Just 20 days after running the Chicago Marathon, I pushed myself even further and completed the 17th Annual Chicago Lakefront 50/50 Ultra Marathon! (I will tell you now that I’ve never been so happy to finish a race!) Let’s talk about why I signed up and my thoughts on running an ultra marathon as a fist timer!
A few days after the Chicago Marathon ended, one of my running group members had asked if anyone wanted to sign up for the Lakefront 50/50 with her and one other person. You had the option to sign up for a 50k (31 miles) or 50 mile run. We all signed up for the 50k because were not THAT crazy to do a 50 miler just yet. I figured that this might be the only time I get to do one of these races, so why not now.
Since we were already trained for the Marathon distance, we thought that 5 more miles should be no problem. We would have fun, we wouldn’t be racing, and the environment is supposedly more laid back and social than a marathon race. With only 2 weeks to go until the Ultra Marathon, I had to think about where I was at in my training. The entire week following the marathon, I did not run ONCE. And then the week after that, I only ran during the week twice (3 milers) and then completed 12 miles with my running group on Saturday morning.
During the week of the race, again, I only ran a couple of 3 milers (though I probably should have increased it a mile or 2). I could feel my knees wearing on me a bit during the week, but I think that was because the Chicago Marathon is so flat and mostly asphalt and concrete. I do all of my long runs on trail, which is so much more forgiving on your body. I was hoping that my knees still wouldn’t be sore from the week for race day.
On the morning of October 29, 2016 I met 3 other running mates and we carpooled into the city for the big event. I had actually slept great that night and tried to remember that even though this would be the longest run I ever complete, that it would be relaxed and more for fun than for time. We had a great group of 8 people. We started the race at 7:30am, an hour after the 50 miler participants started.
The course was set along the beautiful Chicago lakefront and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was overcast and in the 60’s the entire day. We were going to run 3 loops with there being an aid station every 2.5 miles or so. These weren’t your normal aid stations, though. They were decked out with all sorts of goodies for the runners to enjoy: pretzels, cookies, bananas, pickles, candies and chips.
For every loop that you would go around, they would record your bib number. I was happy to see this because with the race being small, I wanted to see that they were accounting for us all and making sure we completed all of the loops.
By the second loop, I was really starting to feel the burn. I knew that once I got to about mile 20, I would start getting weak and tired. I really had to focus on just putting one foot in front of the other. By about mile 24, my legs were getting heavy. I had to do some walk/running at this point. Good thing for the aid stations to break up the running so that I could hydrate and fuel up on foods, especially salty one. Potato Chips and Red Vines never tasted so good!
One great thing about running an ultra marathon is seeing your fellow competitors along the route. Everyone was so supportive. Every time you would run by one, you’d cheer them on or give them encouragement that they were doing great. You started to know a lot of the runners and it made running this race really encouraging and less about the competition. We were all just trying to finish.
Most of us didn’t care about what time we would finish in. We knew that since it was our first ultra marathon distance, it would be a PR (personal record) no matter what! Well, we all finished. We all cheered each other on to the finish line, with smiles on our faces. No one said that they would want to do a 50 mile race, so I think we were all just satisfied with the 50k distance!
I never would have thought that I wanted to even try to run this distance, but I’m glad I did. Mentally, it was enduring. I only had to convince myself (and my legs) that I wanted to accomplish it. My legs actually felt better after this race then they did after the marathon! I think it was because they were well trained at this point.
Have you run an ultra marathon, or are you considering one? Any advice for a first timer? I highly recommend this course and the support staff. Not only was it supportive, but you can’t beat the views of the Chicago Lakefront.
Remember, mind over matter. You will finish and you will be so proud of yourself!