2013 Chicago Marathon recap

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When I began training for the Chicago Marathon back on July 1st, I made 3 goals for myself.  I wrote these goals on a note card and taped that note card right inside my bedroom door.  It became a contract that I made with myself.  One that I saw every day.  Plain and simple: finish in the top-15, finish as one of the top 3 Americans, and run faster than 2:13.

Those were my 2013 Chicago Marathon goals: difficult, but attainable.  I ended up accomplishing 2 of my 3 goals, as I finished 13th overall, was the 3rd American behind Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp, and was at least within sniffing distance of the 3rd one by running 2:13:52.  However, I’ve become so accustomed to reaching the race goals I set for myself over the past few years, that I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t initially disappointed when I finished.

It was a perfect morning to run.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – which resulted in a sun burnt nose – the temps were in the low-50s, and the wind wasn’t too strong.  The Chicago Marathon hadn’t seen a day this good in many years.  As such, it would have been foolish to not take a risk and go for it. I trained all summer long to be in a position to run aggressively in October and that’s what I did.

I ran the first 10k with the large group being towed along by Matt Tegenkamp’s pacers – Chris Solinsky and Alistair Cragg.  When their pace quickened, I settled into a nice rhythm with fellow American Sean Quigley and we rolled through the halfway mark right where I wanted to be, 66-flat.

Running with Sean Quigley close to the race's mid-point.

Running with Sean Quigley close to the race’s mid-point.

Closing in on the finish. Battling it out with one of the Japanese runners.

Closing in on the finish. Battling it out with one of the Japanese runners.

Around 30k though, things started getting tough.  I had been feeling good, running well, moving up since the halfway point, but I began getting cramps up high in my hamstring heading into the final 10k.  When you realize during the race that you still have another 32 minutes of being on your feet, your mind immediately gravitates towards all of the possible ‘oh shit’ outcomes.  My biggest concern?  Making sure that I didn’t have to walk up Michigan Avenue!

My saving grace was that I had people to compete against over that final 5k.  I had slowly gained ground on two Japanese runners, and rather than worrying about whether or not my hamstrings were going hold up, I began focusing on trying to beat them.  I probably would not have run as fast if it weren’t for simply wanting to beat those two guys.

After the thrill that was the last mile in Boston, which was easily the most enjoyable mile I have ever run, the last 2k in Chicago was a true grind.  I can remember the exact moment in the race when I knew a sub-2:13 performance was off the table.  At 35k, I was still on pace to run 2:12:45 (1:50:04 at 40k; 1:50:06 needed for 2:12:45) but I was running on fumes at that point and holding 5:04 pace became unrealistic.  That realization was incredibly deflating.  Two years ago, when I was still sporting a PR of 2:18, I would have been over-the-moon-excited to even be talking about the possibility of running something this fast.  But my expectations have changed and I felt like all of the pieces were in place to accomplish my time goal, which is why I was so disappointed right afterwards.

However, now that I’ve had some time to digest everything, I’m finding it easier to focus on what went right, as opposed to what went wrong.

For starters, it was a good ending to a great year.  A year in which I started the season with a win at the Mississippi Blues Marathon (2:16:38), had two top-15 finishes in consecutive marathon majors (10th at Boston, 13th at Chicago), and lowered my PR by almost 2 minutes (I started the year with a 2:15:38, ran 2:14:38 in Boston and then 2:13:52 in Chicago).  In the past decade, there have been a total of 7 American runners who have finished in the top-15 of two major US marathons (Boston, Chicago, New York) in the same calendar year (*Jason Hartmann has a chance to be the 8th person at New York in a few weeks).  4 of the 7 are past Olympians and the other two have represented the US on World Championships teams.  Then there is me; I am one of those 7.  That’s hard for even me to believe!

My consistency during training has translated into a very consistent year of racing the marathon.  Being a marathoner is not easy and I’m proud of the year – really, years – that I have been able to string together.  And I’m confident that there is plenty more in the tank.  I probably have 4 more marathons to run prior to the 2016 Olympic Trials and each one of those will be opportunities to see how far I can take this thing.  I’m starting to believe that 2:11 is a realistic goal for myself in another two years and 2:11 starts putting you the ballpark.

But more important that the race itself was what we were able to accomplish for the Richard Family.  I write ‘we’ because none of this would have been possible without the generosity of you all.  By achieving my goal of running a PR, we were able to raise almost $5800 for the Richard family. When things got tough during the latter part of that race, I definitely gained some strength knowing that I had to finish strong to win the CharityBet.  As promised, I will chip in an additional $500 for running under 2:15, which will bring the grand total to $6399.  There are not enough ‘thank yous’ to be said for those of you who donated – family, friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers.

Craig Leon: A Run for Martin (2013 Chicago Marathon) from WendyCity Productions on Vimeo.

And a big shout out to my mom and her students at Hicksville High School, back in Ohio, who raised over $1500 themselves!  I don’t care where my travels take me in this world; the kindness and goodwill of small-town Ohio are unmatched.  Ohio proud!

Hicksville High School doing some serious fundraising!

Hicksville High School doing some serious fundraising!

So, what’s next?  I’m going to take the rest of October as recovery.  I’ll be bypassing runs for ElliptiGO rides, as I’ve found that to be the best way to work out the post-marathon kinks without being on my feet.  And you couldn’t ask for better fall weather in the Pacific Northwest right now, so I plan on taking advantage of it.  I won’t race again until the Club Cross Country Championships in December, which will be held in Bend, Oregon.  I’m excited about doing cross country again and can’t wait to race alongside my Team Run Eugene teammates!

That’s how I’ll close out 2013.  I am truly thankful for all of the support from here in Eugene, to back in Ohio, and everywhere in between.  It’s been a really fun year!

Race Splits provided by Garmin

  • Mile 1 – 4:59
  • Mile 2 – 5:01
  • Mile 3 – 5:01
  • Mile 4 – 4:54
  • Mile 5 – 4:58
  • Mile 6 – 4:57
  • Mile 7 – 5:04
  • Mile 8 – 5:01
  • Mile 9 – 5:01
  • Mile 10 – 5:06
  • Mile 11 – 5:10
  • Mile 12 – 4:58
  • Mile 13 – 5:09
  • Mile 14 – 5:05
  • Mile 15 – 5:01
  • Mile 16 – 5:05
  • Mile 17 – 5:00
  • Mile 18 – 5:08
  • Mile 19 – 5:06
  • Mile 20 – 5:08
  • Mile 21 – 5:06
  • Mile 22 – 5:12
  • Mile 23 – 5:15
  • Mile 24 – 5:17
  • Mile 25 – 5:15
  • Mile 26 – 5:30
  • Last .2 – 1:13
  • 2:13:52
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    Comments (6)

    • Avatar

      Mike Fast

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      Craig,

      It’s great to read about your journey. I hope you keep achieving your goals and keep working hard. I know there are alot of people back here in Ohio that hope the same. Good luck, Mike Fast

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Tony Mollica

      |

      Craig:
      Nice running Craig! I know you wanted a sub 2;13 as well; but that is only two seconds a mile.

      My Mom was born in her parent’s house in Hicksville. I hope your Mom has a great school year!

      Good luck at the XC Championships!

      Tony Mollica

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Brad Leis

      |

      Way to go Craig!! Got to talk to your parents earlier this month at the Van Wert CC Invit. To say that they are just SLIGHTLY proud of you …. well, that would be an accurate statement! Continued BEST OF LUCK to you! Brad Leis

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Jim Covey

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      Thanks for the update Craig. Great job, we’re proud of you!

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Frank Youngwerth

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      Congratulations, Craig, for another outstanding performance. Not only the race performance, but the money you raised for the Richard’s family. That is special. All of us are really excited about your success.

      Reply

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