Hello from Chicago! E and I arrived yesterday morning and all I can say is that I hope my race goes as smoothly as these two days have gone thus far! Our flight was very delayed and the check in lines at the airport were unreal, yet I somehow was able to check in at the first class desk which switched us onto a much better path. Our unusually friendly agent offered to put us, free of charge, onto another flight which was scheduled to leave at our original departure time. Not only did we land early, but we were also each given $250 vouchers to use on a future United flight. Apparently everyone else on the flight had been bumped from a flight that had been cancelled the night prior and we still got the reward!

Our journey into the city was quick and we had a nice reunion with my parents. We are staying with family friends about 1.5M from the marathon start, with beautiful views of the lake and all of Chicago. After a surprisingly delicious lunch that I made (my pre-marathon diet of bland, carbohydrate rich foods gets boring real fast), E and I headed to the expo. We spent a bit too much time on our feet wandering around, but it was a great expo, much larger than NYC. E got to meet one of his favorite ultrarunners, Dean Karnazes, and we both loaded up on marathon gear. I probably didn’t need FOUR different Chicago tops but I felt justified buying them, because THIS race is going to be a memorable one!

  

  

We relaxed the rest of the evening – we were both exhausted from a crazy week at school/work and the early flight. We both hadn’t run for three days and our legs felt heavy and tired – typical taper stuff, though! We crashed by 9:30pm, as my parents and their friends were out and about on the town until 1am! Talk about role reversal…!

I was a bit concerned about the weather – it really is cold here – but this morning’s 20 minute jaunt on the lake front put my mind at ease. I wore compression tights, a tank, arm sleeves and fingerless gloves – pretty much my exact outfit from NYC 2010. My hands were chilly but with the sun shining, I was sufficiently warm once I got going. I’m not quite sure I hit my MP spot on, but I felt pretty good! My throat was a bit scratchy this morning but I’m trying to ignore it – mind over matter! I practiced my new mantra – “I want it more than I fear it” – which naturally went into mental replay as I soaked up the beautiful views. It was gorgeous on the lake – so many runners out there! Definitely the Chicago equivalent of running in Central Park the day before the race!

It will be cold at the start, with temperatures in the high 30’s, but at least we won’t have to wait for hours on end like we did on Staten Island. My corral closes at 7:20am and I’d like to be inside by 7:05ish to get a good place, so I figure I’ll get there by 6:30 to have time to hit the bathroom lines. As always, that’s my paranoia – not being able to go to the bathroom when I need to before starting the race. I just keep reminding myself that in NYC, they moved us towards the start 30 minutes before the gun went off and I was completely fine.

  

But the REAL reason why I’m posting is to share the unexpected, awesome experience that I just had. E and I were relaxing back at the apartment and I happened to read on Twitter that Paula Radcliffe was making an appearance at Nike Chicago, less than a five minute walk away. I believe it’s the first time she’s been back in Chicago for the marathon since she set the world record here in 2002. She was supposed to speak at 1pm – we were already late and had no clue what it would be like, but we needed a walk after a big lunch and decided to check it out. As we headed out the door, I decided to grab my marathon bib – how incredible would it be to have the running legend herself sign my bib, to wear on the very course on which she made history?! Of course, I didn’t actually expect it would happen – but guess what? It did!

We had perfect timing. She started late, and the interview only lasted about 5-10 minutes. We arrived a minute or two after she began. I heard that she was originally supposed to speak elsewhere (maybe the expo?) and the location moved – perhaps that explains why there weren’t that many crowds. I mean, there were a fair number of people there, but for someone as famous as Paula, I was surprised. Many people didn’t even seem to know who she was! She gave some advice to everyone racing tomorrow – not starting out too fast, hydrating, having fun etc – and spoke a bit about “making it count” on Sunday herself with her own workout. Unfortunately she just had foot surgery – so she won’t be running the race.

 

I easily made my way right up to the front and as soon as she finished, asked her to sign my bib. I wanted to say something to her about how much she has inspired me or I hope she feels better soon – but instead I just grinned like an idiot as she bent over and signed my bib on her thigh and then smiled back at me and walked onwards. I was so emotional I couldn’t get any words out!

  

But seriously – how AMAZING is that?! My bib has been blessed! My good luck this weekend must continue – because Paula said so!! I doubt anyone else had their bibs with them – hardly anyone even had a pen – and I don’t think she was hanging around there very long. Wow. Just wow. I feel doubly inspired now to run my best tomorrow – to have a smart race and not start too fast, to believe in myself when I start to really struggle, to overcome my fears of failure and really make tomorrow count!

Good luck runners!!

Advertisements