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Chicago Banana Man

In a previous post I said that a guy wearing a banana costume finished the Chicago Marathon ahead of me - but it turns out not to be true! I know this because I heard it straight from the Banana Man himself. He saw my blog and emailed yesterday to inform me that in fact, I beat him (because, as he said, he ran out of potassium about half way). I don’t know why exactly, but I do feel better knowing that I can run faster and farther than a banana.

Banana Man, whose name is actually Ethan, was running to raise money for charity and he though it would be a little more fun to do it in a crazy costume. He was probably near fainting inside that banana skin with the heat and all, but I thank him because every time I saw him along the course I had a good chuckle.

Ethan/Banana Man has a
website where he reminded me that this year’s Chicago Marathon runners raised over $12,000,000 for various charities. That's a lot of generosity! I would like to once again thank all of my supporters who not only encouraged me during training but also opened their wallets and made donations to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my efforts (and in honor of my grandmother). You are very much appreciated!

Here are a few more marathon pics - This one was taken at about mile 21 where it was starting to get hot. I guess I’m smiling because there were so many cheering crowds to greet us as we rounded the corner into Chinatown.

Laurie running at Chinatown Chicago

At the finish we’re all smiling because we have shiny medals, we’re done running... and they’re handing out free beer - this IS Chicago, after all!

Laurie at finish of Chicago Marathon

Marathon Recovery

As part of our marathon recovery plan we slept late the day after and then didn’t accomplish much. The Fleet Feet running store was engraving marathon medals for free so we went over there and laughed at all the other people who walked stiffly and had trouble lifting their foot as high as the curb - just like us. The trickiest thing is negotiating stairs or sitting down in a chair - or even getting out of a chair. Basically we’re walking around as if we’re 95 years old while frequently popping Tylenol.

After lunch we went to get a massage, a very necessary thing after such an endeavor. I had the world’s best reflexology foot massage and then got on the table to get the kinks worked out of the rest of me. I’m happy to say that I have no problems with pain in ankles, knees or hips and just predictable stiffness from muscle fatigue which will be gone in a few days. I don’t even have a single blister on my feet. Really, I should probably run harder next time.

World's best reflexology

This was Chanel’s first marathon and yesterday immediately after it was over she refused to discuss the possibility of ever doing another one. But, just as with childbirth, the memory of pain fades quickly so she’s already talking about running again next year to beat her time. So now we're planning the outfits we'll wear for the Chicago Marathon in 2009.

Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon 2008 start

Wow, that was one of the biggest parties I’ve ever been to - and the most fun! I love you generous people of Chicago and I really mean that. You know how to keep me entertained for 26.2 miles so I hardly even noticed I was suffering. Well OK, I noticed - but not until the last few miles.

I’m satisfied with my time of 4:47:15 considering the heat and the fact that it’s been a few years since I’ve done this. Also, my training has been entirely about distance and almost no speed work. I’m only a little bummed that a guy wearing a banana costume beat me by about 30 minutes.

Bananaman runs the marthon

I felt good until around mile 19 and then, even with my Nike Air Zoom Elite super-cushioned shoes, the bottoms of my feet felt so bruised that each step was torture. Then in the last mile my screaming quadriceps desperately wanted to stop so I had to grit my teeth and ignore them. By that point the cheering crowds were deafening so that carried me through to the end. And this what I love about Chicago - these people stuck around and cheered just as enthusiastically for middle-of-the-pack plodders like me as they did for the elite runners who crossed the finish line over two hours before me.

Early morning runners
Ready to run at 5:30 am!

The day started early when Chanel and I rolled out of bed at 5:30 am for a quick breakfast of coffee, oatmeal and a bagel before Marc dropped us off at the L train. The only people riding that early were other runners heading for the starting line at Grant Park where we pushed through the crowd to find our start corral. Although 45,000 people had registered to run, only 33,033 of them started the race. I think the others were scared off by the weather outlook - it was already in the 60’s as we lined up at 8:00. By 11:00 it was 84 degrees - too hot for a marathon!

Last year this marathon was a disaster with temperatures in the 90’s plus high humidity. Due to those extremes 187 runners collapsed and were taken to the hospital, one runner died, the aid stations ran out of water and the course was closed halfway through as officials were overwhelmed. As a result, this year’s event was super-organized with a surplus of water, gatorade and medical help all along the course. Water trucks were plentiful, spraying down runners and handing out ice at regular intervals while several fire hydrants were opened to throw cooling jets of water across the streets. A new color-coded flag warning system was in place so we began with a “yellow” moderate alert and halfway through it was notched up to “red” meaning temperatures were dangerously hot - a good warning for everybody to slow down. It worked - nobody died and only 61 runners went to the hospital this time.

The entire race was surreal due to the massive amount of people. There were runners as far as the eye could see, plus the residents of Chicago turned out by the thousands to line the sides of the course and cheer for all of us. I saw so many creative and entertaining posters and laughing at them helped me forget about the endless miles I needed to cover before the finish line appeared.

This has to be one of the most beautiful and interesting marathon courses around. It took us over bridges on the Chicago River a few times and through 29 distinctly different neighborhoods including the downtown skyscrapers, Old Town, Pilsen and Chinatown. There was always something interesting to see. Along the way we were treated to things like professional cheer teams with pom-poms and megaphones, Elvis impersonators, aid station volunteers dressed in hula skirts, high school marching bands, Japanese Taiko drummers, Latin percussion ensembles, garage bands playing Springsteen’s “Born to Run” with amps dialed up to 11, and a stereo blasting the theme from
Chariots of Fire. The music and rhythm made the running much easier.

The best thing about the Chicago Marathon is they have no Wall! Or if they do I never noticed (maybe that means I’m not trying hard enough?). More good news - I won’t be losing any toenails.

my feet after the Chicago Marathon
Post-marathon toenails still intact!

Our support team, consisting of Chanel's husband and sister and a couple of other friends, met us in the park after we finished to ply us with bananas and water (they also crowned us with the tiaras we'd picked up the day before at the Expo from the Disney Princess Half-Marathon booth).

Laurie and Chanel after Chicago Marathon 2008

Laurie after Chicago Marathon

Afterwards we stumbled back to the train to ride home where we opened a bottle of champagne. Needless to say, it was a short celebration before we passed out after a big day.