Coach Mario C

My First Marathon!

by Mario Castrejon on October 15, 2011

2011 Chicago Marathon 26.2  HaircutOn Sunday October 9, 2011 my wife, father, and I ran the Chicago Marathon for the first time in our lives. On Saturday I went to get a special haircut, got a special P90X shirt made, and I prepared all my running gear. I pinned my bib number to my shirt so I can have it ready the next day. Packed some running gels, and a change of clothes to change after the race. I also went to bed early so I can have plenty of energy the next day.

Sunday I got up early at 4:00am got ready and ate a good breakfast. One of the things I do on race day is that I like to prepare mentally as well. I like to listen to the Rocky movie soundtrack because it motivates me and inspires me even more. This time I also added some mental visualization to my process. I layed on the living room floor for about five minutes and visualized crossing the finish line. I also wanted to use the law of attraction so I wrote on my bib, the following sentence “I am very proud and happy to have completed the 2011 Chicago Marathon, healthy and injury free in 4:45 or something better”

We took the train to get to the race and I saw many runners on the train. Everyone was very concentrated and focused on the task at hand. We got to Congress Hotel where we checked our gear, and used the washroom before heading to our corral. I saw Ravi at the hotel; he’s a very nice guy I met at the CARA training group. We both had the same finishing goal so we decided to run together.

We both signed up for the 4:45 Nike pace group. Our goal was to stay with the pacesetters as much as possible. Once we got to the open corral we found the Nike pace group and now it was just time to wait for the race to start. They sang a very emotional national anthem and then the gun went off. We started walking towards the starting line which took us about 17 minutes to cross it. As we were walking towards the starting line I was thinking of the task at hand. The big moment was finally here and it was time to just do my best.

Marathon day was in the high 70’s and sunny, but the conditions were still good. I knew that I had to be very careful and listen to my body all along the way. During the summer we trained in hotter conditions than race day, so I was prepared and very confident. Ravi and I were able to stay with the pacesetters for the first couple of miles. Then we lost them around mile 3, but we were only behind like 1-2 minutes. We were on 4:45 pace pretty much all the way. We were making our 1-mile splits on time. We were supporting each other all along the way, and we made the half in 4:45 pace.

About mile 14 I had to take a break and I just told Ravi to go head and continue. He didn’t want to leave me, but I didn’t want to slow him down. He met a girl on the way so I told him to team up with her. My knees started to hurt a little bit, but nothing bad. Around mile 15 my knees completely locked up on me. I had never experienced this before in my life. I was completely frozen and I couldn’t take another step. I was lucky that there was a therapist close by and he helped me right away. He gave me a massage on my legs, and then I was able to move again. From that moment in the race I was not the same again. I had to walk and run for the remaining of the way. I was running at a slower pace than the first half of the race. On the second half I found my friend Sue and we ran together for a while. We were both determined to finish and just keep doing our best.

In the first half of the race I was very focused on running and making my time splits. I did not make too much eye contact with the crowd. On the second half it was a different story. Once my knees gave up on me, I knew 4:45 was not going to be possible. I just started enjoying the race more and interacted with the crowd. I started smiling and giving high fives to some spectators along the way. The Marathon covered 29 neighborhood in Chicago. Some of my favorites were Pilsen and Chinatown. The people and the music just gave me the energy to continue.

Thanks to all my family and friends that came out to the race to cheer for us. Thanks to everyone that gave us a word of support and encouragement all along the way. Having all this support really made a huge difference because it made me want to run harder and faster. I knew that I was not only running for me, but I was running for all of you as well. Thanks to all the CARA pacesetters and members for helping me in this training, and thanks to all the volunteers at the Marathon.

When I finally reached mile 26, it was an amazing feeling. I started thinking of the past 18 weeks, all the training I did. All my hard work paid off and I could see the finish line. I started to get emotional and wanted to cry, but I just kept my composure and finished strong. I will never forget the moment on how amazing it felt to make that final turn and cross the finish line.

My finish time was 5:38:25 and I placed 30,145 out of 35,628 finishers. There were 45,000 registered so that means 9,472 did not finish. I thought a higher percentage of people would finish, and was surprised to see that many did not finish. Remember what I wrote on my bib? Well I did not accomplish the 4:45, but I did finish healthy and injury free, and I am very happy and proud of my achievement.

Could I have done better? Maybe…
Could I have done worst? Maybe…

The Marathon is a huge challenge, but it is not impossible. Everything in life is possible to achieve if you set up a goal, and are willing to work hard  to achieve it.

Have you ever wanted run a Marathon or another race?

If I can do it, so can you! I hope that you find my story inspiring and it motivates you to sign up to run a Marathon or another race.

26.2 miles is a long distance and it can be intimidating, but always remember that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao-Tzu

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