Chicago Marathon: Luís Machado's experience

Chicago Marathon: Luís Machado's experience

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The day of the Chicago marathon starts early, still at dawn. Not only does the test start at 7:30 am, but access to the enclosure, and to the cloakrooms, opens two hours before, at 5:30 am, still at night.

Surprisingly, on a pre-marathon night that is generally thought to be poor sleep, I must say that mine was quite calm! I do not know if this was due to confidence in training - or in the relativization of the success or failure of the race - I can only say that I was not anxious about the previous marathons. & Nbsp;

As I don't like to run (except when it is for running!) The alarm went off at 3:45. Plenty of time to have breakfast (a bagel with peanut butter and jam, a banana and continue hydrating with water and electrolytes), equip, go to the bathroom a number of times and start for the tasting . I could have traveled by transport but the distance from the hotel to the race complex was inviting - about 2.5 km - to do on foot and a great way to wake up the mind and start warming up the body, especially considering the cold that was felt (about 5 degrees centigrade). & nbsp;

I felt the streets were still very bare - in stark contrast to what I would see a few hours later - but as I approached the place of departure participants began to appear. First one here and there until hundreds gathered near the security porches to access the place of departure. I must emphasize here the extreme friendliness and kindness of all the staff involved in the race (many of them volunteers!) Which made the whole experience even more profitable.

After security, I immediately tried to equip myself and leave the bag in the cloakroom. Between this and the line to the bathroom (which always moves sooo slowly) there was little more than 20 minutes to warm up before the gates to the starting blocks closed. In the middle of a huge crowd there I managed to warm up minimally and enter the starting block with still time to spare. I also wanted to have this extra time to join the 3:30 am pacer, which would be my goal, at least during the first half marathon. It is always good to know the pacers in order to understand their strategy for the race and whether they keep a steady pace or not, if they aim for the right 3:30 am or below (in this case they wanted to do 3:29 am, information that was very useful to me during of the test).

During the waiting time until the starting shot, with the presentation of the elite and the American anthem - which always causes that shiver - the cold and the strong wind were felt and if it weren't for the jersey I had been wearing it would have been a bad time . & nbsp;

7:30 sharp and finally the starting shot !! But only for the elite ... in a very orderly manner, the organization chooses to launch the blocks at the same time, which makes starting a lot easier, but it means that I only crossed the match more than 10 minutes later. When I hear the speaker say "Corral D!" I discard the sweater - it's cold here at the beginning! - and after months of training, my 3rd marathon begins!

Because not everything is pink, with the opening of our starting block, unfortunately, I ended up losing sight of the hares team for 3:30. I don't know if it was my distraction or they started too fast. The fact is that for long and long miles I never saw them again ... But I remained calm! I knew that I had the capacity to catch them ahead (after all, that was the plan) and to accelerate too fast now would be a gross and novice mistake. I would also like to highlight the ease with which this marathon started: the wide streets, allied to the aforementioned starting blocks, resulted in enough space for any participant to stumble and manage to leave at their intended pace. An example to follow. & Nbsp;

After the race started, I forgot the absence of the pacers and tried to reach the objective pace for the first half, around 4: 57/4: 58. & nbsp; And the miles started to roll ... with relative ease (it would be bad if it weren't so!) I got to the rhythm but it was always something unstable: be it due to 90 ° curves, to catch slower athletes or due to to the strong gusts of wind that were felt the certain thing is that now it was in the right rhythm now times above. This trend was maintained after leaving downtown, heading north (note for kilometer 10 with the passage next to the Chicago Zoo) and I noticed that with each passing mile I lost a few seconds compared to the target time (in the survey of the kit I asked for a temporary tattoo that showed for each mile the correct time with the aim of 3h30). & nbsp; & nbsp;

Once again I did not rush and, confident that the best was yet to come, I tried to keep the pace. Kilometer 14 arrives where the route turns south again, back to downtown, an important mental landmark. & Nbsp;

Another extremely important factor was the public's support throughout practically the entire route, even with the strong cold and wind that clouded the day. I soon realized that Chicago looks like a themed race: due to the length of the route it crosses several typical neighborhoods, from the Japanese to the Mexican neighborhood, passing through the Korean and Italian, each with its nuances, sounds and smells. It is exciting to witness, as an athlete, the warmth and motivation that these people transmit. & Nbsp;

Entertained with the aforementioned thematic variety, we arrived back in downtown Chicago, with about 20 kilometers made and there, by my count, I was already almost 40 seconds late to 3:30. I thought I couldn't wait any longer and that this would be the time to start attacking! Without going crazy, I tried to increase the pace very progressively, in pursuit of the great objective. & Nbsp;

I went through the half marathon with a few seconds already and entered an area that I knew a little better since it was in the vicinity of the hotel. Extra motivation that was reinforced when I found myself approaching someone with a Portuguese T-shirt. We exchanged some impressions and seeing that he would not accompany me I went on my journey after a few words of encouragement. & Nbsp;

Arriving at km 25, a new return takes place and here I got a brave fright: I felt a notable break and thought that, out of nowhere, I had hit the wall! I bowed my head, forced myself to get back to the rhythm, and fortunately, everything passed. Ufa! This would happen some more & nbsp; 2 or 3 times until the end, albeit with less intensity - and each one has been exceeded. & Nbsp; & nbsp;

Excluding the aforementioned episodes, the following 10 kilometers were done relatively smoothly and where I have always been, with confidence, increasing the pace and overtaking athletes. During this period, I not only recovered all the delay I had for 3:30 am, but I was gaining time every mile. I had not yet seen the hares that I started with, but knowing that they were aiming for 3:29 am, I used this as a moralizing factor: they should be there just around the corner. & Nbsp;

Kilometer 35 arrives and one of the highlights not only of this marathon, but also of all the tests I've done: Chinatown, with a monumental flood of people. Here, and & nbsp; as I was enjoying this event so much, I raised my arms to ask for the public's support and the hare that was heard took me by surprise. How not to be motivated after this? Tiredness, what tiredness? & Nbsp;

With this boost of morale I continued to force and when I realized it was already in the last return, and from then on it would be almost just one - big - straight until the end. Just before kilometer 40, I finally passed the pacers and here I was not only below 3:30 am, but I was already able to fulfill my second objective, lower my current record by more than 30 minutes, that is, make it below 3h28m25s . & nbsp;

Two kilometers to the end and not even the terrible wind slowed me. On the contrary! I accelerated and accelerated and when I realized it I was already running at 4'30 ". Fantastic support from both sides and that reacted to every call I made to them. Last curves in sight, which I remembered so well, after having seen Sir Mo Farah to do them the year before, towards victory. & nbsp;

It is done ..... it is done ..... it is done in 3 hours, 27 minutes and 38 seconds. And what a flood of emotions when crossing that goal. The long months of preparation, the restrictions imposed, the good training and the less good training. And all the hiccups along the way. Everything culminated in that single instant. & Nbsp;

What pride in that medal. Not only did I manage to reach the goals set, but I never enjoyed and had so much fun doing a test. Fantastic. There is no feeling like finishing a marathon. There is no sensation like the marathon. & Nbsp;

After that ecstasy all comes the inevitable tiredness and pain. But that is also part of the marathon. That's why I look forward to the next one. & Nbsp; & nbsp;

Eliud Kipchoge, after becoming the first man to run a marathon under two, said running was a team sport. I couldn't agree more since I wouldn't have come here alone. & Nbsp;

My congratulations to all the other Portuguese who participated in this edition of Chicago. I hope that the race has exceeded the expectations of each of them. & Nbsp;

I am grateful to my friends, especially Pedro, Rodrigo, Diogo and António for the moments of fun provided that both helped in the most difficult moments of the training as well as in the accompaniment of some long ones. & Nbsp;

To the entire GFD team - masseuses, physiotherapists and water washers - and especially to boss Ernesto Ferreira, for his maximum availability, and to Mr. António Sousa, for all the planning of training and super advice. To all colleagues at GFD Running who are always a source of fantastic motivation and inspiration. & Nbsp;

And finally, the most important thanks goes to the family, parents and sister, who have always been there to support, who in distant events, in long training or at home. They were not with me in this marathon but it was as if they were. & Nbsp; & nbsp;

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