Race Recap: Chicago Marathon 2015

I’ll start with the positive stuff:

This is a really great marathon. I’ve only run a handful of marathons with 10,000+ runners (Philly, NYC, Marine Corps, Disney) and Chicago was the best organized. Your corral assignment (which can’t be changed) determines which security gate you go through, which porta-potties you can access, and when you start the race. Congestion was never a big problem, despite there being 40,000 runners (unlike my experience in NYC!). The route is mostly scenic and/or interesting, and the spectators come out in full force. It’s flat, but not painfully flat. The weather is the biggest issue/question mark, which it kind of is anywhere at this point. I highly recommend.

Chicago is a really cool city. I had never been there before (unless you count the airport, which I don’t) and I liked what I saw. My friend Sue and I did an architecture boat tour, pizza at Lou Malnati’s, and drinks at Three Dots and a Dash postrace, and it was a grand time. I’d like to return and spend more than 48 hours there.

Sue did well. She broke four hours for the first time! Yay, Runner Sue!

Me and Sue, the night before she became a sub-4 marathoner!

Me and Sue, the night before she became a sub-4 marathoner!

My legs feel pretty decent. Because I ended up running not much faster than my average long-run pace, I can descend stairs and sit on toilet seats without too much of a problem today.


And onto the lame stuff:

I felt like I was going to barf pretty much from the get-go. And, I felt like that until I was able to sit down at the postrace party.

Nauseated, but finished.

Nauseated, but finished.

I spent a lot of time Sunday being like, “I don’t know what happened! And that’s scary!” But I think I figured it out, and it’s so incredibly stupid.

I ate a pack of Honey Stingers about 10 minutes before the race began. Yes, I had tried them in training, but not a whole pack of them immediately before I started running. I had used them midrun, one every five to 10 minutes, with ample water. I think I pretty much dropped a massive sugar bomb on my stomach, which was already trying to digest my normal race-morning breakfast, and it was just like, “Nope.”

Why did I do this? I think I thought, “Well, I feel sick in a lot of marathons, so I should try to process as many calories as possible before I start running.” Why a red flag didn’t go off in my brain at this obvious violation of the Never Try Anything New on Race Day rule, I’m not sure. Instead of starting to feel sick when I started taking gels, I felt sick the entire time. Not an improvement.

My stomach has kind of emerged as the limiting factor in my running, even when I’ve “trained” it to use whatever kind of gels. I don’t really know what to do about it.

My next plan might be to train with whatever sports drink will be on the course and just take sips at most aid stations (chased with sips of water), so I’m never dropping sugar bombs onto my guts. That’s what people did before gels (which are disgusting anyway, and chewy things are better, but I can’t chew and run fast).


Some other points of note from the race:

Kudos to the trumpeter playing “The Final Countdown” around mile 23. That brightened up a rough part of the course. Also, thanks to the 20+ people around mile 8 who spotted my name on my shirt and started chanting “Meghan! Meghan! Meghan!” in unison. That was probably one of the highlights of my 16-marathon career. (Ugh. Too many.)

Speaking of having my name on my shirt… I forced myself to smile every time someone cheered for me by name, which likely helped my mental state some…until I stopped to walk and take off my name tag near mile 22. I haven’t walked during a marathon in a while. I didn’t do a lot of it—I think I took maybe four or five short breaks total—but I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with my time and I have another marathon coming up (dear God) and figured it couldn’t hurt to save my legs some.

I keep telling my mom she should open an Etsy shop to sell these quilted, reusable name tags to runners.

I keep telling my mom she should open an Etsy shop to sell these quilted, reusable name tags to runners.

Speaking of “too many” marathons… I had a bit of a mental breakdown postrace and pinky-promised Sue that I wouldn’t run any marathons in 2016. I really mean it this time. There are a lot of non-marathon races I’ve been wanting to do (Broad Street! Brooklyn Half! Fifth Ave Mile! A Ragnar!) that I haven’t because of marathons, and 2016 is my year for those. I swear.

Do you know what happens when PowerBar gels expire? I was carrying some that were marked “BEST BY FEB 2015,” but I thought, “Meh! It’s all chemicals!” Well, the gels are apparently made from chemicals that become gritty after their best-by date. It tasted like 90% gel, 10% sand. So, that really helped my stomach situation.

Great jams, Chicago. I heard Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” in the last mile or so and it pepped me right up. Someone was also playing Next’s “Too Close” from a boombox earlier in the race, which was good for a chuckle.


And I’ll just leave my results/splits here:

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.22.01 PM


About Meghan Loftus

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10 Responses to Race Recap: Chicago Marathon 2015

  1. Megan says:

    Nice recap! I can’t do the Honey Stingers as a whole pack, either. Actually, I’ve been desperately searching for any kind of gel/glob that my stomach can handle pretty well, so I feel your woes. Just Gatorade hasn’t been enough for me for runs longer than 16 miles, but I’m doing okay with the Huma gels (well, with the Huma apple-cinnamon gel).

    • Meghan Loftus says:

      It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? I tried one Huma and it seemed to sit okay, but it was the strawberry kind and I don’t know if they were strawberry seeds or chia seeds, but there were seeds in it and bleh. I didn’t expect my gel to be crunchy. My old-school coworkers still just drink Gatorade and they survive, so maybe it will work for me? At this point, I’d rather bonk than feel nauseated. (Famous last words?) Good luck with your experimenting and let me know if you find any miracle products!

      • Megan says:

        I’ve found my stomach also gets really upset if I haven’t had enough food! But I think you’d discover that from training and know what to expect. I used to have great luck with gels called Carb-Boom or something similar. I wonder if they still exist… They also had an apple flavor.

      • Meghan Loftus says:

        It’s funny that you say that. I took the RRCA certification cource over the summer and got chatting about gels with this old-school runner who took up running in the ’70s, and he recommended Carb-Boom. I think I Googled them at the time and they do exist! The problem with trying new gels is, if your running store doesn’t carry them, you have to order in bulk, and then what if you don’t like them?

  2. Katrina says:

    Ugh! I can definitely see all those Honey Stingers throwing off your stomach from the start. Great race and recap! We are (sort of) on the same marathon schedule – I ran Chicago this past weekend and Smuttynose in 2013 when you did too. Well, I guess I run 1 marathon for every 8 of yours 😉

    • Meghan Loftus says:

      It’s so funny, I think I’ve met (in person and online) more people from that Smuttynose race than from any other marathon I’ve ever run! And there were only like 1,000 marathoners! I got two new coworkers here at RW from New England after I ran that race, and both of them had run it as well. Too weird. I hope you had a great race at Chicago! Definitely a bit better supported and spectated than Smuttynose was. 🙂

      • Katrina says:

        We ended up talking to a guy at the start of the Chicago Marathon this weekend, because he was wearing a Smuttynose marathon jacket. Too funny how popular it was for such a small marathon!

  3. dtrips03 says:

    I switched to Honey Stingers chews and gels and that helped my stomach issues. I also stopped drinking Gatorade. That really helped. I can’t drink it. I drink NUUN or SOS (pain to mix and carry though). Oh, and totally jealous of your splits there!

    • Meghan Loftus says:

      This is a testament to how much running nutrition is so different for every individual — Honey Stingers and Nuun have given me major nausea problems in two of my last three marathons! I think I might end up being Team Gatorade (in small sips).

  4. Bay to Breakers 2016! 🙂 😉

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