|Getting ready to go|
The preparation for this race all started when I was researching entry into the Boston marathon. A Boston Qualifier seems beyond me at the moment but I noticed that the Chicago marathon also had qualifying times and they were some 10 minutes more lax than Boston.
In fact for a man of my age it was a 3:40 marathon or below. I've done that before and looked at my recent results. In Seville 2016 and in London 2016 I went 3:39
and 3:38 respectively
. Checking to see if they were good enough I was surprised to find that they were just in the qualifying window for the 2018 Major. Not really believing it I entered as GFA and got straight in as each of these events were qualifiers.
I booked my flight immediately and booked a hotel just to have one. It was a year away.
A few months later Finn told me that herself and Pat had also qualified and I looked to see if we could get a place to share. I found a quirky apartment closer to the city center and we booked that up, cancelling the hotel. It really was good value.
I forgot about it for many months and only when it started to come close again did I start to get excited.
Doing some research, its a long way to go for just one run and I found not one but two others that could be squeezed in and it was all just doable. So this was the plan
1) Leave Dublin 11:30 am Friday
2) Arrive Chicago 14:00 Friday
3) Goto expo and pick up number
4) Check into apartment
5) Go to Midway airport and pick up hire car
6) Eat and goto bed
7) 3am leave Chicago and drive 2.5hrs west and start a 30 mile trail run that was due to start at 7am Sat
8) After run was over drive 1 hr North to the finish of 100 mile race
9) Take bus to the 69 mile point of 100 mile race
10) Run 50K back to the finish starting at 7pm Sat
11) Finish 50K in the early hours and make it back for start of Chicago marathon
12) Finish Chicago marathon (6hr 30 cutoff).
The real Marathon No 1
The flight was due to be 11:30am and I arrived early, I met with Pat, Finn and Humphrey ( who was doing his 6th Major and 309th marathon). After 2hrs queuing through US pre-clearance we eventually made it to the gate (no air con or toilets) . We all boarded on time and waited to push back. on time. Then started the most extraordinary series of events. From 11:30 to 4:30 pm we did not move. We were told the plane was broken that it was fixable and it needed new parts etc but that we would always be underway within the hour. New parts arrived, firmware was loaded, at one point the plane was even rebooted, but still no go.
We were warned that the staff's roster was expiring and that a new crew would have to be sourced, if we were to go.
Eventually we were told that this plane was not moving and we had to disembark but to hang about the gate but we were still hopeful. We futtered around waiting and I spent some time talking to a few that I knew like Laura Murray who were nervous enough without all this. Martin Joyce from Sports travel was buzzing around keeping everyone upto date and there were a lot on his tour on the flight. Eventually at 6:30 pm the flight was cancelled and were told to line up for accommodation for the night and that a new flight was due at 15:00 the next day. The Chicago marathon would make numbers available early on race day. This meant that we would miss the expo.
Fortunately I was onto Linz while I was on board and she somehow managed to get me transferred to a AA flight direct to Chicago the next morning some 5 hrs before the rest were due to fly. The rest were not so lucky. I went home my Ultra plans in tatters.
I went back to the airport the next day. US pre-clearance was only 1.5hrs and I went to the gate. I met Ger who was travelling over as well (He would do <2:40) and got on the flight. This one went without a hitch and had me in Chicago at noon on the Sat.
Finally in Chicago
I took the train straight to the expo (changing with all the other runners) and picked up my number. I then walked the 40 minutes from the expo to the apartment. It was as quirky as promised and settled in only going out to get some milk and McD's before settling in knackered for the evening.
Finn, Pat eventually arrived at 9:30pm Sat night.
Still needing to get their numbers we were up and out early on Sun morning for the run. We walked the 50 minutes to the start area and picked up the numbers from the Hilton which bordered the park. This was marathon central but surprisingly there was no queue in the toilets and full advantage was taken. Splitting up we went to our various starting areas. Security was tight getting in and there was a lot of walking to drop off your bag and in truth I only made it into the right starting corral with 10 minutes to spare. National anthem sung we were ready to and pretty much on time we were off. Now I was in one of the front corals and I knew that I was nowhere near my qualifying time at the minute so expected a lot to pass me en-route so I stayed out of the way most of the race.
Starting at about 10 minute pace I kept this up for pretty much the first half and struggled with this pace near the end but managed to keep it going. 30 minute 5K and 62 minute 10K had me come through half way in 2:14. This is as good as I have done recently but at this stage my race was done.
As with all the other majors this was a busy, busy race and there was much race support in terms of aid and supporters all the way around.
After half way I made a fatal mistake and walked through an aid station. That was my race gone there and then. I honestly thought that I had a good shot at a sub 4:30 but after that it just got worse and worse and worse. The weather I have to say didnt help, it was very windy and drizzly and at one time there were almighty heavy bursts of rain. I walked/run it in and saw a few people that I knew on the route like Dublin's Stefan Klinowiz. I was quite happy to get the last 800m and climbed up into the park for the last sprint for the line. My final 5:23 was a little faster than I done recently but the second half was truly awful. Interestingly because of Boston the crowd was not let anywhere close to the runners in the final section and security was very heavy all the way through with SWAT teams positioned along the route.
After crossing the line I got my medal and a few goodies and made my way to the baggage area. I sat down for a few minutes to recover and made my way back to the appartment via the train. A nice shower and I was ready to go out.
I ended up with Michael McKeown from Down in an Irish bar in Greek Town. We had a great time and were treated like kings by the staff. I even met up with Mayo girl Mary who knew Finn and we had some beers and a nice burger. Tiddly I made it home by midnight and a good sleep. Goodness knows what I would have been like with a couple of ultras thrown in.
I had a nice relaxing day Monday (including the Tilted Kilt and a few other hostelries) and flew back on the Tuesday overnight and sraight to work on Wednesday.
It was an experience and I loved Chicago.
stats for today