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Chicago Marathon ’13: Race Recap

by Ashley on October 16, 2013 · 17 comments

I did it, y’all. I ran a freakin’ marathon!

A bundle of nerves, excitement, disbelief, anxiety, and overflowing joy ran through me on Sunday as I was getting ready for the big race.

My alarm went off at 5am on Sunday, October 13th. I showered, got dressed, pinned my running bib to the front of my tank top, ate a few bites of oatmeal and a banana, snapped a picture, and headed out the door.

My stomach was full of butterflies as I made my way to the starting line. I checked my bag at gear check, stood in line to use the bathroom, ate a Power Bar, and finally claimed a spot in Corral K. Even though the race officially started at 7:30am, there were so many people that I didn’t cross the starting line until 8:18am.

“Holy cow, I’m actually running the Chicago Marathon!” I thought to myself.

The first few miles flew by with the spectators lining the streets and the adrenaline rushing through my body. I noticed my feet starting to hurt, but I knew the aching feeling would go away after a few more miles.

When we passed the first water station, I decided my strategy would be to walk only while I was drinking my water or Gatorade. I was feeling strong, but I knew I still had 20 miles to run, so I was trying to maintain a slow and steady pace.

At mile 5, we began running through a park and that was my signal to eat my first Gu. Then, I saw my friends, Katherine and Joey, at mile 6 and gave them both huge hugs before I kept running.


Around mile 9, Joey took this video. Then I ran into Liz, said a quick hello and chatted for a few minutes before I ran on.

I was still feeling good, but I had to go to the bathroom, and there were super long lines for all the porta-potties. I made it to mile 13 before I finally stopped and used the bathroom. As soon as I was finished, I ran back out onto the course and kept going.

I remember thinking I couldn’t believe we were only at the half way point. I wasn’t sure how I was going to to finish since my legs were getting tight and my feet were aching again, but I didn’t stop.

Mile 14 was the “Charity Block” and gave me another boost of energy, but then it got really hard. Honestly, I don’t remember much between miles 15-23. The sun came out and it started getting hot. I was so grateful whenever there was a shaded area I could run in for a few blocks.

They gave us a Power Gel at mile 17 which I ate, and I had another Gu a few miles later. I was still drinking both water and Gatorade at every aid station, but between those stops, my mind was blank. I tried to listen to a podcast, but the streets were too loud, so I plugged in my iPod shuffle, and zoned out.


I was surprised (and so happy) to see Katherine and Joey again at mile 23. I walked up to Katherine and said, “This is SO HARD!”

And then the best thing happened.

Joey was standing there with his phone and said, “I have someone who wants to talk to you.” He handed me his phone and my boyfriend, Peter, and his adorably cute niece where on Skype! I don’t remember what I said, except, “Hi! I can’t hear you!” I’m so happy I got to see them. It was exactly what I needed at that moment and it kept me feeling strong for another half mile, which doesn’t sound like much, but it was incredible.

Just before mile 24, Katherine and Joey surprised me again and took this video. Then, a few blocks later, Pham ran up to me. He was amazing, told me I looked strong, and ran with me until we hit the marker for mile 25. I wanted to walk so badly, but he kept me moving forward, and at a decent pace.

I finished the last 1.2 miles on my own, telling myself, “keep running, don’t walk, this is further than you’ve ever run, don’t slow down, you’re almost done!”

Four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and twenty seven seconds after I started, I crossed the finished line.

finish line

I didn’t tell many people, but I had a secret goal to finish in under 5 hours. When I crossed the finish line, I didn’t know my time yet, but I cried anyway. It was the most incredible feeling. Even though I had a hard time walking, I felt more incredible than I ever have before.

Relief. (It’s over!) Pride. (I am so much stronger than I ever thought!) And excitement. (I just ran 26.2 miles!)

I can’t say enough great things about the Chicago Marathon. The crowds were incredibly energetic and supportive, the neighborhoods were gorgeous and so much fun, and the best part? The course is totally flat! If you’re looking to run your first marathon, I definitely recommend Chicago.

If you’re interested, here are my splits, or how fast I ran each leg of the race. (The “HALF” is slower because that’s when I stopped to use the bathroom, ha.)splits

It’s hard to put into words how great it is to have friends cheering you on along the course. Seriously. They gave me a smaller goal to aim for (only 2 miles until I see them!), when finishing 26.2 miles felt unreachable. They were the little bolts of energy I needed to keep going.

Each time I wanted to stop and walk, I would think about my friends and family who were cheering me on. I would think about you, my blog readers, my coaching clients, and my friends who donated to St. Jude and to help support me as I ran this race. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Thank you for cheering me on, for encouraging me, and for believing I could do something incredible, even when I had doubts.

Thank you.

Chicago Marathon: 4:59:27


P.S. Wanna begin living life on your own terms? Start with Cake for Breakfast!

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter October 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm

So proud!

And The Munchkin was SO excited to get to talk to you.


phampants October 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

You are a Runnerd! =)

Congratulations! I’m so proud of you! AND your first marathon is still better than my first marathon time! :)

The miracle isn’t that you finished. It was that you had a the courage to start.


Alicia October 16, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Congratulations Ashley! What an amazing accomplishment, made even more powerful by having friends at your side the whole way.


Linda October 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm

I’m so proud of you, sweet friend.


Akirah October 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm


I seriously got chills when I read this. Yay! :)


Holli October 16, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Congrats, Ashley! I knew you could do it–never a doubt in my mind. :)


Amber October 17, 2013 at 12:10 am

Congratulations Ashley! Such a huge huge accomplishment! So glad I got to meet you this weekend. Chicago was an absolutely incredible marathon and a perfect first marathon for someone because of the amazing spectator support! I hope you ride the high of your accomplishment for a while. You are a MARATHONER!


Grace October 17, 2013 at 8:33 am

Congratulations, Ashley!! I loved following your training progress and now to see this? Incredible. I hope you are relaxing for a while before you jump into your next race. But when you do it again, run in DC! :)


Tori March 9, 2017 at 7:29 pm

My family runs a small farm in rural Virginia with beans being one of their top producers & slugs have always been a problem for us.Thanks for your poCrs,htis


Sarah October 17, 2013 at 9:31 am

Congratulations, what an accomplishment! You look like such a badass athlete in all of these photos and it’s so lovely to hear about all the support you had on the sidelines (and via Skype! Too cute!)


Liz Morris October 18, 2013 at 12:07 am

YAY! This was so awesome to read! Congratulations, and awesome time – your splits are very impressive, as you didn’t fall apart at all after the dreaded 20 mile mark – amazing! xoxoxo Liz
(Ps so pleased I met you, and then saw you on the course!)


Stephany October 18, 2013 at 10:07 am

This MAY have made me tear up a little because I am sappy like that. I am SO proud of you and so inspired by all you’ve achieved. YOU RAN A MARATHON! That’s so incredible. Way to go!


Cait October 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Who’s cutting onions in here?! I am SO PROUD OF YOU. Also I’m really glad you were able to have Katherine, Pham and Joey there as moral support! You are amazing.


Jessica Lawlor October 20, 2013 at 11:43 am

Congratulations, Ashley!!!! :)

You are SUCH a rockstar and a huge inspiration! You make my totally want to train for and run a marathon.



Lea October 23, 2013 at 9:04 pm

wahoo!! you did it!! I lived vicariously (and comfortably!) through your blog post about this amazing accomplishment! way to go :)


Sherry March 9, 2017 at 8:48 am

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