It’s marathon eve! I don’t think I’m even as nervous as I was last year. It’s nice to have a sub-4 in the bank already from my run in Madison back on Memorial Day. It was a big weight off my shoulders. Even though I’d still like to better that time by a few chunks, now if something goes awry at any one particular race, I can know that it’s more to do with the variables of that day, not my ability, and I have the PR to prove it. (I’m a sub-4 man!)
So the bad news is the forecast for tomorrow hasn’t really gotten any better. Starting temps will be in the low 60s and when I’m finishing, sometime around noon, it’ll be in the low 70s already. The good thing is the humidity will be very low, and will get lower as the morning goes on, and there is supposed to be a steady 8 to 10 mph breeze coming off the lake from the SE as well. There will be sun, but they’re still calling for a little cloud cover to break it up for us occasionally. So, all in all, not great, but not a disaster. If I can get through the first 18 miles without blowing it out, I think I can still finish strong. I’m letting go of my pie-in-the-sky goal of breaking 3:50, but a 3:55 could still come together nicely for me, and another sub-4 is totally in reach, I think.
I went to the expo yesterday and I stayed a lot longer than I’ve ever stayed at an expo before. Usually I breeze in, grab my packet, peruse the official merchandise, look for any good freebies at the shoe company booths and then head out after an hour or so.
This year, my girlfriend came down with me, and we kept stumbling across some of the famous athletes in town to run or attend the race. We were at the main stage for the introductions of some of the elite men and women who will be running, and afterwards I was able to get a quick photograph with the new Olympic Women’s Marathon Gold Medalist, Constantina Tomescu-Dita. She’s run Chicago a number of times, loves the race, won it in 2004 and has two other 2nd place finishes here. Even though it’s only been 7 weeks since she ran Beijing, she was eager to come back and run Chicago again. Her lifetime PR is the best in the women’s field. She was very gracious after her time on stage to come down to sign autographs and pose for pics.
Then we wandered over to the other side of the expo and realized that Deena Kastor was at the Asics booth (her apparel sponsor) greeting runners and signing autographs. So, we got in the modest line and waited the 15 minutes to get our turn. Deena was just as nice as Constantina was, and had polite conversation prepared for all of us. “So, is this your first time running Chicago?” she asked. And then I got to brag: “No, it’ll be my third.” ‘Cause I’m an old pro at this race now, see? And then she came back with, “You ran last year?” because the ’07 steam-bath is forever famous now. And I got to brag again: “Yes, I was able to finish before they shut it down.” And she acted appropriately impressed with my prowess and stamina. Of course, it’s a silly little routine that gets played, dabbling in a little small-talk, while I get to feel like I had a little moment with someone who, especially among this crowd, was really important. But it’s also true that she was extremely gracious and attentive. And even though I’m almost 100 minutes slower than she is on our best days, we still have this marathon thing in common, and that really does mean something.
I’m off to bed soon, hopefully to get a long night of restful sleep, but I doubt it. Tomorrow I’ll be running in circles again. But you know I’m looking forward to it.