Race report: Illinois Marathon

So  my husband did end up working Saturday, which really sucked.  I found a babysitter for the kids thank goodness, so I didn’t have to let 4 months of training go to waste.  However this means that I was on my own for the race, no cheer section, and drove myself home achy legs and all.  On the other hand, given that it rained the ENTIRE time, it probably would not have been a fun day for them to sit out there and spectate. Two of the three kiddos are still a little young to stand in the drizzle without major whining…


Last week on my long run I was deciding what pace group I was going to run in and was worried about it being hot – in the 70s – during the race.  That seemed so funny to me yesterday morning as I saw this on the weather forecast for the day:

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I left the house at 4:30 am to drive to Champaign and it started raining about half way there – and pretty much never ended.  It was a light rain most of the time, but still constant and felt a little cold.  Almost nobody was in the start corrals until after the national anthem because we were all huddled in the hotel area across the street or taking cover elsewhere to try and stay dry as long as we could.

I got this pic in the car before heading over to the hotel to huddle for a while, figuring my tank will then be covered by my rain coat the entire race, and it was.  This was also my first race after joining Oiselle Volée, but no race singlet yet.  I’ll be able to represent on the next one.

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I found the 4:30:00 pace group and lined up.  The pacer said he’d keep about an even pace and would walk/job thru water stations.  The 5 minutes or so getting wet in the start corral felt way longer than that.  I had my phone with me in a ziploc baggie hoping it would hold up.  No headphones, thinking I’d keep with my pace group and might not need music.

This is what your pictures look like when taken thru the lens of a Ziploc bag

This is what your pictures look like when taken thru the lens of a Ziploc bag

The course was relatively flat throughout, just little changes in elevation and the hill climbs that were there were relatively small.  There was one awkward area where we winded through a running path which isn’t the ideal size path for a marathon.  I think there were only about 1600 runners at the race though, so I guess it works here but would be an epic fail for say, the Chicago marathon.

The pacer was fun and there was a decent amount of conversation amongst the group which made it feel like a long run.  We ran slightly faster than the 10:18 pace to make up for time at water stations.  He seemed to move around folks a little randomly though and it was hard in parts to stay “in line” with the group.  There was one spot where he seemed to really slow down around mile 10 or so, not sure if he realized we were ahead of pace and we could rest a bit.  I stayed a little ahead at that point because I didn’t want to have to speed up to “catch up” if that was the plan.  At the half I was still with the group and felt good.

At some point though the pacer stopped at a port a potty and the rest of the group ran on and he’d catch up.  I stayed behind them because I wasn’t sure at what pace he would get back to, and it was after that, when he caught up and sped up to the others that were farther ahead, that I lost the group.  I think it was mile 16 though not positive, because that’s when I got a little slower.  I recovered a bit in mile 17 but in mile 18 I didn’t have the group to convince me not to walk, and I started taking walk breaks.  I don’t know if it’s just mental or if my body physically needs that little break, but I do know that telling myself I could run to the next mile marker or water station and then walk a minute or .10 of a mile, is what kept me running up to that point.  By mile 23 I was thinking about how bad this sucked and why did I want to do a marathon anyway?

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I dug deep and found some energy to pick it up in the last 1.2 (or 1.4 according to my garmin), and for the final push to the finish line.  The race finishes in the Illini stadium, which is pretty cool.  It’s not a loop around the field, just a diagonal run into the middle of the field.  I finished in 4:41:37 for my official time, which matches pretty close to my garmin (I vow not to finish any race with my hand hovering over the stop button).

It felt SO good to be done.  We got a cool Illinois Marathon fleece blanket besides the medal.  We had to walk up the stadium steps to go up to where the food was, which was interesting on the legs at that point.  I got my medal engraved, something I forgot to do for Chicago, and I think I’ll do for any future marathon, and maybe half if available too.  I don’t know if I was looking forward more to food or changing into dry clothes but a slice of pizza, small bowl of pasta, and a change of dry clothes later and I felt like a new person.

The verdict: I would do this race again.  Last year this race had to shut down early because of lightening.  This year it rained the whole time but at least we could finish the race.  After two years of bad weather, maybe next year we’ll have 55 and sunny, fingers crossed.

I followed the Another Mother Runner marathon Own It plan for this race and felt much more prepared than for my first.  However I think I need something to help me build even more endurance for the next one (even though by mile 18 I think I was swearing off future marathons).  Heart rate training is going to be worth a shot I think!

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