Chicago-go-go!

After I ran the Brooklyn half marathon I went on an extremely foolish spree of booking more races. Well, I booked two. But considering the size of this country and the number of races available at convenient times etc etc etc, as well as the price of the things, it felt like a little binge at the time.

I liked knowing they were on the horizon, because it meant that for at least a few more months I had a reason to keep running, which gave me the nice warm glow inside that comes from knowing that all the cheeseburgers you’re eating in any given week probably won’t catch up with you just yet.

And then summer hit, and everything fell apart. Or, to be more factually accurate, everything melted. Including my resolve, my will to care, and my belief that I’d even survive long enough to see an August Half Marathon. Because booking long races in April was all fine and dandy, but I was not aware that from the end of May to the present the temperature would consistently be over 25 degrees celsius. And most of the time it would be over thirty. And a few days we’d even break forty. Because who could look at a country that looks so much like their own – just with a few funny accents and donuts – and know that was going to happen? Even the city of New York was slightly taken aback and issued many and varied health warnings about staying inside, and avoiding too much activity, and buying slurpees on the walk from Grand Central to the Path station every day. (Really? Nobody saw that one? I definitely did. And I stuck to it religiously. You’re welcome, America.)

Anyway. This was all a while ago, but my point is that every day since the last time I wandered around wearing a medal, it has been too hot for this pale English lump to deal with. I went out to run as much as I ever did at first, and I’d end up walking half of the route and return looking like someone had dumped a bucket of water of my head. And then continue to look that way for the rest of the night even after I’d showered. Unpleasant? You ought to try doing it. So then I started running for shorter and shorter lengths of time until I pretty much just stopped. I mean, running’s fine, but I’m not about to die for it. And I’m not that keen on experiencing large amounts of discomfort for it either – It’s just an excuse to keep eating dessert. And drinking wine. And all the other things.

So my point is, I’d signed up for a race in Chicago in the middle of August, not thinking about what it would be like to have to train for it, or run the thing. So I turned up at O’Hare on a Thursday night and got out of breath even leaving the plane. Zooma, the company that was putting on the race had all kinds of other fun stuff going on on the side, like a Personal Best program, where you got a special medal for running your best time – April Nicola had signed up, full of enthusiasm (since I only missed by a few seconds in Brooklyn), but I’d long since given up and told myself I’d be happy if I finished. I hate that.

On Friday I had to go and pick up my race pack in a hotel so fancy that men in uniforms with gold braid kept asking if they could “help” in a way that clearly meant “show you the exit because I can see the holes in your shoes”. It was lovely to pretend we belonged there for 20 minutes while we did a lap of the freebies, and if I said that I didn’t go to the loo just because I suspected there’d be free hand cream, I would be lying. And I was correct, as ever.

On the morning of the race, fiance and I had to be at the start line (well, I did, he’s just a crazy person) in time for the race to begin at 7am. Someone really needs to sit this entire country down and explain to them that you can’t just start things at that time of day – especially exercise – because it is inhumane. But that happened. And, as so many of the days have been since summer started, it was too hot. And I was right in thinking that the rest of the race would be torture.

It actually wasn’t too bad for a little while. Maybe the first 5k – I raced along and, knowing that I had someone there to spectate who actually isn’t contractually obliged to think highly of me because of any kind of blood tie, may have been showing off a little bit. I mean, when I knew he was round the corner, I think I even fixed my hair as I huffed along. And I definitely tried to think about gazelles when I ran past, although I’m not sure that necessarily came across.

I knew I was showing off because at precisely 5.46 miles I decided I needed to stop. And I absolutely would have done, had I not wanted to not show myself up. I spent the next 7.5 miles stopping to walk after every mile or so, and trying not to give in the voice in my head that wanted me to throw myself into the lake. Although thanks to my ridiculous show-boating at the beginning, I only came in three minutes off of my best time, which is frankly a lot better than I deserved.

Since it was the first time I’d been to visit “the fiance” since he became “the fiance”, my mum and dad had given us some money so that we could go out and celebrate in style. We chose a hipster brewpub in a hipster part of town, called Revolution. It’s unfortunate that it has the same name as the vodka bar chain with the girls with shot belts, but it’s probably not a comparison that comes up too much, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

The place was rammed, and so we were expecting to wait for 90 minutes before we could get a table, but one of the waitresses very nicely found us a couple of seats at the bar. This meant that we were perfectly placed to sample all of the many and varied beers that they produce. But like the true connoisseur I am, I found a pink one I liked and stuck with it. Largely because it was pink. And I topped that off with cheese soup and a burger. Because cheese. But congratulatory beer and cheese, and laughing, and various brands of ‘isn’t life good’-type smugness, are all ingredients for a very good evening, and that’s exactly what we had.

We wondered around town afterwards and ate supermarket cake out of the container because we have this fun thing that we do where, well, we eat a lot of cake. To be fair, I believe that is a thing not limited to us. But we’d also been given so much money (very nicely, thank you again to the parents) that we could use the rest the next day to buy ‘celebration’ pie for breakfast. 3 slices between two. Less of the judgement, please. Did I mention this is all OK because I did running?

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