Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | February 12, 2011

I’m Not Ready to Marry the Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon registration has been open for well over a week now, and I still haven’t signed up. I’ve had some legit excuses, though.

First, there was the blizzard. Or perhaps I should refer to it as The Blizzard. Given all the hype, it has to be a proper noun by now, right? Granted, the hype was well deserved. This fabulous Chicago Tribune photo captures some of the drama. So that sucked up a few days right there. I mean, who can think about a marathon when you’re trying to get to the grocery store before all the milk, bread and eggs are gone? (Which reminds me, why does everyone buy milk, bread, and eggs? Is it a snow-day tradition to make French Toast? We usually just have cereal. Have I been missing out all these years?)

Then there was the Super Bowl. Not that I really cared, but there is always hype around the big game. Who can think about a marathon when there is all that 7-layer dip to eat? And this week I was catching up on the mundane domestic stuff that got pushed off due to The Big Storm and The Big Game. Who can think about a marathon when you’re busy trying to find a particular pair of jeans that may or may not have gotten lost in the laundry?

So, finally, for the first time since the calendar turned to February, I am feeling a little more caught up and a little less overwhelmed. But I still haven’t surfed on over to the Chicago marathon website and clicked “Register Now!” Certainly, it’s not due to a lack of urging on the part of my pals, the #runnerds (you know who you are). My CM11 registration (or lack thereof) has become a daily joke on twitter. The teasing always brings a smile to my face. And yet, I still haven’t signed up. Why?

Well, I’m not sure I want to do it. (Gasp!)

I think part of the problem is that I’m currently in the middle of rewriting an essay about my Half Ironman experience, so I am reliving all my training from last summer. In some ways, it’s like having post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks. The run when my husband had to come pick me up at mile 1.5 because I was crying and couldn’t go on. That 16-miler when I hated every single step from mile 10 on. The 18-miler through farmland where I spent most of my time alternately crying and swearing, frightening even the cows on the side of the road.

And then of course, there was my 20-miler last September, which I hated more than anything I have ever hated in my life. Last year, I had a conflict and was not able to do the CARA-organized Lakefront 20-miler training run. (Truth be told, I had tickets to see Dave Matthews the night before, and I was pretty confident that a 20 mile run the day after a Dave Matthews concert was not  a good idea.) Therefore, I decided to do my own 20-miler a day earlier. Big mistake. A friend of mine came with me for the first 5 miles, but we got caught in a severe thunderstorm and sprinted back home. I changed to dry clothes and headed back out, but I was on my own. I was ok for another 5 miles, and then my motivation disappeared. I phoned home and my daughter (bless her heart) said she would come with me on her bike while I finished the run. She kept track of the miles and encouraged me the whole way: “You’re almost there, Mommy.” I couldn’t have done it without her. We were still a half mile from home when my Garmin ticked to 20.00. I refused to take another step and made my husband come pick me up in the car. It was at that moment I said “I am never going to do this again.”

But it’s not just the fact that I hate long runs. A friend of mine recently sent me a marathon training plan (the Hanson program) that scales back the long runs considerably. “Hmmm,” I thought, “this might be the ticket.” But then I looked more closely. The program calls for running 6 days a week. 6 days a week? I can’t commit to that! What about my bike rides? What about spin? What about hiking in the summer? What about waterskiing? What about all the other things I like to do that aren’t running?

And that may get to the real crux of the issue. Marathon training requires something pretty darn close to monogamy. Yes, you can flirt with other sports, but if you are running a marathon, running is your sole significant partner until the race is over. If you run Chicago Marathon, you are married to running for most of August and all of September. October is spent tapering and then recovering. By the time you think you are back to normal and you might be able to squeeze in a 50 mile bike ride, guess what? It’s snowing. Better luck next year.

So, all of this is to say that I don’t mind running the marathon itself. In fact, I love the marathon. The energy of the city, the community of runners, the cheering crowds: it’s all fabulous. I would happily marry the Chicago Marathon, but I just don’t want to commit to the training. So if someone can come up with a magical way to prepare for a marathon while running 5 miles a day, three days a week, then I will gladly register for Chicago Marathon 2011. In the meantime, I’m just waiting.


  1. Oh Sue. You strike all my fears in this post. The sporting monogamy is going to be very hard on my cycling habit. I was able to commute the 20+ miles/day every single day last summer while training for my first half…but the marathon – that’s another beast. I’m still planning to bike 2-3 days a week, but taking the train in the summer when I could be on bike is gonna be hard. But I’ll probably be tired from running, anyway, so hopefully I’ll get through it intact. And thanks for putting up with all of our rowdy harassment. You know we love you, and that we want more company for our misery. 😉

    • The harassment is actually quite fun and funny. But all the harassing in the world doesn’t make me like sports monogamy any better!

  2. Sue, I’ve followed you on Twitter for a while and loved the jests of your other friends and couldn’t help but join in on the fun. That said, here’s the reality of my thoughts. I’ve run 20 half marathons – it’s my favorite distance. I have never done the marathon because I know I want to enjoy it to some degree if I do it – not do it just because every casual runner goes and does it. So I respect how you feel. We don’t all have to or need to be doing marathons. If you like what you’re doing, keep it up! I’m someone who so far has preferred doing a half marathon almost every week during race season and then choosing which ones are for fun and which ones I feel like I’m actually racing.

    • I agree with you Libby. I’ve decided half marathons are the perfect distance – just challenging enough that you have to at least train a little bit, but not so challenging that your entire weekend is shot. Race bliss! Hmmm, maybe I should just run half of the Chicago Marathon….

  3. I’ll do my part … again … to egg you on:,7120,s6-238-244-255-8257-0,00.html

    Speaking of eggs, when are you making that French toast?

    • Well, I love the 3 day-a-week aspect of the FIRST plan. But 8 runs of 15 miles or higher? Shoot me in the head now! Or throw some eggs at me…I actually am craving French Toast now. Or maybe bread pudding?

      • And I think I would need a pacer for those long runs – those are some fast goal times. I am way too lazy to run that fast on my own.

  4. Snow in the forecast is called a French Toast Alert! Don’t forget people stock up on toilet paper too… snow must cause week bladders or something.

    I so feel you on marathon training. Since triathlon is my first love – I have natural sport ADD. I have a hard time just committing to running too. There are so many other sports to play with!

    • Ha! You are right, I forgot about the pre-storm toilet paper rush. That one is a little puzzling. When I see snow in the forecast, I just check our supply of red wine and chocolate – we are usually pretty good on both counts. As for sports, I guess triathlons were invented for those of us who don’t want to commit to one thing (and I loved the term sport ADD!)

  5. I agree with Jen, we kid because we love ya…and because it’s fun! Ha!

    • It’s totally fun, and you guys are the best! Well, if you work on a magic way to get me marathon-ready without too much running, THEN you would really be the best….Maybe a training plan that includes eating pizza and watching movies?

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jenn Sutherland, Gruxking. Gruxking said: I'm Not Ready to Marry the Chicago Marathon « Life Outside the …: (Truth be told, I had tickets to see Dave Ma… […]

  7. blah blah blah. Did you sign up yet??

    • Aw, Ed, always going for the sentimental angle, aren’t you?

    • I’m siding with Ed on this one!! 🙂 Actually, I think you do need some kind of break from the 26.2. In 2009, I decided not to run any marathons after 2 miserable races in 07 & 08 (darn you, Chicago heat!). I trained for only half marathons & shorter races, so my training runs topped at 15 miles. At the beginning of 2010, I felt ready to commit to the marathon distance again. Taking that break in 09 was one of the best decisions I ever made. Now, I am so in love with the distance and training for it. I’ll support your decision in playing the field or committing to marathon training 🙂

      • Someday I will write a blog post entitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Marathon.” And I will give you full credit, Chanthana!

  8. Just kidding Sue. If you do decide to do it know it will be a life changing experience you won’t regret.

  9. I totally hear you. It’s not the marathon itself that scares me, it’s the training. I just can’t commit to that kind of training when my days and weeks are as crowded as they are. And I want to be able to go on a 30 mile bike ride on a sunny Saturday if the mood strikes.

    We tease because we love – and we’ll support you regardless of your decision. Though we’ll continue to tease. 🙂

    • Teasing is good! Personally, I think peer pressure is the most effective motivation there is. But I don’t think all the peer pressure in the world will make me like those 18-20 mile runs!

  10. I find the marathon distance really intriguing. I’ve only done one, but it just seems like a reallllly long way to run, and you have to be a little nuts to do it, and even more nuts to continue to do it. Nuts in a good way though. I plan on being slightly less nuts this year.

    • Jeff, I like the “slightly less nuts” angle. I’m with you!

  11. Maybe you need a break…on race day see how you feel, you may find either it doesn’t matter as much or you can’t wait until next year because you were so ___________ for not running this year.

    Personally, I don’t like running the same marathon twice, unless there are extenuating circumstances. So many races and so little time!

    • Richard, I think you are right. If I skip CM11 and on race day find I am furious at myself for missing it, then I know to register for CM12 the day it opens. And maybe it is time for me to try a different marathon. Or maybe a trail run. Or just stick to tris. You are right, so many races and so little time!

      • I have been thinking about doing some trail runs. I’ve been on the Des Plaines trail system up there and it is really nice to have something like that available to you. I’m going to do a 9 mile trail run here in April.

        You have a lot of marathon choices nearby, why not start looking or even a destination marathon if possible?

        Good luck!

  12. I might run it if there was a promise of 7 layer dip at the end…

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