What Comes Next?

It’s been two and a half weeks since Chicago, which in 2018 time means it feels like 84 years. The marathon was somehow yesterday and also a lifetime ago, and I’ve spent the last 18 days reflecting on the ups and downs of a notoriously flat race.

A destination race is wonderful way to visit a city. Marathoners received a tour of 29 neighborhoods, and the people of Chicago showed up! Each neighborhood gave the runners so much love, and it was impossible not to be motivated by their energy. Running through the LGBT neighborhood of Boystown, we were greeted by drag queens dancing in spectacular heels. Running through the hispanic neighborhood of Pilsen, we heard mariachi music (and two women near me were running in shirts with the flag of Mexico, so the crowd was especially excited to see them)!

Chicago is also set up to encourage fan support. My loved ones were able to catch me at multiple places throughout the race due to the ease of Chicago’s L train system. Seeing a friendly face every few miles helped me keep pushing despite the rain.

On one hand, it’s an incredible privilege to be part of a race as massive and historic as Chicago. Entrance is determined by a lottery system, and only about 50% of applicants are accepted. I held this statistic close to my heart during the difficult miles — literally thousands of people would have loved to be in my shoes, so no matter how much I struggled, I didn’t let myself quit.

On the other hand, a race of this size was frankly overwhelming. Running is my escape, and a hobby I prefer doing alone. The pivot from solitude to surplus was abrupt, and it’s my own fault for not doing more to be ready for that. I spent all of my training preparing for the running. I should have done more to prepare for the race. The Chicago Marathon is a massive event — something I understood in conceptual terms only. There were 45,000 runners and countless friends and family members. This meant that every moment I was running shoulder-to-shoulder with people — hearing their conversations, feeling the sharpness of their elbows, getting their sweat/water/Gatorade on me. This of course did lead to some lovely moments, such as the women I met mid-race who are part of the same running groups, and we exchanged words of encouragement, or my first ever experience of being recognized from Twitter!

So now I’m caught in a strange and temporary limbo. The race occurred recently enough where I haven’t forgotten the toll 26.2 takes on your body, social life, and any semblance of normal balance. Around mile 21, I remember saying to myself, “this is an awfully dumb hobby you’ve fallen in love with…” as I continued to struggle for five more miles.

Time has a way of romanticizing the past, and the further removed from a marathon you are, the more glamorous it seems. Marathons aren’t fun. They are the capstone of an amazing project with lots of positive upsides, but I wouldn’t call them fun. 5ks are fun. Connecting with other runners is fun. Wearing a medal is fun. But the actual doing of the 26.2? No. Not fun.

And yet here I am, seriously considering signing up for it all over again. I have a race in mind, but need to fully work through the logistics of if I really want to do what it takes to get there. Because while I can still remember how much it hurt, I also haven’t forgotten what I’m capable of, and I know that it would hurt far worse to stop trying.

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