The Illinois Marathon was held last Saturday on the U of I campus. It seems like forever ago that I decided to squeeze in a marathon as my final hurrah before quitting my job to travel the world. The weeks of training were over and it was time to tackle some unfinished business: breaking 4 hours. I describe myself as a recreational runner. I am not naturally talented, I am not extremely fast, I don't have the perfect body, and I don't log 100 mile weeks. That being said, I am very competitive against myself. The goal of breaking 4 hours has been hanging over my head for awhile now and it is time to put it to rest.
Leading up to race morning, I couldn't find my favorite shorts. The forecast called for rain (then heat, then cold, then wind). I started to doubt myself and if I really put in enough work. Taper madness set in. I felt sluggish. The brakes on my car started grinding. You get the idea... I wasn't feeling completely confident. I didn't even get excited about the race until the day before. Once race morning came, I got rid of the negative attitude and went into it feeling good. Daniel got his signature spectating sign ready and we drove to campus.
At the start, it was in the high 40s, overcast, and windy. I found my running partner in the corral and we waited around until the gun went off. There was a wave start, with a 2 minute pause between releasing each corral. It worked out wonderfully and relieved a lot of congestion in the early miles and aid stations. "We are going to break 4 hours" was our mantra. I became the Pace Nazi. Nice and steady was the plan: no miles faster than 9:00 or slower than 9:15. We stayed in a nice pocket between the 3:55 and 4:00 pace groups. The spectators were fantastic, the course was nice and flat, and I felt great. The first half of the race flew by and I clocked in right on pace at 1:59:05.
It started getting extremely windy and cold around mile 16 or so, but I managed to stay mostly on pace. I started reading spectator signs to distract myself. A few favorites were "Your training lasted longer than Kim Kardashian's marriage", a three person series of "Go harder.. Go faster.. That's what she said", "Official marathon shortcut maps: $1", and of course Daniel's "Worst. Parade. Ever." Around mile 18 I started to get excited, because it felt like I could actually make it in under 4 hours. At the 24 mile point, I got a burst of energy and took off. I made the turn into the stadium and hauled ass to the finish at the fifty yard line.
I crossed the finish line in 3:58:22. It is official: I am a sub-4 hour marathoner! My last two miles ended up being my fastest all day. I had a fantastic run and a great time. The race was extremely well organized, the volunteers and spectators were top notch, and I enjoyed the course. Daniel was able to see me at 4 different places along the course - he's basically a professional spectator at this point. He had a great time cheering; a runner even tossed him a jellybean in response to his worst parade sign! Marathon number three is checked off my list as a huge success. South America, here I come!