Just got in a few hours ago. Was quite easily one of the most amazing weekends of my life.
We arrived around 10:30 AM on Friday and took a lengthy shuttle ride to our hotel in McCormick Place. Spent many hours at the marathon expo (which happened to be right next to our hotel) collecting free goodies. In the evening, we took a cab into Little Italy and had amazing pasta here.
Saturday we slept in and had a $60 bowl of oatmeal in the hotel restaurant [note to self: hotel restaurants can be pricey.] We took the shuttle downtown and ended up taking a tour on one of those double-decker buses. It was a total blast! Our guide was hilarious and we got to see so much of the city without getting tired feet.
After visiting the $75 pasta buffet at the hotel for dinner [note to self: see previous note to self] we called it an early night. Right around then, the rain began. I busied myself laying out my gear, fastening my bib, attaching my chip...
We called for a 6:00 wakeup, but I was already up by 5:45. I've learned that eating solid food too soon before a long run doesn't sit well with me, but I had a Luna bar and a bottle of Gatorade, and that was just fine. We headed down to the lobby, out the door and into frigid wind and drizzle. There was a line 40-people long for the shuttle bus which we waited in it for about 15 seconds before deciding to take a cab. Luckily there were two others guys with the same idea and we all shared the fare.
Got to the starting area in Grant Park around 7:00. Lines for the Port-A-Potties were insane, people were milling around dressed in plastic bags, trying to stay warm and dry. I got into the corral around 7:40, huddled in amongst the other 40,000 people - the energy was absolutely AMAZING! And before I knew it, the horn blared and we were off --
-- not quite. It took just over 10 minutes for me to reach the actual starting line (which is why we all have chips attached to our shoes - they record the actual time - or "chip time" - it takes to run 26.2 miles.)
Somewhere during the second mile we all went into a tunnel and runners started peeling off the course and heading toward the side of the road. I wondered what the hell they were doing, then I realized THEY WERE PEEING! Right out there in front of hundreds of people - right on the street under the tunnel!
And as I was marveling over this appaling public display of utter grossness, I realized I had to pee.
So at the next tunnel, when runners started peeling off the course again, I followed them, dropped trou and peed right there. I figured I'd never see these people again in my life - who cares if they see my naked ass?
I felt great right through the half. My pace was comfortable, the crowds were incredible. I'd followed someone's advice and wore a shirt with my name on the front. So the whole time, people along the sidelines were cheering me on by name. And that was more inspiring than I could have ever known.
Around mile 15 the crowds thinned out a bit and things got a little boring. And at mile 18, I totally hit my wall. Luckily they had an aid station providing energy gels, and while I don't usually do well with the PowerBar gels (they make me as nauseous as food) these were a different brand and worked very well. Well enough, in fact, to get me over that hump.
Miles 20-25 were torture, but I kept going - I refused to walk. I heard a guy on the sideline yell out to some people who were walking, "You have the rest of your LIFE to walk! Don't walk now!" - and that was great to hear. I pressed on. And then I saw it: Mile 26. The very same sign I had seen the previous day from the tour bus. And I remembered saying to HIM: "I cannot wait to see that sign tomorrow."
1 mile to go... 800 meters... 400 meters... 200 meters...
I did it.
My official chip time was 4:28:44. One minute, sixteen seconds under my goal time. And no, I never publicly announced a goal time because I had no idea how I'd fare, but in the back of my head, 4:30 sounded nice for my first marathon.
The rest of the weekend was as amazing as the first half. Chicago is my new favorite town: the buildings, the clean streets and sidewalks, and most of all, the people. Everyone we met along the way - they were great. I didn't want to leave.
We met some friends for dinner at Harry Caray's steakhouse Sunday night, where I had the greatest meal of my life, and back at the hotel, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. This morning after another $60 breakfast [note to self: ...never mind] we took one last stroll out in the cold Chicago air before shuttling off to O'Hare.
Words don't do it justice. What an amazing journey it was. And I am a new person.