Finally back home after a spectacular trip to Chicago. Russ and I went together, worked the Expo booth and then ran today. We woke up to 30 degree temperatures, and there must have been 500 runners huddled in the Hilton lobby waiting until the last moment to make the freezing dash out to the starting line. I was in the D corral, which allowed me to get right up to speed in the first mile. You have to see what 40,000 runners looks like to believe it. An absolutely giant group, with logistics to match. I thought the management team did a good job with the start/finish area, water stations and post race food, given the size of the field. The course covers 29 neighborhoods throughout the city and never once goes higher than 24 feet above sea level. Talk about a place to run your PR.
Russ, not having run a marathon in 25 years, ran a very solid 4:57. His day included bolting from the 5 hour pace group and passing 1,000 runners in the last 2 miles. Way to finish strong! I ran a steady 3:51:09, helped along by the 3:50 pace group. My goal was to run consistent 8:45-8:50 miles, and I was able to do that. The first 13 miles were no problem, then the running becomes more labor intensive up to 20 miles. The last 6 miles took a lot of effort. If I didn't have the pace group to follow I surely would have lost at least 5 minutes in the last section of the race. The group was like a carrot dangling out there urging me to keep up. At 24 miles the course finally widens out, and Dean Karnazes passed me on the left. So I had a quick chat with him, then let him go. He was running the first of 2 loops of the course for 52 miles total on the day. What a guy. By the time I finished I was completely spent, and I was happy to know that I'd "left it all on the course." It was still in the low 40s, so the mylar heat sheet was welcome protection from the elements.
There are an incredible number of spectators on the route, holding all manner of signs out and screaming encouragement at the runners. Amazing fan support. My favorite sign read, "Trample the wounded. Hurdle the dead." Fortunately, I didn't have to do either!
Tomorrow morning at the office we'll have a debrief session and discuss our learnings with the staff. Stacy ran the Long Beach Marathon today, and she'll give us her report as well. All in all, a great weekend, and it's good to know that training actually works.