The 2015 Chicago Marathon, my fourth to date, was yesterday. I wish I could tell you that it was stellar, but I can’t. Somewhere around mile 16 my ITBand began to give me problems and things only got worse for me as the run progressed. I foolishly thought that if I simply didn’t think about it that it would go away on its own, but I had been there before in 2012 when I ran my first marathon. I knew deep down that the pain I had begin to feel then was just a hint of what was to come. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the pain I felt this year was worse than the pain I felt back in 2012.
It started in my right hip. It was a tightness that slowly moved down the side of my thigh and wrapped itself around the bottom of my knee. When it reached my knee I knew I was in trouble. With each step the squeezing I felt below my knee cap became more and more frequent. I kept hoping it would go away, that I would somehow get lucky and it wouldn’t get worse than it already was, but it didn’t. I wasn’t going to be that lucky.
Right before I arrived in the Pilsen neighborhood of the route my knee gave out. I felt it buckle from the pain and I stopped running in order to walk it off. It was then that I knew I was in for a tough final ten miles. But I was still hopeful that it was just a fluke and that if I just focused on the run more, the pain would magically disappear. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I continued that way for another two miles. Running as far as I could and slowing down to walk every time my knee would buckle from the pain. It happened often. More often than I cared for. It was upsetting me and the more that I thought about the situation in front of me the more upset I would feel myself get. It didn’t help that I didn’t see anyone I knew cheering me on along the course. It was then that I began to text with a friend. Every time I would slow down to walk I would send him a text because I needed to connect with someone in order to not feel like I was completely alone.
I thought my older brother would have gone like he had last year and when I came to the area where he had been the year before I scanned the crowd for him but he wasn’t there. When I arrived at the halfway point I scanned the crowd for my mother and younger brother but I didn’t see them either. After that I knew they weren’t going to be there. I decided I was completely on my own this year so I tried to shake it from my mind and carry on with the run.
When I got to mile 20 the pain began to move over to my left hip. My left ITBand had also begun to tighten and now it felt as thought someone was slowly squeezing my hips together. My stride began to shorten and both knees began to feel each and every step I took. I was finding myself needing to slow down to walk with way too much frequency but I knew that there was no way I was going to run it all without walking parts of it.
I didn’t look at my stop watch once during the race. During the first half of the race I didn’t want to in an effort to enjoy the race more. I had started out really strong, the miles felt like they were flying by and I thought that if I could maintain the pace I had during those first thirteen that I would be able to finish with a new PR (Personal Record). The warm temps we had yesterday weren’t even an issue for me because I had been running in hot temps all summer. I was prepared for that kind of weather. What I wasn’t prepared for was my ITBand betraying me again.
As I slowly ran my way toward mile 21 my ITBands only got tighter and tighter, squeezing my hips more and more. I would run as far as the pain would let me and then slow down to walk. Picking markers along the street where I would tell myself I would have to start running again once I reached it. I did this for the next three miles.
As I approached mile 24 the pain had put me in a miserable place both physically and mentally. It felt so unfair. I had worked so hard all year for this one day and my body was betraying me. I hated it. And for the first time since I had started running back in 2012 I wished I had someone running alongside me. But I didn’t. And even if I had I would have felt bad if they would have stayed back with me when they could have gone ahead. Everyone there was entitled to their own race. Anyone running with me would have been no different. But I was getting beat up mentally and seeing a familiar face would have helped so much. But no one was there to cheer me on. So I felt my throat tighten up and not long after I felt the tears come because of how awful I was feeling at that moment. But I kept going because I was determined to finish the race.
The last two miles were excruciating. I was shuffling along at this point. My hips felt like where sandwiched between a vice and my knees were becoming numb with pain. The frequency of my walking breaks hit an all time high and I was officially blaming myself for whatever it was that had gone wrong. Had I not trained well enough? Had I chosen the wrong running shoes to wear that morning? Had I started off too fast? I didn’t know which of those reasons to choose as the reason for the misery I was in those last two miles.
At mile 25 I felt the tears return. I was so close. I had just a little over a mile to go and yet it felt like the longest mile I had ever run. The people that were out and cheering the runners on were in full force the closer we got to the finish and a few people , and runners, saw my struggle and kept telling me that I could do it, that I was almost there. So I kept running. Every step was painful but I had.to.keep.going.
At the turn from south Michigan Avenue onto Roosevelt Road I looked one more time to see if I could see any of my family there but no one was there. So I focused on the climb that lay in front of me and the finish that was literally just around the corner. I reached the top, turned left and saw the finish line. I pushed myself to cross it because I wanted to stop hurting. I finally crossed the finish line and all the emotions that I had been feeling came out right then. No one seemed to notice that I was crying. I walked over and got my medal. I won’t lie. It was the first time it felt undeserved. I knew I had completed the marathon even though I had been in so much pain the last eight miles but my finish time had been so bad that I couldn’t help the immense feelings of disappointment in myself.
I called up a friend, a runner too, and he tried his best to cheer me up. It didn’t really work but I appreciated his efforts. He was very sweet when I needed it the most.
I felt that my family had let me down. My older brother never showed and my younger brother decided to be lazy so he and my mother didn’t show up until the end. I met them at the massage tent. I wanted to get my free massage because I needed it, badly, but there was a line and my mother had somewhere to be at a certain time. I suggested that my brother walk our mother over to the theater, which was close to where the finish was. But he seemed bothered by the suggestion and kept asking if I was going to get the massage. I was so tired by then, feeling the disappointment from my finish time and upset because no one had gone to cheer me on that I felt myself get irritated by his annoyance. I asked him if he needed to be somewhere and he said yes. That pushed me over the edge so I told him to go if he had to go and that I would get home on my own. He became more irritated and said he wasn’t going to let me go home by myself. So a time limit was set. I had 45 minutes to get the massage and find him after.
I went to the massage tent, got my massage pretty quickly and caught up with my brother and mother a short while later. After we dropped off my mother my brother drove us home. As we were getting out of the car I grunted as I hobbled out. My brother then said, “Radiohead made a song for this situation”. “They did?” I replied. That was when he began to sing, “You do it to yourself…” by Radiohead.
I wanted to slug him. But I hurt too much to make it over to him.
My family doesn’t understand my love of running. My younger brother doesn’t understand at all why I do it. Nothing I say will make them understand it so I don’t try anymore. I have a couple of friends who are also into running so I have them, at least, to talk to but it’s not the same as having someone close to do it with. It’s fine. Running has always been my thing and it will continue to be so if they don’t get it now, I don’t think they ever will.
I have 364 days before next year’s marathon. I will be ready for it. Just wait and see.