2010 Chicago Marathon Race Report



On Sunday, October 10, 2010, I ran my sixth marathon, which also happened to be my second Chicago Marathon.  In my short post last night, I announced my times and some official stats.  Thanks to everyone for the congrats on my last post, and now here’s the story you’ve been waiting for…my 2010 Chicago Marathon Race Report!  Kick up your feet (because that’s where mine are) and enjoy!

Expo – Friday

After a bit of an airline fiasco (don’t ask…), I ended up landing in Chicago late on Friday morning, and my dad picked me up and we headed right down to the expo.  Sweet home Chicago!  I love the drive into the city since it’s so familiar and comforting to me, plus my dad was my driving buddy so the company was good!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (7) Sears Willis Tower

Chicago Marathon 2010 (4)Rush University Medical Center…my nursing school!

We arrived at McCormick Place without any issues and started wandering the expo.  I admittedly remember it being bigger and thought that it was small compared to other expos I’ve been to, but McCormick Place is so HUGE that it can make anything look small.  We wandered around and snapped some important pictures:

Chicago Marathon 2010 (12) 10-10-10!!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (9)Course map!  Looks familiar to me.  :)

Chicago Marathon 2010 (10)I <3 Brooks.  A lot.

We wandered up and down the aisles of the expo, with the highlight being my chat with the Garmin people, as I’ve been wondering if a solution to my Garmin/NYC woes.  They recommended upgrading the software on my 205 or upgrading to the 405 or 110, but since I wasn’t ready to drop the money on Friday, I told them I’d think about it.  Good to know for the future, however!  Other highlights of the expo included stopping at the Bondi Band table, as well as picking up my official shirt since they had women’s sizes!!  Oh, how glorious is it to have a marathon shirt that actually fits me?  I like it.

I almost swung by the pacer table, but for some reason I feel like that would jinx me, plus I hate the idea of putting a goal time on my back for everyone to see, so I skipped the table.  I’ve done 95% of all my runs for this marathon by myself, and certainly all of my long runs have been by myself.  No need to rely on someone else to pull me through.  (But definitely something to consider in the future!)

After the expo, I headed home to enjoy some time with friends and family (with lots of carb-loading…) until my big day on Sunday!

Saturday – it’s going to be a hot one

I woke up on Saturday and headed out for a short shake-out run.  Two miles, over and done before I even knew I started.  7:55 pace, nothing major, just getting the legs loose and ready to go on Sunday.

Well, it wasn’t exactly that easy.  It was hot.  I started to get nervous given my past experience with the Chicago Marathon.  The overnight temperatures were supposed to be in the high 50’s-60’s, so I knew it wouldn’t be in the 80’s at the start, but not exactly ideal marathon conditions.  I tried to not let it get to me because whatever was going to happen was going to happen.  To help get my mind off of it, I went to see The Social Network with friends, which was a good distraction and a good movie!  Then, it was off to bed to get some sleep before Marathon #6!!


My alarm went off bright and early at 5am, and I popped up to get ready for the day.  Prepped my peanut butter toast and banana to eat on the road, grabbed some coffee (you know why…), and made last minute checks for all the important things…shoes with D-tag, Honey Stingers, Garmin.  With everything in check, we headed to Chicago at 5:30am, way before the sun graced us with its present.  I ate my breakfast on the way to the city…thanks for driving, Dad!  Luckily, traffic is quite minimal at this time and we sped down to the city, only hitting traffic when we got close to the parking garage.

Here’s a tip for future Chicago Marathoners:  Park in the Millennium Park garage which is right by the start and has real bathrooms.  With no line.  Glorious!

My timing for the morning was quite excellent, so we arrived in just enough time (around 6:30-ish by the time we parked) to use the bathroom, pin on my bib (I’ll learn to do this earlier one of these days), and head over to the race to get some quick pictures before I ran off to the starting corral.

Chicago Marathon 2010 (13) That’s either my nervous face or my “why are you taking my picture, mom??” face.

Chicago Marathon 2010 (19)With Gatsby!  Final rest before the big run.

Chicago Marathon 2010 (21)With my sign, making its third marathon showing!

As you can tell, I put my name on my shirt for the first time!  I used packing tape so I didn’t actually have to write on my own shirt, but that ended up being a failure when I got to around mile six, as I was too sweaty and my name fell off.  I’ve always been too nervous to put my name on my shirt, but I wanted people to cheer for me, and it was really awesome while it lasted!  I loved hearing random people cheer for me.

Marathoner tip:  Put your name on your shirt!  So inspiring!

As the clock struck 7am, I decided to head over to the corral, and it was a good idea that I did since the mass of people trying to get into the corrals was ridiculous!  I don’t know what the marathon organizers had in line, but they were checking numbers (okay, that was a good idea) and it was sooooo slow!  I thought about trying to go to the bathroom (nerves?) again before getting into Corral B, but when the clock showed 7:15 and I still had twenty people in front of me, I decided to bail on the bathroom idea and hop into my corral.

Chicago Marathon 2010 (22)Off to the corral!  See you in a few hours!

I had plans to meet up with the Josh Squad in the corral, but despite my best efforts, I never found either one.  I couldn’t decide where to line up…if you look at my marathon goals, you would see I had a few different tiers of goals.  Honestly, I didn’t think 3:20 was in the books for the day, but I didn’t want to line up with the 3:30 group because I wanted to start off a little faster than that.  However, in all my attempts to find people in the corral, I actually ended up behind the 3:30 group when the horn sounded.  Oops?  Luckily it doesn’t make much of a difference since the masses of people are all heading out and trying to get position of their own.  Your pace in that first mile or two is kind of a shot in the dark anyway.

Marathoner tip:  Don’t panic in the first two miles, it’s a long race!

I forgot to take my Garmin off of auto-lap, and naturally it got messed up in the tunnel during the first mile.  I made a mid-race switch to manual lap, and away I went.  However, I had no idea what pace we were going, but it felt fine.  Little did I know this would be a common theme for the entire marathon!

Miles 1-2:  14:57 total, avg pace of 7:28

Oops?  Around mile 2.5, the course starts the five mile journey north through Old Town, Lincoln Park, and Lakeview before heading back to the downtown area.  I remember loving this part of the course the first time I ran Chicago, as it is lined with people and pretty shaded.  Also, the young people of suburbia (where I grew up) all tend to move to this area of the city, so it was a great distraction as I tried to spot someone I knew!  I actually did see someone who went to my high school, but he didn’t know who I was (he ran with my brother actually), so I didn’t yell like a nut when I saw him.

This part of the course went by so fast.  Soon enough, I was at the 7.5 mile turnaround and heading south again.  During this entire time, every mile that I clicked off came in around 7:20-7:30.  Seeing as the attainable goal that I set for myself was 3:25, which is 7:50 pace, I knew I was running too fast.  After every mile, I told myself to slow down only to have the next mile marker hit me at the same pace.  The pace honestly felt great, and I didn’t feel tired at all.  I kept thinking that I needed to slow down to conserve myself for later in the race, but I couldn’t get myself to slow down.

On Saturday, Kristin tweeted, “Maybe I can’t run as fast as I believe but maybe just maybe I can run much faster and I will never know unless I try.” I actually thought of this quote during the marathon and decided to see what I could do.  You don’t know unless you try.

Besides the pace, my main concern during this part of the race was that I actually felt a little chilly.  With heat warnings in the back of my mind, I thought it was odd that I felt like I was having cool sweats and I feared dehydration, but I did drink water at most every water stop.  Luckily, this passed without much thought…

Miles 3-13:  7:31, 7:27, 7:25, 7:30, 7:18, 7:27, 7:32, 7:28, 7:26, 7:20, 7:26

Look at those splits!  Crazy, right?  What I was I thinking?  I actually passed the 3:20 pacers, which really made me nervous, especially as I started to see people who had dropped off from the 3:10 group.  My parents were to be found around mile 12, and it was the first I saw them since I left for the corral.  It’s always nice to get a boost!

Marathoner tip:  Life is better when you have people in the crowd cheering for YOU.

Chicago Marathon 2010 (40) My dad with my sign!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (42) Do you see me waving??

With an amazing start to the marathon, I kept telling myself to get to the half marathon point and see what comes next.  The second half of the marathon is much worse than the first half, so I knew much more work would need to be done.  However, the first half went off without a hitch, so I can’t complain about that.

Half Marathon Split:  1:37:39, avg pace of 7:28

After the half marathon point, my least favorite part of the marathon begins.  Miles 13-17 are pretty desolate as you head out west, as the only people who are out there are the charities lining the “Charity Mile.”  Otherwise, it’s just a hot stretch with spectators who just kind of look at you instead of cheering.  I wanted to yell at them to cheer, but I thought better of it.  It was at this point I also noticed that the sun was out, the temperature was rising, and the warning level was changed to yellow.  Obviously.  The heat wasn’t really getting to me, although the decrease in crowd support was.

The support that I didn’t forget about, however, was all my blog/twitter supporters!  I wrote “509” on my hand the night before the marathon, as I had 509 followers on Twitter.  Every time I crossed a timing mat, I thought of everyone who might be tracking me, and it really gave me extra support.  Special thanks to Liz for keeping everyone updated!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (69) Some inspiration.  :)

Miles 14-19 clicked off without much of a hitch.  Spectators yelled things like, “Let’s go ladies!!” at which point I looked around and realized I wasn’t running with too many women…must have been going fast.  :)  At some point here, I felt really full from my Honey Stingers and water, so I just took some Gatorade at a few of the stops.  I usually reach a point where I don’t want to chew anymore, which I know is bad…but I always do it.  Oops.  Anyway, these were the last of my good miles, as I was still simply chugging along.  Time was still going by sooooo fast!  Just hard to explain.

Miles 14-19:  7:19, 7:18, 7:22, 7:27, 8:20 (bathroom!), 7:33

I don’t know what happened after mile 19, although perhaps the heat, the pace, and my lack of substantial mileage got the best of me.  That being said, I didn’t really feel too hot although I could tell the temperature was climbing.  Taking advantage of the water stops, I dumped some water on my head, ran through some sprinklers, and squeezed sponges over myself.  Compliments of the 2007 disaster, Chicago really does know how to provide aid stations and ways to cool off while on the run.

Looking back at my mile splits, the end of the marathon wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was during the race.  Sure, I dropped off of my 7:30-ish pace, but overall, not too shabby.

Miles 20-22:  7:55, 8:18, 7:59

It was after mile 22 that things started to get ugly…my legs were tired, it was legitimately hot out, and my goodness…this marathoning thing hurts!  Who knew, right?  Surely not the girl who has done this five times before!  Anyway.  I started walking the water stops…and a little bit between water stops (shh, don’t tell anyone!).  The 3:20 pacer passed me at some point, and I knew I wasn’t going to keep up, but my overall time would be fantastic.  One of the goals that I happened to leave out was qualifying for guaranteed entry in the NYC Marathon, which requires a time of 3:23.  I knew it would be close, so I tried to keep going the best I could.  A little after mile 23 was US Cellular Field and the turnaround to head back north, so I kept pushing myself the best I could…and it hurt.

My parents were supposed to be down around here somewhere, but as my dad said, “It’s harder to track you when you run faster!”

Chicago Marathon 2010 (56) Proof that my parents tried to find me!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (52) From the El…looks like Chinatown!

After the turnaround around mile 23.5-ish, it was only a few miles north to the finish!  It’s a grueling finish, and I wish the crowd support was more like it is on the north-side, but the crowds thicken the closer you get to the finish, so that’s helpful.  I walked more of the water stops and kept doing math in my head to figure out how close I was going to be to 3:23.  I debated how much I cared….until I realized that I did care.  A lot.  That would be AMAZING.  One foot in front of another, let’s go.

Miles 23-26:  8:37, 9:01 (yikes…), 8:31 (better!), 8:52 (ow…)

Someone yelled my name around mile 24-ish, but I had no clue who it was…anyone want to own up to it??  I’m so sorry I didn’t recognize you!  Then, a girl I went to nursing school spotted me before the final turn and snapped a picture, which I look like I’m holding it together:

image Sooo close to the finish!

For those of you who don’t know, the last half mile of the Chicago Marathon features the main (only?) incline to get you back to the park.  Worst.  Spot.  Ever.  I managed to get up it (barely?) with crowd support and hit mile 26.  My watch read 3:21:31, and I knew I had to book it to go sub-3:23 and qualify for the NYC Marathon.

And, my friends, book it I did.  I turned the final, final corner and sprinted with everything I had toward the finish line.  I hit 200 meters to go and tried to pick it up even more.  The seconds were ticking away on my watch and I thought I had it, but I wasn’t going to know until I got to the finish line.  And then, there it was.  GLORY.

Mile 26.2:  1:24 (6:20 pace)…take that!!

26.2 Miles of Glory:  3:22:54, avg pace of 7:45

Last time I crossed the line at the Chicago Marathon, I almost cried.  That race was such a disaster that I couldn’t believe I finished.  This time, all I could do was smile.  Eleven minute PR.  Qualified for the NYC Marathon.  Crushed most of my goals.  What an amazing race!


After the race, I gathered some water and Gatorade and pretzels and a banana and all the good stuff they had to hand out.  Then, I started the longggggg walk to runner meet-up.  It used to be at Buckingham Fountain, but it was soooo far away this time!!  That was just cruel, although the entertainment in the field was pretty nice.  I waddled around, borrowed someone’s cell phone to see where my parents were, and waited for them to show up.  With a bag of ice on my head.  I just ran a marathon, I’ll do what I want.  My legs were sore, but I couldn’t have been happier.

Chicago Marathon 2010 (57) Dad and me with my sign!  I love this picture!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (62) Dad shaded me with the sign while I checked to see how everyone else did!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (63)PR in my favorite city.  Gotta love it.  :)

Official Stats

Overall Place:  2210/36,159  (Top 6.1%)
Female Place:  312/16,186  (Top 1.9%)
Age Group Place:  103/3,768  (Top 2.7%)

The Glamour Shots

Chicago Marathon 2010 (70) Representing Chicago 2010!

Chicago Marathon 2010 (74)Medal #6!


First and foremost…I’m not going to lie…I’m a little disappointed in the medal.  I definitely have much prettier ones!  Anyway…I guess I don’t run marathons for the medals…

Now for the real stuff.  I am SO happy with this race.  I was actually quite calm on race morning, ready to go and see what happened.  Love that feeling.  Was this the most tactical race I’ve ever run?  Well…no.  I probably went out too fast and ran too slow at the end, but really…it worked.  I had an amazing time.  The same thing could have happened had I been more conservative at the beginning.  Honestly, I knew the heat might be a factor the longer I was out there, so getting in some cool miles probably worked to my advantage.  I felt awesome and my splits were pretty even…until the crash.  I wish I had stayed stronger mentally, but I will not complain about this race because I’m too pleased with it to dwell on anything negative.

The really odd part about all of this was that not too many runners came away from this race with the same thoughts as me.  At the airport on my way back to NYC, other marathoners stated, “Well, at least I finished!” and mentioned the heat and how it was a bad day.  I feel lucky to have had such a great day, and I couldn’t be the only one who had one of their best marathons.  I heard of people vomiting or missing their goals by over half an hour.  My marathon?  ROCKSTAR.

thank you thank you thank you

I can never express how much it means to me that people are out there reading my blog and cheering me on.  I’m just an ordinary girl who loves to run, and the fact that other people want to read about my life never fails to amaze me  It’s been a long road from Philadelphia to NYC, especially with the running injuries of the past year, and knowing people are out there thinking about me and wondering how I’m doing and how fast I’m running really means a lot to me.  Thank you so much for all your encouragement, I hope I didn’t let you down.  :)

question of the night…

What’s next??

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  1. says

    such a great report! I am so envious of all last weekend’s runners! Great job & congrats on qualifying for NYC!

  2. says

    WOW is all I have to say. Well, no I have more to say. Congrats on your 11 minute PR!!! An amazing recap as always. You should write a book with your recaps. Seriously, I can’t skip a single word haha. I’m so happy that your parents were able to be there for your epic marathon performance…and provide you with some shade with the sign (I laughed out loud at that one HA!).

    I was thinking about you the entire time and already bragged to my mom about your time. Ironically, I was in NYC this weekend. Can’t wait for your next marathon :)

  3. ida says

    Aww.. that 509 is too cute!! I love the quote about never knowing unless you try-I’m going to use that on Sunday at nike womens. I feel undertrained but maybe something magical will happen:) Congrats again- I’m so glad you had a killer race.

  4. says

    A complete rockstar. What a great race! You nailed it! I’m so happy for you! I think our last long run together was the key…or maybe I’m just biased 😛
    Congrats Nurse Susan on a fantastic job on Sunday. Enjoy your rockstar status.
    You’ve definitely earned it!

    Race report was not too shabby too! Fabulous. Congrats again!

  5. says

    Congrats! What an awesome race report! I am so happy you met your goal despite a few mishaps. You kept pushing even when it got really tough which is so inspiring!

  6. says

    Love, love, love this report! Congrats on a fantastic race. Sometimes you just feel it and when you do, just go for it. Inspiring. Rest up and see you out on the roads!

  7. says

    CONGRATS!!! Omg Susan, you killed it. Amazing job out there. I’m so impressed with your speed and your great attitude. Congrats again!! :)

  8. says

    Look at you go, speedy gonzales! I am very happy for you; it’s been really great to read about how your life is changing in a positive way — moving to NYC, new job, new PR, etc. I hope you went out for a really big breakfast afterwards! You deserve it.

    After the NYC Half, my friend and I went to the Sunburnt Calf (UWS) and had the burger with the lot. It was amazing. I highly recommend it. Unless you are a vegetarian.

  9. says

    CONGRATS! I love, love, love your race report. I ran Chicago last October, it was the scene of my first BQ, and definitely holds a special place in my heart. I’m so impressed by how fast you ran despite the crazy heat (and a bathroom break too?!). Congrats again on the ROCKSTAR race!!

  10. says

    Great recap! I can’t believe you walked a little and still went that fast. That’s an amazing time. I hope some day I can run a sub 3:30 – my mom’s PR was a 3:04 – maybe I’ll have it in the genes? For my first though, I’m just running to run. :)

  11. says

    Such a great race recap!!! I hate to say it, but imagine what you could’ve done if it didn’t heat up towards the last 10k…. yowsers. You were flyyyyyyyyyyying. I’m so glad you had such an amazing race.

  12. says

    wow, what a great report and AWESOME race! you did so awesome out there girl and got your victory over chicago!! i was definitely tracking you and pulled out my phone mid long run to see what you were all up to, i was STOKED when i saw your time :)

    cant wait to see what is next for you!

  13. says

    Great recap and congrats on the awesome PR!! I was in Minneapolis for the weekend and couldn’t believe how warm it was and thought of all the racers in Chicago. I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t a problem for you! I love that you’re parents have used the same poster for three marathons, very cool.

  14. says

    Wow Susan! Awesome race! I loved, loved, loved Chicago and I had so much fun. I will def be back to run it again. I ran with a friend who had an awful first marathon, so our times were crap, but she was glad to finish. I would like to go back to see what I could do.

  15. says

    Way to go Susan! I’m so glad you had a great run! Your report got me so excited for the Philly marathon. I just wish it wasn’t so far away. I’m hoping I can have as awesome of a race as you did (just a wheeee bit slower haah!)

  16. says

    susan, you are just so amazing! you are seriously my running hero, and i can’t believe how fast you run. congrats on a fantastic race and for double qualifying!

  17. says

    WOW WOW WOW! Congrats Susan! I am so happy you qualified for NYC! Do you have to lottery now or not since you qualified (not sure how that works).

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