Race Discount Alert

Today until almost midnight (EST)…  The All American Marathon and Mike to Mike Half Marathon is offering a 13% off discount on either race.


Check them out online!  I ran the marathon this year and it was absolutely one of my favorite races of the year! This race will certainly grow year after year, so make sure to get in on the discount and get in while the registration fees are still on the lower end of the range.


…and remember, if you can’t get in on the discount today, you can always use the code “13AMB2015” for 10% off up until March 15th, 2015.

Happy Halloween, and happy running!

Opinion Poll on Race Pacing

I need some help from my readers. I am currently involved in a discussion on race pacing, and need some input. Please, please answer the following questions to help…

1. Have you ever used a pace group in a Half or Full Marathon?

2. For large races with thousands of runners I know they can offer many pace teams at a variety of speeds/finishing times. My questions to you is, what do you think are the most important paces to offer would be runners in a Half and Full in a small race environment of 1,000 runners?

I know opinions will be all over the board, but I am just looking for some differing opinions, and what better way than to ask the readers of my blog.

Thanks for your help!


I feel a let down coming on….

I am four days away from my final race of 2014.  This Sunday I will be completing my race year in one final Half Marathon.  The City of Oaks Rex Healthcare Half Marathon with my sons.  Although I have really been looking forward to running this event with them, I am already starting to feel the pangs of disappointment that after the race my calendar will be empty.

I don’t know about you, but I would be willing to bet there are a bunch of you out there that like having a race on the calendar.  Something in the future to strive for.  Something to give you good reason to continue training.  I love having a race to look forward to.  It is my motivation, after all.  I just love pushing myself, and feel my best (or worst) comes out on race day.

I’ve had an astounding year, and I don’t want it to end.

I ran eight marathons this year.  After last year’s five, I never thought this possible, but I did it.  I ran all of them sub 4, and two of them are among my top 4 since becoming a marathoner a three years ago.  I’ve now run 16 marathons, and each one holds a special place in my heart.  Here is a look at the first four marathon medals this year.

Charleston, Hilton Head, Wrightsville Beach, Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh

Charleston, Hilton Head, Wrightsville Beach, Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh

…..and here is a look at the final 4 of the year.

All American, Big Cottonwood, Chicago, Greensboro

All American, Big Cottonwood, Chicago, Greensboro

Quite the collection, right?  I am very proud of each of them.  I know I will never be able to top that accomplishment, but I still have Boston to strive for.

As I start looking at races to fill my 2015 calendar, it makes me sort of uneasy that I have nothing lined up yet.  I guess I will take a month or two off from racing, and use that time to rest, recover and then gear up again for another fun year.  What races will make the cut?

Do you get that uneasy feeling when your closest race is months and months away?  Is your race calendar ever completely void?  How do you deal with it?  I would love some insights.

Hallowed Half Marathon 2014- Race Recap

October 26, 2014 – Wake Forest, NC.  The third running of the Hallowed Half and 10k, put on by Signature Races.  Another beautiful morning for a race.  So many of my races lately have just been the best weather wise, and this one was no exception.  Race morning temps in the low 50’s.


My drive to Wake Forest is about 50-55 minutes, so I left the house about 5:30.  Race day packet pick up started at 6:30, and there was a bit of a line when I arrived, but only a few minute wait.  Pretty much the only time I ever see the sunrise is when I am racing, and as daylight approached the sky was cloudless.  After getting my bib pinned onto my shirt, I made my way over to find my fellow pacers for the race.

Women wore witch costumes, and tutus, men were wearing a Grim Reaper costume, with a scythe showing the pace on the faux blade.  Here is a shot of a few folks getting costumed up.


There were about ten of us total.  Unfortunately I was the only pacer for the 1:45:00 (8 minute mile) group, so would have to go it alone.  I have never had to pace by myself, so I hoped it would work out ok.  It’s great when you have a partner or two, trading off holding the pacing sign and just having someone else to keep you on track.


As 7:30 approached, we got in line at the starting chute.  I was surprised how few folks really aligned up with me for a 1:45:00 finish.  As you can see by this photo, no one was willing to get in front of me until the last minute before the race began.  I stood quite a ways back from the starting line, where I snapped this picture.  I guess the ultra fast runners were still stretching.  Lol. Here is a photo looking behind me, and believe me, there were plenty of runners lined up.


Lots of folks in costume, the race began moments later.

When I say that this race is hilly, I really mean it.  Being the third time I have run it, I knew what to expect. I knew what to expect, but really wasn’t prepared.  On tired legs from six weeks worth of mega racing, I was just hoping for a nice even paced race.  My right ankle had been giving me pain for a few days prior to the race, and right off the bat I was giving me fits.  As I adjusted to running in a costume, and carrying an extremely long pace sign/scythe I tried to find my pace.  Half a mile in I was at 8:30 pace, working my way to that magical 8:00.  By the end of the first mile, I was there.  On pretty much the only flat portion of the race course it was obvious that if I had a pace group, they were too spread out at this point to really tell.  The only person matching my steps was a woman dressed as Cat Woman.

A few miles in, we turned east and were running directly in the sun.  Although a cool morning, the sun warmed me up quite a bit.  Running in the sun coupled with having a black hooded costume on, I quickly starting sweating.  I knew that wearing that costume would not last long.  My only running companion was matching me step for step.  Pace was even, and right on the money.  We chatted a bit.  I have her tips on what was coming up on the course.  She told me that if she hung with me, she would get a huge PR.  Her current PR at the Half distance was 1:53:00.  Without saying anything, I knew this would be the race of her life if she could maintain the pace over the course of the hills knowing she had never run that fast before.  This is not really a PR friendly course because of the difficulty.  I had my fingers crossed for her though.

Big hills, big!  Traversing these babies at an even pace was massively difficult.  As the miles progressed I was becoming too hot in that costume.  As we approached the second water station about five to six miles in, I decided it was time to ditch it.  I still had my pace sign, which would have to suffice.  I threw that costume to the curb, and quickly cooled down quite a bit.  Mile 7, 8 then 9.  More huge hills, I lost a few ticks on the pace.  Knowing I would have to make up the time on a downhill, I pushed onward.  It was at about mile 9, on a long uphill stretch that my only companion, Cat Woman, would finally fall back.  She had to walk.  I knew it would happen eventually, but I gave her huge props for sticking with me that long.  I was now alone.  If I hadn’t been pacing this race, I would have run it very differently.  With two previous races on this course, both under 8:00 mile pace, I was struggling more this time around.  I know it was due to the fact that I ran those uphill portions at an even pace, just the same as the downhill portions.  If I wasn’t pacing, I would have taken it more easy on the uphills, and taken more advantage of the easier downhills.  Oh well, nothing I could do but press on.  Alone.

Nearing the haunted trail portion of the race, my pace had slipped to 8:04 overall.  Then, the dreaded Garmin event happened.  Yep!  I had been switching the pace sign between hands every so often because of the weight of it.  The breeze also kept blowing the blade, which made it even more difficult to carry.  I was so tired of holding it, and didn’t have another pacer to hand it off to for some relief.  This time, in switching hands the pole bumped my Garmin and there went a beep.  Omg!  My Garmin reset.  Now there I was, knowing that I was already behind pace, and losing my one way to keep track of getting that pace back.  I was doomed, I thought.  By this point though, I didn’t have a sole running with me, and as we merged in with a bunch of the 10k runners, I couldn’t really tell who was running what race.  many folks I passed were walking, having been totally beaten up by the relentless hills.  I figured I would just have to finish the best I could.  I had no idea now what my overall pace was, and with a long uphill finish, there was no way I was going to hit my mark.

If I had another pacer with me, it would have been the failsafe I needed.  I didn’t though.  Miles 10, 11 and 12, I just tried to keep as even paced as I could.  I knew I was losing more time on the uphills.  Eventually with a half mile to go, I just told myself to go as fast as possible.  That uphill finish is daunting, and will test your will.  With the finish line in sight, and still no one running with me, I crossed the line in 1:47:01.  Yeah, my fastest Half this year.  Not my goal pace, but only 10 seconds per mile off.  I can blame it on several things like my Garmin fail, the lack of running with another pacer or two, the costume or whatever.  But I won’t.  The fact of the matter is that I just didn’t hit my mark.  Last year I ran this race in 1:39:00, and after crossing the finish line completely drained of energy, wondered how in the world I ever had a time like that on this course.  It was tough!


After collecting my cool medal and some water, I wandered back to the finish line to hopefully see Cat Woman finish.  I was dying to find out if she would get her PR.  Low and behold, she soon crested the final hill to the finish line.  I cheered her on, as she crossed the line just under 1:50:00.  She did it!  A PR by over three minutes on this difficult course.  She was the only person I was basically pacing, so I felt that my work, for at least the first 8-9 miles that she hung with me, was well worth it.  I found her to congratulate her.  She was thrilled.

I hung around the finisher village for about an hour after the race, just soaking up the morning Sun, and talking with fellow runners.  I may not have hit my mark right on point, but I was pretty damn close.  Pacing is a lot of fun, but this race was the most challenging pacing job I have ever had.  I had some obstacles on race day, but managed the best I could.

The tombstone medal opens!

The tombstone medal opens!

The Hallowed Half is such a fun event, and will look to return with a vengeance next year to give those haunting hills another go.

...and reveals just how I felt after I finished the race!  Lol

…and reveals just how I felt after I finished the race! Lol


Eight Minute Mile

Seems pretty simple, right?


As I sit here on a Sunday morning, another race day awaits.  Coffee in hand, considering the race ahead.    The Hallowed Half, my third year running it in a row.  I don’t think, in fact I know I haven’t run any other race three years in a row.  This race is cool, has great swag, and is just an all around fun time.

The 8:00 mile pace is what I am shooting for today.  I am pacing this event, gunning to bring my group to a 1:45:00 finish.  We have a beautiful morning for it.  Temperatures are in the upper 40’s right now, going up to about 70 today.  Yep, it’s almost November and we still have really nice weather.  Thankfully!  It’s actually supposed to get up to 80 on Tuesday.

Not sure why, but I have been nursing a wonky right ankle the past few days.  It actually feels like I pulled something.  I must have done it at work, because I didn’t feel this during my marathon last weekend.  Advil is my friend though, so hopefully it will calm down prior to the race.

I will be sure to take pictures, and put together a recap of the event tomorrow.  I have one goal today.  Even though I haven’t run an 8:00 minute pace lately, I am more than capable.  Last year I finished the race in 1:39:00, a full six minutes under what I am shooting for today.  Should be a breeze, right?  As long as my ankle holds up, we will conquer the hills of Wake Forest today, and have a blast doing it!

As we run our Halloween event today, I will be thinking of the many thousands of runners toeing the line at the Marine Corps Marathon in our Nations capital.  Good luck to all of you!

Clown Caboose

As we approach Halloween, and all those beloved Halloween themed races that we all love to run, here is some motivation to run those races as quickly as you can!


I don’t know if any of you watch the show, but this clown is a character on American Horror Story.  The new season began a few weeks back, and right from the get go has you lured in to evil in the form of this clown.  Meet Twisty!  Imagine waking up and seeing this thing at the foot of your bed.


A clown truly to give nightmares.  I have never been a big fan of clowns, and as it turns out, are not very popular at all.  More people are afraid of clowns, or dislike them, than are fans.  Yeah, Ronald McDonald is pretty tame, but he has to be.  He’s trying to sell burgers and fries and shakes.  Twisty ain’t no Ronald.


As you line up this weekend or next at that Halloween race picture Twisty bringing up the caboose, chasing you to that new PR.  I will, as I try to bang out my fastest half marathon of the year this Sunday.


Tell me, are you afraid of clowns?

Family Affair – Half Marathon with my sons

November 2nd will be a special day.  A really special day for me and my two sons.  Why you ask?  We will be toeing the line as Dad and sons at Raleigh’s City of Oaks Rex Healthcare Half Marathon.  I couldn’t be more happy about it.


This is my hometown marathon, half and 10k.  The race that is currently my PR at the marathon distance.  A mark that I set in 2013.  This year however, I chose to run the Half Marathon with my 16 and 18 year old sons.  I am not going to try to better my time from last year in the marathon.  In fact, I just didn’t come close at all this year in achieving that new marathon PR.  My best marathon this year was about nine minutes shy of a PR.  My goal this year is to run with my kids.


I am not really sure what to expect come race day.  My older son has run two Half marathons to date.  This will be his third.  He has run his other two half marathons this year.  His first in Hilton Head, SC,  back in February, finishing in 1:43:10.  Then his second, the Mike to Mike Half Marathon, in Fayetteville, NC.,  in 1:51:50.  He is now a freshman in college, and has been trying to train, but hasn’t gotten in the necessary miles.  Not sure what to expect from him come race day, but knowing him, since the start and finish are at NC State (where he goes to college) he will give it 110%.

This photo is over two years old.  They are both taller than me now!

This photo is over two years old. They are both taller than me now!

My younger son (16yrs.) has yet to run a Half.  This will be his first.  He has been so busy playing on his varsity soccer team in high school this Summer and Fall, that he has barely had any time to train.  He will be the wildcard on race day.  He has certainly had his fair share of workouts, just not all distance running related.  He is hardheaded like me, and I know will give it all he has on race day.

Based on our varied training, I doubt that we will all run together.  I wish we could, but that is probably unrealistic.  If we all plan to give it our all, we will probably all run at different paces.  It will be interesting, to say the least.

How do you think it will turn out?  It will certainly be a first.  We’ve competed in shorter distances together, but never a 13.1.  All I know is that the City of Oaks is about to get a handful of us.  Will it be dear old Dad that arrives first at the tape?  Will it be the college freshman with a PR better than my last two Halves?  Will it be the High School Junior with something to prove?  Surely it will be a blast!

Halloween Racing

What do you think of holiday themed races?  Do you run them?  Like a Santa Hustle, Turkey Trot, Halloween Half, Firecracker 5000?  It seems that more and more these days themed events can be found at almost any time of the year.

The past two years I have run the Hallowed Half in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  Put on by running friend Sharon, of Signature Races, this is a growing event about to take place for the third time this Sunday.  Most runners will don some sort of costume or themed running clothes to race in.  It’s really a blast of an event, which also includes a 10k, as a less scary option.  The Half Marathon is packed with rolling hills, and both races feature a haunted trail about a mile long filled with ghoulish decorations and costumed volunteers to entertain the runners.


In 2012 (the inaugural year) I ran the Half in 1:44:49, and in 2013 I ran the Half in 1:39:00.  Seems that having some experience on those hills helped me the second year.  Well, this year I will be pacing the 1:45:00 group (8 minute mile).  I am excited to once again pace a Half Marathon, especially one this fun.

The shirts and medals have been great both years, and no doubt will be again this time around.  There are very few races that I compete in year after year, but this is one of them.  Looking forward to a hauntingly good time.

The center spins!

The center spins!

This one is a coffin, and opens and closes on a hinge.

This one is a coffin, and opens and closes on a hinge.

What about you?  Are you running a Halloween race this weekend or next?  Share any stories about great holiday themed runs that you have done?  Feel free to share, as I’m sure there are many.

Greensboro Marathon – Race Recap

October 18, 2014-

A lot of you may be asking the question…  So yes, I will answer it right off the bat.  I ran another marathon this week.  Wait, didn’t I just run the Chicago Marathon last Sunday?  Yep.  Then, six days later, I completed yet another marathon.


Let me give you a bit of the background on how this came to be.  This past January while in Charleston, SC for my first marathon of the year, I happened to stop by the Greensboro Marathon table at the expo.  I picked up a race flier from the guy working the table.  They were offering a huge discount to runners at that race to sign up early.  I think I had just a few days to make a decision as the discount only would work for a limited time.  Greensboro is about an hour and a half drive from home, and so I thought sure.  I signed up!  A few months later, after finding out that I made it into the Chicago Marathon through the lottery, it meant that I was now signed up for two marathons in one week.  Six days apart to be specific.

Of course I would run Chicago.  A race of a lifetime.  Where would that leave Greensboro though?  As the Spring and Summer progressed, and training was going well, I decided that I would just kind of leave it up in the air.  As Fall approached and a busy race season was starting I was still unsure how it would all play out.  I would wing it.  It’s not like Greensboro wasn’t close to home.  I didn’t need a hotel, or plane ticket.  I could literally wait until the last minute to decide.

After having a great race in Chicago a week ago today, I felt really good physically.  I would wait a few days to see how my legs and feet would feel post marathon.  My recovery this week was great.  I bounced right back from Chicago, and worked a full week on my feet.  I felt good.  I made the decision to go ahead and run the Greensboro Marathon and really put myself to the test.

And so I did!

I got up very early yesterday morning, and started my pre-race rituals.  With a later than usual 8am start time, it meant that I had to leave the house by 5:30am, to make sure that I had enough time to drive there, find parking, pick up my race bib and shirt and get ready to run 26.2 miles.


Through the hubbub of the week, I really hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the race course and elevation chart.  I knew that this year (the second running of this event) the course was completely new.  Looking at the elevation chart, it would be anything but flat.  The complete opposite from Chicago, but nothing that I wasn’t used to living here in rolling North Carolina.  I decided in the car heading to Greensboro that my only goal was to finish and go sub 4 hours.  It was all just a test.  I was testing my physical endurance (two marathons in less than a week) and my mental fortitude.

Let me just say that I am very happy that I made the decision to run.  The race started in City Park.  I was able to quickly find parking right across the road in a free parking deck.  Like promised, they had my race bag and bib ready for me at the timing tent.  There was no race day packet pick up offered, but I got the RD to agree to let me pick up race morning since I live about 100 miles away, and would not drive the extra distance twice just to pick up my bib.  See?  Race Directors can be very cool.  Thank you Richard! (and Libby).

All that was left was for me to do was to stretch and prepare.  I snapped a few pictures of the park that morning as I headed to the starting line.

image image

I lined up in the start chute.  A much smaller race than Chicago by about 45,300 runners, there was all sorts of room.  I lined up next to the 3:40 pacer, and we started chatting.  He asked me if I wanted to run with him, to which I replied, “I doubt it, I just ran Chicago last Sunday, and am just hoping for a good race”.  I didn’t want any pressure, no specific time goals.  While we chatted, a young woman to my left must have overheard our conversation.  She jutted in, “did you run Chicago?  I was there, too”.  She was there cheering on her mother, who ran the race. Through further conversation I learned that the Greensboro Marathon was her first marathon.  I wished her well.  She told me that her mother could still hear the cheers of the crowd in Chicago long after her race had finished and she returned to their hotel room.  This race was quite different, so I hoped that there would be some spectator support for her first marathon.

Sadly, there wasn’t much.  This is such a small city marathon, there wasn’t much support at all.  It was very clear from the start that we were on our own.  My race started like many others.  I just tried to find a groove over the course of the first few miles.  The elevation chart shows that there are very few flat miles.  I don’t remember any.  ;). The hills were relentless, and challenging.  I felt a bit rundown, but I would manage.  I maintained a pace over those rolling hills faster than the 3:40 group for about 6-7 miles.  The countryside on the course was beautiful.  We passed through golf course communities with beautiful homes, passed old farmland and glistening lakes.  It really was an amazing course.  It was quiet, crisp and cool.  The weather couldn’t have been any better.  Clear blue skies, 50 degree temperatures.  A perfect Fall morning in central North Carolina.

I stopped to use the bathroom (aka: a tree) around the 7 mile mark.  It was then that the 3:40 pacer went on by.  The “first time marathoner” also passed me during my bathroom break.  I would spend the next several rolling miles chasing them.  I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to my Garmin because I wasn’t trying to set any speed records, but nonetheless, I still was looking for that sub 4 finish.  Slowly but surely I was nearing the halfway point.  As the timing mat at 13.1 approached I remember thinking “damn, why did I think this was a good idea?”  I felt like I was crawling up those hills at times.  My energy felt depleted here and there, and as the temperatures rose, I was kicking myself that I didn’t have more energy.  I wished that the race was ending at 13.1, not 26.2.  How would I ever manage to run another 13.1 miles to finish out this race?  Fact of the matter was that I still had half way to go.  Buck up!  I crossed the halfway mark at 1:50:48. It certainly wasn’t going to be my best marathon, but I knew I could finish it.

The second half of the race felt even more hilly to me.  I guess that’s only natural, being more tired, and all.  It just felt brutal.  The scenery was still great, but I felt so tired that a lot of the scenery was lost on me.  I spent a lot of time looking down at my feet, trying to will them forward.  I found that looking down was my savior, especially on the relentless uphill sections.  This course was so ridiculously difficult that I just wanted to beat it, to call it my bitch!  It was making me crazy.  I found myself dreaming of the Chicago course, with its flat landscape and adoring fans.  This course?  None of that.

As I made my way, hill by hill, I found myself passing people.  I passed the first time marathoner.  I told her to stay strong.  I knew she was doing well on this tough course. Yes, even though the second half was tougher than the first, I was conquering it stronger than most.  I was passing people that had been in my sights for miles and miles.  One by one, I made it my goal to just reach the next person.  I found much satisfaction in passing these folks.  Little did they know that I had run a marathon just six days prior.  If they knew that I don’t think they would have let me pass them.

I maintained a pace that I felt that would get me to the line in a decent time.  I did have to walk a few times on the last few uphill sections, as I felt that walking would almost be faster than my running pace.  Do you ever feel like you are running so slow that you may as well be walking?  This is how I felt.  Miles 22, 23, 24, 25. It was almost over.  I was begging for that finish line to come into view, and finally it was there.  A short straight away from the finish, I knew I had my sub 4.  It wasn’t a pretty one, certainly not my best.  I did it though.  The small crowd clapped me to the finish.  I had done it!  I crossed the line in 3:53:42.


I grabbed a water, and stopped to watch others finish.  Believe it or not, I only finished 15 spots behind that 3:40 pacer that I was talking with at the beginning of the race. We chatted a moment, and then I saw the first time marathoner come to the line.  Her first marathon finish, about 4 minutes behind me.  She finished in 3:57:30.  A fantastic job on this difficult course.  I hope she knows that not all marathon courses are this tough.  I hope she goes for marathon #2 one day.

The post race festival was really quite nice.  Right in the park, plenty of sunshine.  A really nice turnout for the second running of this event.  I didn’t stay long, as I wanted to get on the road home.  When I figured out that I had finished 8th in my age group, I headed to my car.  No extra bling for me.  I really didn’t need it.  Knowing that I had just finished my second marathon in six days was enough of a reward for me.


Unofficial results:  Overall finish 50/284, Gender finish 39/165 and age group 8/30.

Thanks to Trivium Racing, all staff, volunteers, sponsors and spectators.  Finishing Chicago in 3:41 and then Greensboro in 3:53 six days later will be something I always remember.  Greensboro, my last marathon of 2014 and a springboard for the 2015 racing season.

Chicago Marathon – Race Recap part II

I tried my best to forget about my stomach as I lay my head down on Saturday night.  I tossed and turned a bit, the usual for the night before a marathon.  I did however get good rest.  I woke up on Sunday feeling good.  No stomach issues.  I debated if I should have coffee or not, but my need for caffeine won that battle.

The forecast for race day was pretty much every changing the ten days leading up to the race, but it had been nothing but beautiful and cool since I arrived on Friday.  I went down to the hotel lobby and went outside to see for myself what I would be facing.  Much to my delight, the temperature was about 50 degrees, but felt even cooler because of the wind.  My 4 am wake up call, and strong coffee in hand I was now walking around the outside of the hotel getting a feel for race day.  Super stoked that it felt amazing outside.  Perfect for a marathon.


After all of my normal race morning preparations, I walked to Michigan Avenue, and proceeded south amid a sea of marathon runners.  I opted not to wear a long sleeve throw away shirt, and regretted it for the walk.  The wind died down though as I got closer to Gate #1, my entrance into Grant Park for Corral D.  The sea of runners was now a full blown ocean!  Slowly we crept along into the park through the security checkpoint.  I have to give it to Chicago on this one.  There were plenty of security guards, and volunteers all checking us out.  Checking bibs and bags, making sure everything was in order, and that runners were in the right places.  It was about 7am at this point, as I made my way in the direction of the start corrals A-D.  A severe lack of portopotties at this juncture meant a mad dash for everyone.  We had to be in the corrals by 7:20, and as that time quickly approached the bathroom lines seemed to not be moving.  Guys formed lines along a fence because we had to.  Letting our junk fly for all to see.  The women?  Not sure how they managed.  I made it into my corral with two minutes to spare.

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Happy to be there, one in the crowd, I started some stretches.  The feeling in the air was electric.  Runners as far as I could see both in front of me and behind me.  Throw away clothes were flying everywhere as we all prepared for the gun.  At 7:30:01 a.m. the race officially started.  I just couldn’t believe that I was actually there, about to run the Chicago Marathon.  It was one of the best feelings of excitement ever.  After about six minutes we started moving, ever so slowly.  Roars and applause brought me to the starting line at 7:38.  My Chicago had begun.  Marathon #15 underway.  I was feeling loose, and ready to run.

The first mile took us north on Columbus toward Grand Avenue.  It was evident just moments into the race that I would have to be very careful with my steps.  So many runners meant very little wiggle room at times.  I almost never was cut off, but did have to severely increase and decrease my pace at times in the beginning just to move around the crowd.  The spectators were out in force from the very start.  Lining both sides of most of the route, I quickly realized that no matter what, I would always have someone cheering for me.

Just past mile 1 we once again turned to head south on N. State St.  That’s where my hotel was, and my cheering section would be for the first time.  Happy, running well, we waved and I moved on.  I was just absolutely blown away by the crowd.  Through thick and thin, I knew I was in for a real treat.  Thousands and thousands of adoring family, friends and locals, I have never experienced anything like it. It was energizing.

With another turn on Jackson and then back north again on Lasalle we neared the 5k mark.  I missed my cheering section at the corner of Kinzie and LaSalle.  Through the crowds it was almost impossible to get there before I did.  So I ran on.  I felt good, and full of energy.  We continued on and the miles progressed.  By mile 5 we were in the Lincoln Park Zoo.  Up until then I hadn’t even dared to stop at a water station because they were just too crowded.  I just focused on staying in the middle of the route to avoid as many tossed cups as possible.  By now I was good and warmed up, and really running freely.

The next several miles really went by pretty quickly, and I could tell that I was maintaining a very even pace.  I focused on taking in the views and the crowd support.  One thing that is incredible about the Chicago Marathon is that you get to run through many of the distinct and ethnic neighborhoods all over the city.  The marathon website states that runners pass through 29 unique neighborhoods.  You could almost feel the differences as you passed though them.  Different faces, unique shop fronts and smells from the local restaurants.  It was really cool.  From small four piece bands, to a singing Elvis, to the ROTC performing a rifle routine set to music, each area was so unique and different.  I enjoyed it all.  It made the miles really melt away at times.  We’ve all run races with boring sections, and there is nothing worse than miles and miles of boring views on a marathon course.  I can guarantee you that you will not find this true in Chicago.

As I started nearing the mid way section of the course I started to look for some more running friends.  A cheer section quickly approached on the right.  Friends of mine who I ran the Blue Ridge Marathon in Virginia a few years ago were to be there cheering on runners.  Sure enough, just as I was passing them, I saw Angie.  Quickly stopping to give her a sweaty hug, my way of saying thanks for supporting not only me, but everyone else out there running that day.  It surely gave me a boost!  She quickly flashed the sign she made “Go Paul Go”, as I disappeared back into the running crowd.

As I approached the 12 mile mark I once again began looking for Lance, who would be on the corner of Hubbard and Orleans.  He had texted me that he wasn’t going to miss me again after not being able to get to the three mile mark. I guess it was the mix of runners, and the increased crowd at this point in the race, that I flew by and completely missed him.  I did my absolute best to scan the crowds, but just couldn’t find him.  Another missed opportunity for a personal cheer section.  Oh well, I was disappointed.  I couldn’t believe that he made his way all the way to that spot, and then I didn’t get to high 5 him.

It was shortly after this, nearing the 13.1 timing mat that I looked at my Garmin to check my pace.  I glanced at it once, and then again.  What in the world?  Somehow it had reset itself (obviously I bumped it or something) and was now saying that I was only 1.5 miles into my run.  Argh!!  I was so pissed!  Total Garmin fail.  Now I had to run by feel.  I no longer had an accurate reading of my pace, so I just decided to go with my gut, and let the legs do the work without worrying about how fast they were moving.

The best way I can describe the second half of the race is that even when I felt a twinge of tiredness, my fellow runners and the spectators almost willed me along.  The entire course from start to finish I only took quick walk breaks through a half dozen water stops so that I could get my hydration without choking.  I never stopped otherwise.  I barely remember even being tired.  The electricity generated by the crowd was something I will never forget.

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I really enjoyed the second half of Chicago.  I can hardly say this about most marathons, but I truly did.  My legs and feet continued to feel great, no stomach issues, no pain whatsoever.  I just took in the sights and sounds.  The applause and cheers were amazing.  My favorite sign along the course was this.  Taken from the web because I couldn’t snap a picture in time…


I think I laughed out loud.  I had never seen that one before.  I was just pure joy on race day.

As I was nearing the finish I snapped this picture….


Yes, that is the finish in the distance,  sparsely populated with spectators due to Boston, but nonetheless an unbelievable ending to the race.  Look at that view!

I raised my hands at the finish, so happy to have completed this epic race.  Taking in some nourishment and wrapped in a foil blanket I stopped for a moment to drink.  Funniest and grossest moments of the day about to happen.  As I stopped, a beautiful blonde woman had also stopped to drink her Gatorade.  I was amazed at how awesome she looked, as she had just completed 26.2 miles.  She looked relaxed and put together.  Then, she turned to stretch her calves on the curb, and that’s the moment I knew.  She had shit running down the back of her legs, all caked on like it had been there for miles and miles.  She went from beautiful to nasty in two seconds flat!  Come on woman, stop to clean that shit up!

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I walked on, leaving previously beautiful blonde runner in the dust.  A sea of foil blankets, A beautiful medal draped around my neck.  My Chicago Marathon was everything I had wished for, and left me wanting more.  I shall return again Chicago, to experience your great city and people.  You put on one amazing marathon, and made me feel so welcome.  Thank you!

Unofficial results:


With over 40,000 finishers I am happy to say that I finished in the top 15%.