Chicago Marathon Story

Happy Monday you guys!!!!  I’m going to jump right in to today’s marathon story.  Meet Jennifer. She has 2 years of running under her belt and has already tackled two full marathons.  If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is.  Although we’ve never met in person, I get the distinct feeling that the words “give up” are just not in her vocab.  So, I hope you enjoy her marathon story as much as I did.  She wrote this right after completing Chicago, which in my opinion, is the best time to write-up your race day experience.  Thanks so much Jennifer for sharing your story with us!!

 

Chicago Marathon 2015 thank you for the lessons I learned!

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Back in February, I found out runners could enter the lottery to get the privilege to run one of the “majors,” the Chicago Marathon.  A few months before, my husband, Jeremy, stated if he were ever to do a marathon The Chicago Marathon was his #1 choice!  Knowing he turned 40 at the end of October, I thought to myself I would enter him and I in the lottery as a 40th birthday gift.  My main wish was for us both to get picked but for sure him,  so I entered us both and then waited until April when they announced who was chosen!

On April 28th we were driving back from Nashville, TN, with our good friends, who had just completed their first half marathon.  Jeremy had also run the half and I had completed my first marathon.  On that ride I received an email notification that I had been picked to run Chicago.  I mentioned it and Jeremy checked his phone and replied half heartedly “So did I!” I looked at him with a smirk and said “Well, Happy early Birthday!” 😊

Training in the summer was not what I expected.  I found out fast with two of us training time management was key and the weather played a factor.  For me training in the winter was much more enjoyable, I prefer running in cooler weather, heat is not my friend.  Never in a million years did I think I would say that.

In May, I had my wellness visit with my doctor.  I love her, she’s been running for 30+ years so during my exam I inundate her with questions about running and listened to her stories and advice.  She excitedly told me on my visit that all my labs and numbers were the best they had ever been but on another note she informed me that I was going through early menopause!  The word “menopause” was all I heard.  As a 41-year-old woman, that word made me tear up.  It literally felt like a punch to my stomach.  I guess that explains the nights of waking up drenched in sweat for no reason among other things.  She educated me on what I needed to take and do to make this transition a little bit easier not only physically but mentally as well. She suggested books for me to read and what foods to cut out of my diet.  I must admit, I was depressed for a few days after that visit.  I know menopause isn’t a death sentence but I guess it just made me feel …older than I wanted to be.  But like running, I decided I would just keep on keeping on and not let it get the best of me.

My training didn’t go as I wanted, I planned on incorporating a lot of strength training but that fell to the wayside a bit!  I regret that now.  The best part of training wasn’t my own personal runs but Jeremy coming back from his long runs, saying “That’s the farthest I have ever run to date!” They are such exciting milestones and I honestly think that’s what keeps you on track while training for a marathon.  The sense of empowerment of reaching a distance you never thought possible.

As the marathon gets closer, that’s when the training becomes more mental than physical because you start to taper.  During a taper you decrease your miles and that’s when the brain, or at least my brain, likes to creep in with doubt and fear.  This time around I got to share the tapering with Jeremy and we both kept each other’s spirits up when the other started to doubt…that made it a little easier this time around.

Fast forward to race weekend.  Absolutely, hands down, one of my favorite weekends ever!  Chicago sure knows how to host a race and they do it exceptionally well.  We weren’t sure what we were in for when heading to the expo center to pick up our registration packets but it was near painless and no wait!  How they funneled over 45,000 runners from all over the world through that process still amazes me.  They nailed it!!  Every single volunteer had a smile and was so helpful and really added to the experience.

The only mistake we made was driving to the expo and parking  instead of taking the metro or taxi and that cost us about three hours.  After picking up our packets we were stuck in a parking ramp for over 85 minutes and then another 95 minutes to drive less than two miles to our hotel.  To say the city was crowded is a huge understatement but instead of getting frustrated we took in the sights and sounds and soaked up the atmosphere while being stuck in traffic…the city was buzzing and in less than 12 hours we would be running these streets…literally!

We got checked in and settled in our room and were in for the night before 7:30 pm.  I fell asleep before 8:30 pm and woke up at about midnight and from then on I woke up about every half hour because of anticipation.  I finally decided to get in the shower at about 5 am.  We both went back and forth to decide if we should carry a hydration belt even though we knew the water stops would be plentiful on the course.  We decided since we trained with them we might as well go with what we know, we could always drop them along the way if they became a nuisance.  It was a decision that paid off for both of us, it was a warm run!

The starting line was incredible and the thought of being amongst some of the greatest athletes in the world was quite intimidating but truly an honor.  It takes away the pain of having to hurry up and then wait for our wave to start!  When our starting gun went off and it was our turn to run, ( I still get chill bumps at the thought) our almost 6 months of training would be put to the test.  One foot in front of the other amongst thousands doing the same.

Now our plan going into this was to try to run together but we knew it would be tough with the crowd.  Also, something unexpected happened a week before.  I had a minor shoe blow out and didn’t have time to break in a new pair.  My own worry was, I’m a loner…I like to run alone…my pace, my way, and having to run with Jer with longer strides made me a little nervous because I was afraid I would get tired…but we stayed together for the most part and I’m so glad we did!  We were able to soak up the sight and sounds together.

About a quarter of a mile into the race we witnessed a runner go down. She twisted her foot in the grate of the bridge and went down and broke her leg.  The medic team was immediately there to help her and unfortunately her bad fortune made us realize that we needed run with extra caution over the bridges.

Running with that many people was a rush.  I was nervous about getting tripped or worse yet tripping someone else by accident but that never happened.  We had to do a lot of weaving back and forth but for the most part it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.  The sights and sounds of the crowd were astounding and it made the first 15 miles near painless!!  From the crazy homemade signs to high fives from strangers, it’s incredible what kind of energy boost it gives a person.  I felt on top of the world, this  atmosphere and energy is electrifying.

During our run a few things stood out immediately.  Amongst the beautiful architecture, the countless runners that had shirts that said “I’m running for those who can’t.  Support ALS research”, every time I saw one of those shirts I took that as a sign from my friend, Chris, who passed away two years ago at the age of 44 from that dreadful death sentence…
to the police officer dressed in all his gear and boots running in honor of his fallen brothers…
a woman who had a shirt that said “I’m running in memory of my brother who was KIA in Afghanistan” and signs like “Jay Cutler would have quit by now” to “If Britney Spears can survive 2007, you can survive 26.2” those sights and sounds fuel your soul.

When we hit mile 19, Jeremy yelled to me, this is the farthest he had run to date, to hear him say that gave me a second wind.  Between mile 19 and 20 in Nashville is when I hit my wall, I wasn’t going to let it happen this time.  I yelled to him that Mile 20 was going to be my moment, I was going to break through it and I’m happy to say it did not defeat me!

When faced with running 26.2 miles,  the roller coaster of emotions is intense.  At about mile 21, Jeremy told me he was starting to lose it.  I knew he had 26.2 in him and I wasn’t going to let him give in so I took it as a sign that I needed to get his mind off the pain.  I ran faster knowing he would follow and he did!  This entire race I was running without my Garmin working so I really didn’t have an idea what kind of pace I was running.  This was good because I enjoyed not having the pressure that I tend to put on myself.  But after the race, Jeremy had his watch and said I was pushing an 8:30 per mile pace when he told me he was feeling it and he knew what I was doing.  I held that pace up until almost mile 24, and so did he!!  After Mile 24 it was his turn, I told him I was feeling tired, mentally I felt I was going to break.  It gets even worse when you see more and more runners stopping to walk, but it was my turn to follow him and I did!!  My quads were on fire, my legs got numb and if I would have stopped to walk I would have never been able to start to run again.  Thank you, Jeremy, for keeping me going!  We both dug deep and kept pushing each other…one foot in front of the other.

Now an incredible moment happened during the last mile, I heard my name “Jennifer Pierpont” (my maiden name being yelled out) and I looked and there was  a beautiful, friendly face of an old childhood friend, Brenda!  I could not believe it.   I had instant tears.  Seeing her amongst the crazy crowd was an unbelievable moment for me.  It was the fuel I needed to get through my side stitch I was starting to feel and make it to the finish line.

Seeing the finish line after running up the one and only major hill on the course, feels like an out-of-body experience.  The rush of emotions makes it almost like your life is flashing before your eyes.  In my head I could see the faces of my kids, the hours of training all in that moment and then Jeremy grabbed my hand and I yelled to him “You did it Jer, you did it, we did it!” We crossed the finish line together and literally in that moment, another dream came true…… we fought to make it come true!  The runners high after crossing the finish line is so hard to explain but it’s real and oh so worth it!  They say the best view comes after the hardest climb and I could not agree more.

Now I have to back track a quick moment.  Over the summer I sorta became a running mentor to a young lady who wanted to complete her first marathon.  On my race morning she messaged me all the best and asked if I had a running mantra.  I replied that “I run because I can” because of my friend, Chris, and my other one is “With brave wings she flies.”  Without knowing, she had driven down to Chicago and stood for hours on an injured knee with a sign towards the finish line that said “With brave wings she flies!”  That is one of the nicest, kindest gestures someone has ever done for me and I’m so honored that she is in my life.   I look forward to seeing her cross her first marathon finish line!  And I have no doubt she will!

Now back to this moment.  I decided to write my blog entry since doing laundry is impossible today. My washer and dryer are in my basement which means I need to walk down steps and at this moment, that’s not gonna happen.  My quads are on fire and my body is still beat up.  So, I’m just going to take it easy for one more day.

I want to thank my family and friends for all the kinds words of encouragement, I know I’ve said it before but I must say it again…those kind words help so much and are my fuel when my mind feels like giving up so thank you!

What’s next on the agenda?  Jer said that Chicago is his “one and done” and I couldn’t be more proud of him.  He doesn’t like running but he did it…that says a lot about him and his courage.

For me, I’m going to take a few weeks off and then I’m going to start training for my third marathon, Cellcom 2016!  Naturally, I am not a runner.  I have to fight for every step, every mile, but it has become apart of me.  Because like they say, in the end you aren’t going to look back and remember the times you cleaned your house or mowed the lawn…..climb that mountain!”

 

Thank you Jennifer!!!!!  Go give this amazing runner some love on Instagram @jennwick23.  If you have a marathon story you’d like to share(or any race story…shorter distances or triathlons…bring it on) email me at Redheadontherun1@gmail.com to be featured on Marathon Monday.  Have a great day my friends!!!

 

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