It's been a year in the making from the 2012 Chicago Marathon and though I finished for the second straight year I felt I could do so much better if I put the effort into it for 2013.  So in November of 2012 I joined XSport Fitness and even went a step further with a personal trainer.  I really want to become a runner but the shin splints and added weight was a major roadblock.

So at my official weigh in I was at 270lbs..holy shit I was big.  I will be honest I did get a little depressed that I had let myself go without really even knowing it.  From that point I made it a mission to never be that heavy again.  I gave up drinking beer, I no longer drink alcohol like I use to, I really watch what I eat now, and more importantly I am active like never before.  Told my personal trainer, Monica, that my goal for the 2013 marathon was to finish in under 6:30:00.  Twice I've finished the marathon but never crossed the finish line like the other runners.  After 6:30:00 hours they shut down the official clock and all runners have to finish the race to the side of the finish line.  Also I did not want to be swept by the official pace car.  It starts 5 minutes after the last runner crosses the starting line and drives the whole route at a 6:30:00 pace.  Once the car passes you you officially have been swept. Unlike other races this marathon will allow you finish the race but with the streets now open runners will have to obey traffic laws and finish the rest of the race on the sidewalks.

Before turning into the runner you see before you I hated it.  I hated it because I never could enjoy it.  I had major shin splints.  Not even a quarter mile into I had to slow to walk because my shins were too much.  I was frustrated beyond belief.  I wanted it to stop and getting a personal trainer helped me over come it.  We trained for three months working on just the core.  Then I was told to go for a jog and like magic my shin splints were gone.  Which was great because I signed up for at least 12 races for the year.  My trainer thought I was crazy.  I agree with her.

So before the Chicago Marathon I had signed up for three half-marathons, a couple of 10ks, and around 7 5ks. Not to mention all the runs in between the races and workouts at the gym.  I started off slow running a couple of miles here and there until my endurance felt good and I was running with more ease.  Each time I challenged myself and it helped my trainer challenged me as well.  She never let up on me and I thank her for that.

Now it was the moment of truth.  The 2013 Chicago Marathon had arrived and for the 1st time I did not feel excited or nervous. I felt a calmness about the race.  I had a year to prepare and I felt confident I was going to actually run the marathon not just walk the majority of it but actually run.  I had a game plan.  I was going to pace myself at around 12 minutes per mile for the first half of the race and then gradually get faster to the finish line.  I had Goo packets to give me energy at certain water stations.  I was ready to kick ass.

I had several other friends who ran the marathon as well.  Each of them has their stories on why they were there but we all had the same goal...to be faster and finish the race.  I had two friends stay with me at my sister's place the night before the marathon which was great because it was only a mile and a half away from the starting line.  We woke up around 4:30am on Sunday morning and planned to take the No. 60 bus. Took us about 30-45 minutes to get there but somehow race organizers closed Washington St. a bit early and had to walk a half mile farther than planned but it worked out great since we considered it a great warm up.

We headed to towards the Grant Park entrance.  Now security was tight after the Boston Marathon bombing.  Only runners or spectators with certain wristbands were allowed in Grant Park for the marathon.  Also you had to bring an authorized clear plastic gear bag to check.  Once we arrived at the check in gate we were gated into several lines and had our bags checked by security.  Once we were approved we started walking towards our respective corrals.

I was assigned Corral K. I wrote down a year ago that I was projecting myself to finish with a time of 5:30:00.  Which wasn't a lie.  I had about an hour an half before the race began and maybe another half hour before my corral crossed the finish line.  So I began walking around taking in the sights and sounds of the thousands upon thousands fellow runners who gathered together to run this race along the neighborhoods of Chicago.

I walked around the set up area before taking my bag to the Grey tent gear check.  The weather was perfect.  It was around the mid-40's before the sun came up. I was smart this year and wore a throw-away wind breaker from the 2011 Hot Chocolate 5k that was too big for me.  So the plan was to keep warm by walking and stretching until the moment came to enter my corral.  Now as per tradition at any major sporting event the National Anthem was sung.  This time is was a bit special.  The singer's mic kept cutting off but the crowd kept singing through without missing a beat.  As soon as it was over a Sabre jet from the Vietnam era flew by signaling the race was about to start.

First the elite wheelchair division was off then the amateur division.  Then it was time for the elite runners to begin their 2:00:00 marathon pace...jerks.  The first wave of runners were to begin at 7:30am with the 2nd wave to begin at 8:00am.  It was 8:20 before I crossed the starting line and thus began my third Chicago Marathon race.  Now was the time where my nerves began to kick in.  The past two years my shin splints were so bad I had to walk the first mile and a half.  Not this time, I told myself to keep a slow pace, focus on breathing, and enjoy the race.  I ran a full mile without pain.  A big smile came across my face...only 25.2 miles to go.

  
I had my marathon playlist going, I had my heart monitor on, and importantly I was focused.  Now came the first water station at around the 1.5 mile marker.  Totally passed it on purpose.  Which was smart, too many people stopped there causing a big bottle neck so I kept myself to the middle of the road running by them.  I was going to wait for the next water station to hydrate myself.  So down State Street I went before the right turn onto Jackson Blvd. The crowd was really into it. I guess being a faster runner meant I was to see more people along the race route than what I'm used to. I ran down Jackson until another right to LaSalle aka The Canyon. This part of the race LaSalle goes on a long decline until it flattens out at around Ontario.  There is was the 2nd water station and a lot of people cheering the runners along.  Little kids were up in front with their hands out waiting for runners to give them a high five.  Im sure their hands were raw by the time they left.  ;)

Now going down LaSalle I look forward to seeing Andy Braudy, SunJoo and Patricia. around the 4 mile mark.  This year I did not get a chance to see them.  I'm really hoping they saw me.  Now I was about to go into the Lincoln Park area.  I don't remember much at this point of the race.  I was at around an 11:30 minute a mile pace.  I was feeling great.  This was my running stomping grounds over the summer.  Running by Lincoln Park, the Zoo it was all normal for me.  I was in the zone. I felt strong.  So as I left Lincoln Park I thought how the two past marathons where I was much slower and the crowd by this time was pretty much nonexistent.


Now I was entering the bit of the marathon I look forward to. This stretch of the race I pass by a couple of nursing homes.  To right of me I can see them sitting by the windows waving to us as we run by.  Can't help to think if one or two of them were runners when they were young. It was great to see many of us wave back at them.  To see the smiles on their faces was a highlight of the race. Now I was coming near the part of the race where some some odd reason I always get a leg cramp on my left leg.  I kept pushing through waiting for it to happen, waiting for it to happen, waiting for it to happen, after awhile I was well ahead of where I was last year.  All of the sudden my confidence shot up and I began to run just a bit faster.  Now I was entering Boys Town.  Always a big crowd and I got to catch part of the drill team doing their rifle work.  Really don't remember much after that, the race seemed to be going on at a faster pace than normal.  I was really liking that. 

Now this is where thing began to become a bit unclear for me.  At around mile 10 I had kept with the 5:30 pace but according to my race tracker I was pacing at a 4:45 which was different to what was on my heart rate monitor.  I was a bit confused on who I should be following.  I just kept running at a comfortable pace to my surprise a 5:45 pace group came up to me.  I figured I might as well keep up with them.  No point in trying to haul ass only to injure myself.  I nice steady pace with these guys might save me the energy I need to really make a push in the later part of the marathon.  That sadly never came.

I kept up with the pace group right up until mile 17 when it happened.  My body sort of gave up on me.  I had hit the wall.  My left leg just cramped up so tight I almost collapsed to the ground.  I caught myself. I tried to move my left leg but it had cramped up solid.  I couldn't bend my leg at all.  For a split second I really thought I wasn't going to finish the marathon.  I started to remember all the training I did with Monica.  What to do in this sort of situation.  Professional athletes have this happen to them all the time, the main thing to do was not freak the fuck out.  So I began to breathe deeply and just try to relax.  When I still couldn't bend my leg I just slowly dragged myself to the nearest sidewalk and began rubbing my upper calf muscle until I was able to bend my left leg.  After 20 minutes or so I left somewhat confident that I could at least start to walk on it.  Even if it was at a slow place at least I was moving forward.

Looking at my race tracker and my heart rate monitor I had been going so well that even if I walked at a 15 minute pace I was on pace to finish at around under six hours.  So there I went walking somewhat slowly but still walking.  I started to begin to try and jog on it only to find it cramp up again after a few steps.  Okay, back to walking.  Because of this I changed my gait automatically. I started to shift my weight on other parts of the foot and other muscles began to kick in.  I was to the point that I speed walk.  I was okay this and my left leg began to feel much more relaxed.  I tried again to jog on it and I did go a bit further but there was still a little twinge I could feel.  I did not want to push it.  So I told myself okay from here on out until it gets better I am going to walk to the traffic light then run to the next traffic light and repeat this again, again, and again until I know I can run with confidence on the left leg.

I was literally drained by this emotionally and psychically  I was doing so well and to have this injury slow me down was taking it's toll.  I began to develop a nasty  blister on my left foot to the point I thought I had rocks in my shoe. I  kept pushing through,  I made it past Greek Town, Little Italy, and now approaching PIlsen.  I gotta say Pilsen never falls to deliver the support for the runners.  Having lived there for a couple of years I felt a sense of pride rush through me and I begin to pick up some steam.  I found myself jogging all the way down on 18th street trying to make it to Halsted before my walking routine kicked in.  As soon as I turned the corner I felt my left hamstring begin to act up again.  Sure enough I started to power walk until it eased up.  I had already passed the 20th mile mark and I knew I was almost home free.

Walking down Halsted I tried to pick up the pace but I didn't want to further aggravate that hamstring I kept power walking until I turned into Cermak heading towards Chinatown.  I had to take off my shoes because of the rocks I thought I had in my shoes only to find out blisters had formed. Small one on my right foot but I could tell I was going to have a nice one on my left foot.  I put my shoes back on and stretched for 10 minutes and off I went.

By this time I was beginning to enter Chinatown when I saw two 5:45 pace groups pass me by which really confused me but at this point my main objective was to finish the race.  In the back of my mind I could sense that pace car getting ever so closer to me.  I was beginning to worry.  Walk running through Chinatown I was praying my left hamstring to hold up until after I crossed the finish line.  I was totally on empty by now.  Bananas was the only thing that was keeping me from crashing out.  The routine of Gatorade, Water, Gatorade, Water, Goo, over and over again my body was tired of it.  Despite all of this, if is wasn't for my training I would have been a totally wreck.  I kept focus on the mission which was to finish the race.  I wasn't going to let a severe hamstring pull stop me as well as a huge blister which I felt pop by mile 22.  Woohoo!!!

Leaving Chinatown I was now entering Bronzeville,  Very underated part of the route.  Many people were out in support of the race and it was quite scenic with the fall colors of the leaves falling on the streets.  I began once to try and pick up the pace and see how my hamstring was going to do.  My walk run walk run started to pick up again and the hamstring was holding up.  I saw mile 22 and 23 go by and it was 5k time!!!

only 3.2 miles left and I am home free.  I turned into South Michigan Ave.and the damn hamstring decided to work against me.  I had to slow down to a medium paced walk.  I did not want to push it for the next two miles.  So there I began to try and power walk until the last mile where I was going to begin running for the final push.  As I got past mile 25 I noticed a Chicago Fire flag waving in the distance.  I started to run a little faster and I as I got closer I knew who that person was waving the flag.  There was Anu!!!  I had a huge smile come across my face.  She ran up to me and began to encourage me that Im almost at the finish line.  She stuck with me for little bit and I thanked her for being there and off I went.

and there it was...Mile 26!!!  only 800 meters or so until the finish line was in sight.  I was now jogging turned into Roosevelt and remembered the long incline so I said no reason to really push it right here.  So I walked up the hill as fast as I could without causing that hamstring to act up.  Only 200 meters left, I felt my heart racing.  I began to take deep breaths. Then I turned the corner from the top of the hill...I could see the finish line with the official time still going.  The pace car was nowhere to be seen.  I had made it....SWEET JEBUS!!!  Now it was time to finish strong and not make the mistake of sprinting to the finish line.  A classic mistake for newbies.  Now only a 100 meters away.  All the pain just went away.  I was overcome with joy.  I finally crossed the finish line just like how the winner of the marathon did and all the runners after him/her.  I let out a scream, I pumped my fists in the air.  All the money I spent with buying running equipment, gym membership, personal training sessions..all that was worth the sense of accomplishment at that very moment.

I shaved one hour and 28 minutes from the 2012 marathon.  If it wasn't for the hamstring issue I was on pace to finish at around 5:15:00.  Not bad huh.  Though this was my last Chicago Marathon I am very blessed to have people in my life who inspire me to keep pushing myself and never give up.

To you I say Thank You!!!

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    As a former person who hated running because of shin splints and being really overweight my views on running have change quite a bit... as you can see.

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