My First Marathon – The Chicago Marathon 10-10-10

10*10*10 –> What a beautiful day for a race!


An even more beautiful day for a marathon in Chicago – my very first marathon! I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning ready to get my run on. I was anxious and nervous and just excited to get out there and do what I came here to do – RUN!


I eventually made my way towards the start line and into my seeded corral entrance.


There were lots of lines to get into the corral’s – It took a while to get to my spot and I didn’t have much time to stand around in line. On race day, I believe, there is a fine line between getting to a race too early and getting there too late. I never want to stand around too long waiting to start running, but I also never want to be rushing to my corral either.


There was a pretty big gap between the seeded corrals and the open corral. All these volunteers kept people in their spots. It was a little bit of organized chaos, but it worked.


Before  I knew it, they were starting the wheelchair leg of the race, which started 10 minutes before my official race time.


As you can see, 45,000 runners + volunteers + fans = a LOT of people!


I was starting to get butterflies in my belly! I couldn’t believe the moment I had been working towards for the past few months was finally here!


But I was feeling good and ready to run!


I made my way up to the start line about 6 minutes after the Elite runners took off, which I thought was a pretty good start!


And then we were off! My first marathon was officially underway. 

With all the thousands of people surrounding me, I thought it would have been a more difficult start than it actually was. Since I was in a speedy corral everyone was ready to start running as soon as we passed the start line.


My friend Aileen had given me a pep talk the day before reminding me that I should want to try to get negative splits also known as making the second half of my race faster than the first.


I decided from the very beginning of the race that I was in no hurry. I wanted to take this race slow and finish strong with a smile on my face.  That was the most important thing to me.


By making that decision early on, I felt I had no pressure to run a certain way or finish a certain time. This was my first marathon and I wanted to have fun and enjoy myself!

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While I was starting the race my Superfans were getting ready to watch their first marathon.


My parents made some sweet signs for me.

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And my future in-laws and fiancé were excited to cheer me on too!

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What do you think of their shirts?? I love them!

My Superfans were camped out along the first mile of the race and they got to see the Elite runners whiz on by.


Is it me, or do they look like they are flying??


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I can’t even imagine running that fast!

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While my family was waiting for me, they saw lots of fun people run by them. They were most surprised by the Eiffel Tower and those running a marathon barefoot!   

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Eventually I saw a sea of green and made my way towards my cheering section.

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Mile 1 of the marathon baby!

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I had been told that the crowds for a marathon like this would be crazy, but I really didn’t expect them to be as amazing as they were. There were so many people on the course running and there were so many people on the sides cheering for about 90% of the race! People where everywhere!


Within the first 3 miles we went over 3 different bridges which was fun. The first few miles went by super fast with the excitement of the start of the race and the energy from the crowds.


Before I knew it I was passing the by the 5k mark and it was time to see my family again!


I came passing by with my parents cheering like crazy. It was an awesome feeling and I was feeling great.

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Throughout the entire race I was trying to visualize the course map in my mind to get a better idea of where I was. For some reason, this really helped me get a better feel for the race and the distance I had come and how much more I had to go, since I was running in unfamiliar territory.


We went through a few different parks and this is where lots of people stopped off the course to use the bathroom behind trees!


One turn from the parks and we were back in the city area.


And before I knew it I was in familiar territory!


When we hit mile 7 I knew we were at the peak of the course and we would be heading back down south for the rest of the race.

At this point I was so thankful for the back of my shirt – runners started around this time to stop by my side while we were both running to ask how my first marathon was going.

Throughout the race SO MANY people commented to me either “Congratulations” or “Good Luck” or “How’s your first marathon going?” It was amazing to have people stop and talk to me that way! I loved it!


From mile 8-10 I got into a little groove and was just listening to my music, taking in the sights and enjoying the crowds.

Then before I knew it, it was time to start looking for my family again. Can you find me in the picture below? 

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Fiancé had told me they were going to try to meet me between miles 11/12 on the right side of the race, so I held on the right and starting looking for my sea of green superfans!


I was feeling really good at this point, and the excitement of seeing my family only made me feel even more awesome.


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Lots of waving and peace signs and arm flailing was going on! 

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And then I was on my own again for a bit!


Before I knew it, I was halfway done! This was a daunting moment for me because I was feeling good and had already come a long way, but I still had another 13.1 miles to go!

Like I said, I was feeling good, but how good is good when you have come 13 miles and still have 13 more miles to go?


Around this time, the heat started to pick up. I know I had been running in the heat all summer in Philadelphia, but running 26 miles in the heat is a whole new world of pain.


I tried to counter the heat by taking water at all the stations, sometimes mixing 1/2 water and 1/2 Gatorade. I also started spilling water on my head and on my body to cool my temperature down.


I also made a good attempt to keep fueling throughout the race. I had a shot block every mile or two from mile 3- 18. I really wanted to keep putting calories in my body because I knew if I started feeling hungry, then it would be too late.


I was supposed to meet up again with my family at mile 17 and then again at 21, which would have been awesome times to see them, because I was needing some love then, but they got stuck in some serious traffic on the metro.


When I didn’t see them where we planned to meet, I knew they probably had travel issues. I kept on running with a smile on my face – the race must go on! 


At mile 14 was a Charity Block Party which was where all the charities people were running the marathon for, were all lined up. They were giving out food and water and cheering up a storm!

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After the halfway point I decided not to think of how far I had gone or how far I had to go. I started taking in the sights and enjoying all the hilarious signs fans had along the way!

Some of my favorite signs said:

“Run? I thought they said Rum!” – One had a giant cutout of Edward (from Twilight) and he said “You are so close to Eclipsing your PR!”  – Lots said “Beat Oprah” – And so many said “ Free Beer at the Finish”

My favorite sign said – “You started this race a runner and will finish this race a Marathoner” – That was so inspiring for me!


Before I knew it we were at mile 21 and I knew halfway through this mile, every step I would take would be a new PDR! Bring it on!

Because I kept fueling and hydrating throughout the race, I never really felt like I hit a wall during the marathon. When I was feeling weak, I took a banana or some water or I stayed to the side of the race and let the crowd cheer me up my motivating me and cheering my name! People were awesome at that!

The only thing that bothered me during the race was that towards the end my quads started to tighten up, so I started doing some high knees to loosen them up. 


After mile 23 I was starting to struggle. I felt find endurance wise, but my legs were starting to tell me they didn’t want to run anymore, which was pretty understandable because I had been running for 4 hours at this point! I took another banana half and then made my way up to mile 24 where the Nike Powersong section was.

This gave me a little boost because the MC was announcing “Only 2 miles left” “ You are almost finished the 33rd Chicago Marathon!” At this point I wanted to just be finished with the race, so I just kept on running, hoping to see my family soon!

I eventually saw them right after mile 25 when I knew I had one more mile left. Lots of people were walking at this point and I wanted to finish strong.

Can you spot me in the picture below?

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I was hurting at this point and praying the finish line would appear sooner than later!


I saw my family and then started to push towards the finish line.

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That 26 mile marker came and went, and let me just tell you that the last .2 miles were the longest 800 meters of my life! It took FOREVER for the finish line to appear.

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There were two additional curves and turns in the course up a hill to get us where the finish line was in sight. The only thing that kept me going at this point was that the crowds were going crazy!


I made my final push and saw the end in sight and I couldn’t help but thinking to myself – “ I am finishing my first marathon!”

What an amazing feeling.


I ended up finishing the race in 4:36:38 – which is a little longer than I thought I was going to run it in, but since I made the choice to slow it down early on, I knew that would cost me some time, but in the end finishing the race feeling strong made me feel better than finishing any time goal would have made me feel.


After hobbling around I eventually found my family for some finisher photographs.


I can now officially check “Run a Marathon” off my bucket list!

Check! Check!


After running for 4.5 hours straight, I was tired and sore, but very proud of what I accomplished. I thought of all my blog friends who have run marathon’s of their own and everyone who was tracking me on race day and that helped me push through!

Thank you for your support!  

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I am pumped to add this new piece of hardware to my race board.

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Then it was off for an ice bath and some more deep dish pizza!


Stay tuned for What I Learned from My First Marathon!


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  • Reply Lizzy October 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I love this post! Congrats!!!! I am so amazed that you were able to finish so strong. Your recap is so inspiring. Hopefully we can run some miles together during NY

  • Reply Lauren October 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    YAY! Congrats Leslie! Seems like you did an awesome job and I am so proud of you!

    So, you, uh, wanna do a long run this weekend?

  • Reply Bobbi October 12, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    your recap made me tear up!!! YAY!!! You are awesome!!!

  • Reply Cate October 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Awesome! Congrats! You did such a great job! 🙂
    I am a relatively new follower to your blog and have loved reading about your race training experiences.
    very inspiring. I hope to run a marathon one day…

  • Reply Melissa Cari October 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    CONGRATS LESLIE! This is such a great recap and I'm so proud of you! This is making me SO excited for Philly! Seriously you rock. I can't wait to congratulate you in person. When can we do lunch?!

  • Reply kilax October 12, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Congratulations! I love your race report, and all of the photos. I think it was great to see your family so often (loved their shirts and yours!). I was super excited whenever I saw someone I knew during the course on Sunday.

    I think I should have fueled more like you did. I don't think I was taking enough in. It sounds like you did really well, despite the last 3 miles being so tough.

    Congrats! You're a marathoner!

    (P.S. I totally laughed at the run vs. rum sign. Did you see the Zac Efron cut out along mile 6-7ish?)

  • Reply Katie October 12, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    such an inspiring post! Congrats!

  • Reply Becky October 12, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    You are inspiring! You ran a marathon and looked so happy doing it! I can only hope to run a race like that. I LOVE all the photos!

    And now I'm crying. I cry every time I read a recap.

  • Reply Dori October 12, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Your time is amazing and I love how uneventful the race was — that is a GREAT thing! You stayed strong the entire time and had no extremely bad moments, only great ones. Congrats!

  • Reply October 12, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Wow! I ran my 1st 1/2 on 10-10-10 and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Therefore, I can only imagine how utterly overwhelming and amazing this whole day was for you.

    Congratulations. I know what it takes to get to 13.1, so the fact that you made it 26.2 is really inspiring!

  • Reply October 12, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Congrats! I LOVED your recap! I don't think many first time marathoners can say they successfully completed the race without hitting the wall AND with a smile on their face. That's so impressive 🙂

  • Reply Jeri October 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    congratulations. there's nothing like your first time…. 😉

    makes me want to run my next one NOW! :p

  • Reply lisaathome October 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Congratulations, Leslie!! Absolutely amazing!

  • Reply Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Congrats! I'm so proud (I know that's weird- we've never met) of you, and so inspired by you. Rock on!

  • Reply Theresa October 12, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Congratulations! Such an awesome accomplishment. All of your pictures made me think of running the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta – there's 55,000 runners and tons of fans along the course the whle time.

  • Reply Runeatrepeat October 12, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Great Job!!! I am so proud of you and loved reading the recap :)c

  • Reply Betsy October 13, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Great post!! Congrats. Pretty sure I saw your family 🙂

    Great time, too!!!!

  • Reply amanda October 13, 2010 at 12:19 am

    seriously, what a powerful event to accomplish! be proud! you're awesome.

    the t-shirts are just the cutest! yours and your fans. loving it.

    i hope your body is feeling a-okay after all that. sheesh!

  • Reply Heather @ Side of Sneakers October 13, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Congrats girl!! Loved your recap- you did awesome!

  • Reply Ashley October 13, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Great job!! I think I'm going to take a similar position for my first marathon- slow and steady. Where did you get the shirt??


  • Reply Fit Chick in the City October 13, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Great recap!! You stayed so positive during the run an finished strong!

  • Reply Alison (Ali on the Run) October 13, 2010 at 1:44 am

    CONGRATULATIONS, MARATHONER! Great post! I've been thinking about doing a full marathon and you may have just convinced me that I can do it… Maybe Chicago next year?! It sounds like an awesome, inspiring course. And I can't wait to read the next one about what you learned.

  • Reply lee October 13, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Congrats! You did great.

  • Reply ladypurpl October 13, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Congrats – you did what you set out to do and did it so well! Your family is so proud of you and we had a fabulous time in Chicago with you and fiance. Looking forward to cheering you on in New York in a few weeks.
    Take it easy this week!

  • Reply Sean October 13, 2010 at 3:25 am

    Congrats on your first marathon and an awesome race recap. I love all the pictures. I need to make me some shirts for my cheering section in future races, great idea!!

  • Reply Lisa October 13, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Congratulations!! Great race recap. I really enjoyed it. Way to go!!

  • Reply Jimmy Spinelli October 13, 2010 at 4:46 am

    Good job on finishing your first marathon.

  • Reply Maggie October 13, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Congratulations! Looks like it was a great experience.

    And I saw the Eiffel Tower runner at the NYC Marathon last year, I guess he has some experience!

  • Reply CAC muffin October 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    CongratulationS on your first marathon! So proud of you! Thats awesome! And its great to have the support of your SUPER FANS for SURE! 🙂

  • Reply Lacey Nicole October 13, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    congrats leslie!!!! i smiled my way through your whole recap. what a great experience you made this into. it really was how you handled the whole thing that made it so spectacular!!! you ran really strongly + confidently- a tough run, too! not just a marathon but heat and missed meet ups (i know you got to see your fam a bunch but even just thinking you'll see someone and not can totally be a distraction!!!). congrats on being a marathoner!!!!
    and btw- PRICELESS super fan tshirts. loved that they were in groups of 3, too for their photos = 10 10 10 🙂

  • Reply Nichole October 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    That's so cool you have SO many pictures. That's a fantastic way to remember the race, I'm sure if flew by.Your support was amazing. Great job girl, really spectacular results!

  • Reply track coach and adorable wife October 13, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    I love your outfit, your shirt )and your families') is so cute! What a great idea! Glad you had such a successful first marathon and an awesome time! And I could totally spot you in all those pictures.

  • Reply kristastes October 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Congrats Leslie! What an amazing accomplishment 🙂

  • Reply Michelle October 18, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    I have a question…I don't know if anyone already asked this b/c you have a million comments!! But wasn't your shirt originally the same color as your family's shirts! haha talk about some sweat!!! Your awesome! 🙂

  • Reply Leslie October 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Michelle – My shirt was originally a little darker than my families. Not the same shirt!

    Also, I was running through lots of water fountains and sprinklers as it got hotter during the day! 🙂

  • Reply Nancy October 31, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    This is so awesome and inspiring!

  • Reply BabyWeightMyFatAss November 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Congrats! What a great first marathon story!!

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