Friday afternoon, I headed down to Champaign-Urbana, IL with Scott so I could run the Illinois Marathon for the second time. I ran the Illinois Marathon last year and it was the first full marathon I completed. I had such a great time running the race last year that when I decided in January that I was going to add a spring marathon to my 2013 racing schedule, I immediately also decided to run this race. Our friend Ian also tagged along because he likes taking road trips and he was able to keep Scott company while I was running.
I picked up my bib and race packet, wandered around the expo for a few minutes, but because it was already approaching 7 PM, we left relatively quickly and made the 30 minute drive to Rantoul, IL, where our hotel was. We grabbed some pizza for dinner since we couldn’t find a lot of other dinner options on our phones and then headed to our hotel.
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We stayed at the Days Inn, which wasn’t terribly well reviewed on several websites, but by the time I decided to run the race, all of the hotels in Champaign were booked up. The Days Inn wasn’t super fancy, but it was clean and was a good place to sleep for the night. (It was also waaay cheaper than the Champaign hotels.) I slept surprisingly well and woke up ready to run.
We got to the race area pretty early so we could get good parking close to the Memorial Stadium, where the finish line was. We chilled out for a while in the car, got some free coffee and bagels, and I got in a short, slow warmup jog.
A little after 6:30, we headed to the start corrals.
We made our way to the corral with the 4:45 pace group, which I planned to stay with for the duration of the race.
Shortly after the National Anthem was played, I headed into the corral, and a few minutes after that we were off and running. The first half of the run I was fighting to hold myself back from running too fast. Our splits were a little faster than the even splits for a 4:45 marathon (around 10:40 instead of 10:53) for many of the miles, but I was breathing through my nose and the pace felt really easy to me for at least the first half. The spectators were awesome, which really helped me, mentally.
Full disclaimer: my preparation for this race was pretty awful. My longest run was 18 miles back in mid-March and I missed a lot of running in March due to my bad shin splints. I got in a 16 miler about 3 weeks before race day. But, I missed out on the longer long runs and the medium-long runs that I did last year, so I figured I’d be glad with just crossing the finish line.
My legs felt sore off and on from about mile 16. Around mile 23 I was feeling pretty wiped and took a couple extra walk breaks. Luckily there were some awesome people in my pace group and I wound up running with and chatting with several different ladies during that time, which was a huge help.
Around mile 24, I started to feel a little light headed. I was trying to take in plenty of fuel, and my stomach was full with Gatorade and water/Accel Gel, so I don’t think I didn’t eat enough. I took a walk break with a lady in my pace group who was having some pain in her calf and was trying to beat her PR of 4:56:xx. I knew it was impossible for me to PR, so I decided to stick with her so we could keep each other company for the rest of the race.
We both had very sore legs and took a lot of walk breaks, but also got in some slow jogging. A few tenths of a mile before the finish line, our pacer found us and ran the last bit of the race with us, which was really cool. My official finish time was 4:50:41.
I probably could have run the race a few minutes faster, but because I wasn’t going to PR, I think I got a lot more out of the race by helping my running buddy run a 6 minute PR for her (yay!!). I felt good about that and so happy to be a part of the awesome running community. And, y’know, to cross the finish line and be a marathoner again.
The family meetup area and food is up in the stands, which sucks a little, and the race organizers realize this, but they can’t have a bunch of non-participants and food down on the field, so I get why they do things the way they do.
Still, those stairs to get to Scott and Ian were pretty painful.
I grabbed some food and water, got my medal engraved, and then we headed back home.
I finished, I’m a marathoner again, and I’m excited to train for my fall marathon. I would love to be able to get into PR shape, which I’m sure will depend on how well I can fend off injuries and get in the miles I need to PR.
Did anyone else race this weekend?
Have any races coming up soon?
Do you have any favorite races that you run each year?