2014 Chicago Marathon Race Recap

October 14, 2014

Running is so much more than “just running.” That’s the thought that swirled in my brain about a million times on Sunday during the 2014 Chicago Marathon. I thought about it at the start line as I witnessed the hope in the eyes of so many people who had trained for months to get there. I thought about it triumphantly as I crossed the halfway point feeling strong … and again as I suffered through miles 20-24. I thought about it (with awe and amazement) when I crossed the finish line, nailing my big goal time. And, I said it out loud to my mom who I called from the finish area: Running is SO much more than “just running.”

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com

For people who don’t enjoy running or haven’t yet discovered its power, I know that may be hard to understand. But I promise you, running is not just running. Training and racing for a marathon is about finding out who you are on the inside and how much potential you have within you. It’s about the depth of the human spirit and the amount of heart you have to give. It’s about finding a way to keep going when you don’t think there’s any way to continue. It’s about a drive to be your very best. It’s about conquering the impossible and finding strength you never knew you had. God, running is so much more than just running. On October 10, 2010, I was still learning that. I was a different runner when I showed up in Chicago to run 26.2 miles for the first time. There was so much I didn’t yet know and didn’t yet believe. I did a lot of things wrong and had a terrible race. I walked constantly after mile 15 and cried at the finish line in disappointment.

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
This is me after my first marathon (Chicago Marathon 2010). I’m smiling, but I was sad.

Fast forward 4 years later: October 12, 2014, was a very different day. I took 4 years of training, learnings, knowledge, inspiration and effort and ran an hour faster than my first marathon in Chicago. I qualified for the Boston Marathon – something I never thought I’d do until I aged into a slower qualifying bracket. It’s really hard to even put into words. No race recap or report can do justice to the emotional roller coaster ride you go on during a marathon and the depth of emotions, gratitude and strength you feel on the other side of a victorious day.

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com

My Goals

Although I didn’t share my goals here on runladylike.com, my “A” goal (big stretch goal) was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which was a time under 3:35. My “B” goal was to run under 3:40 (my previous PR was 3:44:10). And my “C” goal was just to finish and do the best I could with what the day gave me. Going into the race, I wasn’t sure my A goal was possible. I knew I was capable of it, but I wasn’t sure it would happen on Sunday. I’d had some really good training runs and workouts, but the heat and humidity has been stifling all summer, preventing me from experiencing any of those true breakthrough moments I have while training during the fall and winter months. Additionally, my last 2 weeks of training were sluggish confidence killers that made me question my body and my strength.

I have never felt as unsettled before a race as I did with this one. I knew I would be happy with any improvement from my previous personal best time, but there was something about this marathon that made running big mean more. Perhaps it was because I remembered giving in the last time I was in Chicago. I gave up. I didn’t know how to run through the hard parts back then. Maybe it was because I was running on MDA’s Team Momentum and the families I was running for deserved my very best performance. Maybe it was because I’d never trained harder, longer or stronger than I had for this marathon. Whatever the reasons, I just really wanted it.

Finding Inspiration

As the person who is always telling others to believe in themselves and to trust their training, I was a hypocritical basket case the week of the race. I had this gnawing little sensation that was deep down in my gut and dancing in my mind that I couldn’t shake. It was tempting me to doubt myself. So instead, I surrounded myself with inspiration. In the days leading up to the race, I wore a necklace I bought after the Hood to Coast Relay last year (a turning point in my running) that says “fearless” on it. I wore a bracelet from Endorphin Warrior I have that says “believe” on it. And on my shoes I had my Momentum Jewelry Foot Notes that say Finish Strong. I held onto a few emails and texts I got from friends. Here was one of my favorite pieces of advice from my friend Sarah:

“Give yourself permission to win. Give yourself the OK to do what you’ve been dreaming of. There will be two voices tomorrow: the one that tells you that you can and you are about to and your goal is within reach, and then the voice that says you’re too tired, you didn’t do that run when you were supposed to and you can’t. When that negative voice comes in, acknowledge that it’s real, but then consciously decide to believe you can. Stop the negative thoughts and find something positive to replace it. And lastly, be in the present. There is no pressure in the present. Run the moment you are in. Don’t think of miles you’ve just run, don’t think of what you have left to run. Just run where you are. Go kill it.”

I thought a lot about what Amy Hastings (who was the fifth woman to finish at Chicago on Sunday) told me earlier in the week: Breathe in strength and breathe out weakness. There will be good miles and bad miles. You don’t know how many there will be or when they will occur. Just remember there will be another good mile ahead.

I had the most inspirational pre-race pep talk lunch from my good friend Marie. She is one of my biggest running inspirations. She has run 32 marathons and completed 2 IRONMAN races (and she is FAST!). She knew I was stressing and she told me to put all of those negative thoughts in a mental box and pack them away. She then gave me some advice her coach has given her: When you are feeling weak during the race, go back into your comfort zone/box for a mile and then reassess how you are doing once things start to feel manageable. There were tons of times during the race on Sunday that I reminded myself to just keep moving forward in my “box.” Forward motion!

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
Me with Marie after our lunch on Saturday before the Chicago Marathon.

My pre-race dinner was 100 percent inspiration. I spent the evening with my fellow runners on MDA’s Team Momentum and got to remember why we were running. I raised nearly $3,000 to help save and improve the lives of people fighting muscle disease thanks to people like YOU, and getting to hear from runners and families who are affected my muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, ALS and other related diseases puts things into perspective very quickly. Simply being able to run is the gift, not the time on the clock.

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
We got to hear from some very inspirational speakers on Saturday evening. From left to right: Chicago Marathon race director Casey Pinkowski, Fleet Feet Chicago owner Dave Zimmer and Joe, Jenny and Reagan Imhoff (Reagan has spinal muscular atrophy).

When I got back to my hotel after the pre-race dinner, I wrote down the mantras that would keep me focused and strong. I even wrote some of them on my arm to carry with me during the race:

  • You are stronger than you think.
  • Own this race.
  • You get to choose the outcome.
  • Breathe in strength. Breathe out weakness.
Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
Writing mantras on my arm and hand on race morning.

On the morning of the race, I was silent. I put my phone on airplane and do not disturb modes. I didn’t take lots of pictures to post. No photos at the start line or in the corrals. No looking at any messages or tweets. I just focused in on what I was about to do and believed in the pep talk my husband gave me as we walked to the start area. Inspiration could only take me so far. The rest I had to do on my own.

The Race

Before we get into my personal race, here are a few things to note about the Chicago Marathon if it’s a race on your bucket list:

  • Chicago knows running. Of all the marathons I’ve run so far, Chicago is on a whole other level. The expo is grand and makes you feel excited and special. The race day experience is top notch. The spectators and running community are incredible. The entire city is buzzing with marathon fever. It is a really special thing to experience. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the race expo on Friday afternoon:
Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
You know I high-tailed it over to the Brooks Running booth!
  • The weather can be hit or miss for the Chicago Marathon. The first time I ran it, it was in the 60s at the start and the 80s (Fahrenheit) at the finish. The last few years have been good weather years for the race. This year, the weather was 50 degrees at the start with low humidity – nearly perfect conditions for a marathon, although I was hot when the sun came up throughout the day and the cool breezes were a welcome reprieve.
  • Plan to arrive 30 minutes earlier than you typically would for the Chicago Marathon. You have to go through a security line, and the lines for the porta potties are extremely long. Arriving a little earlier than you typically would for other races is a good idea here due to the crowds and volume of people.
  • It is very difficult to run the tangents at the Chicago Marathon due to the crowds and many turns, so you should expect to run about 26.5 at this race (which will affect your goal pace if you are shooting for a time goal). You run under several bridges where your GPS watch will lose its signal. The first one is right at the start, throwing your mile splits off considerably for the rest of the race.
  • The race is crowded. Although I actually didn’t feel too crowded the first few miles, mile 9, 13 and 26 were all moments I remember having to slow a little due to all the people around me. There were parts of the race that were very congested. Expect to be with and around other runners the entire race. Sometimes, I pretend that the people next to me are my running friends from back home and that keeps me motivated. There was one woman near me for a while and I pretended she was my friend Elizabeth and we were just out on a Saturday morning long run together.
  • The momentum of the crowd will keep you going. Spectators are packed in like sardines and there are several awesome cheer stations where the excitement is electric. Make sure your spectator is holding something (like a sign, balloon, flag, etc.) higher than head level so you can identify them. It will be hard for them to see you in the crowds.

My Chicago Marathon

My pre-race experience started very calmly, before quickly becoming dramatically traumatic and quickly unladylike (that is, after all, the reason most of you are even reading this, right?) After a nice 1.2-mile walk from my hotel to the starting area with my husband, I kissed him goodbye and proceeded through the security line.

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
Ready to head into the security line in my Walmart throw-aways

It took me about 15 minutes to get through security. Although the race starts at 7:30, all the corrals close at 7:20 a.m. That gave me just 15 minutes to use the porta potty and hop into my corral. (I promise there is a reason for these details.)

I used my commute from the security line to the porta potty/corral area as my warm up. It wasn’t much of a 10-minute run, but I sporadically jogged when and where I could. When I got to the porta potty line right outside my corral (corral B), I knew there was NO way I was going to make it through the line and into the corral on time. Panic was setting in for all of us who needed to pee before the race. It was like we all realized at once that there was no way we were getting into those porta potties if we also wanted to run the race. Suddenly, people were peeing everywhere – in the grass, by trees, by fences. I saw penises and butts everywhere. Seriously.

This is the part where the women realized that we were going to have to join all the men who went before us. First, 2 women behind me ran over to a fence and popped a squat for anyone to see. Next, 4 other girls decided they’d make a go of it, and that’s when I thought I better join them. If 5 of us were doing it together, it wasn’t that bad right? So, I took off my throwaway pants and held them in such a way that they would shield me (or should I say everyone else). Five female butts lined up in a row peeing in broad daylight with runners around everywhere. It was like a zoo. But everyone realized it was a necessary zoo. I had never seen anything like it. One man was pooping in the grass. I know. This could be its own comedy. I tried to just think that it would make for a good unladylike story for all of you while it was happening.

A few minutes later, I was safe in my corral – away from foreign private parts and X-rated pre-race antics. I did some dynamic stretching and then it was go time.

One of the things that helps me the most in a marathon is breaking the race down into small goals. For this race, I focused on getting to the next place I would see my husband and other spectators (5, 10, 14, 16, 20, 24) and 5 key areas where I’d check in to see how I was feeling compared to where I needed to be time-wise (6, 10, 15, 20, 24). Breaking the race down always helps me stay more in the moment.

Miles 1-6
The first 6 miles felt very comfortable. They were crowded, but I avoided dodging and weaving as much as possible. My pace was averaging between 7:48 and 8:00 per mile. I was surprised by how comfortable I felt at a pace that was about 10-20 seconds faster than goal race pace, and I made a mental note to try to stay in a comfort zone because there was a lot of race left to go. I decided to fuel a little earlier than usual, taking Gatorade at the first aid station and GU after mile 3 with water. I saw Mr. rUnladylike for the first time between miles 4 and 5. He rented a bike and was carrying an adjustable flag pole that could raise 12 feet in the air. I was able to spot him easily thanks to the flag, and it was such an incredible thing to be able to look forward to seeing him.

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
This was the flag Mr. rUnladylike had about 12 feet up in the air for me to spot him. Ironic that this was the flag I was chasing since I went to Florida State and we are die-hard rivals with the Gators.

He doesn’t realize it, but when you’re in the darkest part of a marathon, sometimes your only inspiration to keep moving is to see the person waiting for you ahead. After I passed him, I made my next goal to see him at mile 10. At the 6 mile mark, my watch read 48 minutes, which was a minute ahead of my goal pace. Keep moving forward. Stay in the moment. Soak in the crowd.

Miles 7-13
Miles 7 through 13 went by swiftly and uneventfully. I still felt strong during these next 7 miles and even picked up the pace a hair, with my 13th mile being my fastest of the race at 7:20. I saw Mr. rUnladylike again during mile 11, and I crossed the half marathon mark around 1:44.

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com

I was keeping my mile splits consistent between 7:48 and 7:58. I took a second GU during my 8th mile and my third before the half marathon mark. I continued alternating between Gatorade and water for hydration. When I passed the half marathon mark, I knew that today would be my day. I wasn’t sure at that point how hard the rest of the race would be, but I knew I had banked enough time and was still feeling strong enough that a BQ was in reach. This was the moment I knew this race was mine to lose or win. My big goal was possible, and it was within reach.

Miles 14-19
Miles 14 through 19 started to get tough. I was really excited for mile 14 because there were many friends who were there to cheer me on. I got to see all of them and that kept my mind off how I was feeling and on the support from my cheering squad.


Mile 15 was the first mile of the race where I crept above 8-minute miles (8:05) and it was one of the first hard miles of the race. I remembered what Amy Hastings told me: there will be bad miles, but good ones will follow. I told myself this was one of the bad miles and that mile 16 and 17 would be mine.

My legs felt really heavy during mile 15, but I knew if I could just get to 16, I’d get to see Mr. rUnladylike again and 17 would mark the countdown into single digit miles again. I GUed again somewhere around 16-17 miles and I started drinking more Gatorade than water because I felt like I was losing steam. Although I was still around 7:50 pace at the start of this segment, I ended this section around 8:15.

Miles 20-25
The last few miles were a suffer fest, as they often are. My legs were feeling so heavy and my left hamstring and both calves were beginning to tighten up. I stayed really focused on my nutrition to ensure I kept taking in electrolytes and fuel so I wouldn’t totally hit a wall. I ate again somewhere toward the beginning of this segment. My brain was starting to shut off. I saw only the road ahead of me and no longer had the energy for my eyes to scan the crowd or focus on anything but moving forward. At mile 20, I was about 3 minutes ahead of my big goal pace, so I knew I had a little cushion, which was a good mental boost. I spent most of mile 22 with a side cramp. I did some breathing exercises to get it to go away (breathe in strength, breathe out weakness), which it finally did somewhere during mile 23. I saw Mr. rUnladylike a final time at mile 24. I smiled and waved for the photo he was taking, but I didn’t feel the way the photo looked on the inside. I was willing my body to keep moving. I knew there wasn’t long to go. We can do anything for 2 more miles.

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
Just past mile 24 (you can see the corner of the flag I used to spot Mr. rUnladylike on the course in this picture.

Miles 25-26.2
When I could see the 25-mile marker in the distance, I told myself now is the time. A BQ was possible, but I was going to have to fight for it. So I picked it up and ran as hard as I could with the little my body had left to give. I pretended that I was running the last mile in a series of mile repeats during a speed workout and that I was almost there. Mile 25 was back under 8 minute miles and the last half-mile (the course was long) was in the 7:20s. When I crossed the line, all I could think was, “I did it.” I came here and did exactly what I wanted to do. Exactly what I had worked hard for. I slowed considerably for about 5 miles of the race, but otherwise ran pretty consistently and felt decent overall.

Most of all, I remembered back to that first marathon – nearly an hour slower than today. I remembered back to my second marathon when I ran 3:52 and thought it was impossible to run any faster. I remember telling people I could never run in the 3:30s. That’s the beauty of the marathon. It’s so much more than just running. The marathon is where hard work and believing in yourself collide. It should be impossible. But we prove over and over again that we can do it. Now I’m already thinking what else may be possible. But I’m going to give myself some time to let this sink in.

Final race time: 3:34:06 (average pace 8:10/mile)
Garmin data: 26.42 miles (average pace 8:06)

Chicago Marathon race recap on runladylike.com
At the post-race celebration with MDA Team Momentum right after the race. The picture on the bottom right is me with MDA Goodwill Ambassador Reagan Imhoff who has spinal muscular atrophy but is one of the most courageous girls I know.

Nutrition and Hydration

The number one question I get asked by many of you is related to nutrition and hydration and what my race weekend strategy is. For those of you who read runladylike.com regularly, this will be familiar territory for you. Here is how I handled nutrition and hydration for this race:

  • Lunch the day before the race: Penne pasta with grilled chicken and tomato sauce + 2 glasses of water
  • Dinner the day before the race (yes, I showed up to my pre-race dinner with my own food): Grilled chicken breast, plain baked potato with a ridiculous amount of salt, rice, 2 rolls, a salt pill before bed + lots of water
  • Pre-race breakfast (eaten 3 hours before the race start): 2 hard-boiled eggs, a bagel, half a banana, a salt pill and half a bottle of water
  • 30 minutes before the race: 2 black cherry Clif Shot Bloks with a swig of water (I stop drinking water one hour before the race start.)
  • During the race: 5 GUs (3 salted caramel and 2 salted watermelon) around miles 3/4, 8, 12/13, 16/17 and 21; lots of Gatorade at the aid stations and water with all the GUs
  • After the race: Bottle of water, bottle of Gatorade and forced myself to eat a sandwich and some pretzels at the post-race party but had no appetite (you want to try to get a good mix of carbs and protein within 30 minutes of finishing)
  • Post-race indulgence: Fried pickles, a burger and fries and the best beers ever: Well’s Banana Bread, Rogue Nut Brown Ale and Smutty Nose Pumpkin

Thank Yous

While running may seem like an individual sport some days, it’s truly a team effort. I could never have had the race I had without the support of so many people.

  • Thank you to my husband Mr. rUnladylike for being an incredible race weekend Sherpa and spectator. He doesn’t always love spectating and the rigor that goes into race day, but he was absolutely incredible this past weekend. I saw him about 7 times on the course and he was constantly lifting me up every time I tried to doubt myself. It’s not easy to be married to an endurance junkie, and I never forget that or take it for granted.
  • Thank you to all my friends who trained with me this season, especially Elizabeth Kalifeh and Sang Yim for always pushing me and being positive. I can’t wait to cheer you on for your big marathons next month. And thank you to all the amazing women who are in my inner endurance circle – Andrea Hillman, Amy Lauth, Teesha McCrae – we may have had different race goals this season, but knowing you were out there too always gave me inspiration. Being able to watch you all finish Ironman Chattanooga 2 weeks before Chicago gave me such inspiration.
  • Thank you to my parents for always believing that I can do anything and encouraging me to believe that and go after it too. They are always the first people I call after every race.
  • Thank you to all of my friends and supporters – in real life and virtually – who have cheered me on and given me strength and inspiration. From text messages hours before the race to motivational tweets and Facebook comments, all of that plays into a great race day. You all know who you are – college friends, coworkers, fellow running bloggers, runladylike.com readers, every awesome person reading this right now. You guys rock and I’m so grateful for your support.
  • And last, but not least, thank you to everyone who made a donation in support of my efforts to run this race for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Every dollar represents progress. I can’t tell you how much your donation and support meant to me. I’m still working on reaching out to some of you personally, but until then, thank you to: S. Derks, R. Koenig, L. Nielsen, A. Lauth, C. Greene, M. Lorch, C. Hartwick, K. Murphy, K. Bruna, T. Hermon, S. Laflamme, P. D’Avanza, M. McLachlan, K. Bonds, J. Feuiltault (twice!), J. Mueller, P. Werdesheim, T. Geoffroy, A. Burdick, B. Fisher, P. Ivory, A. Ford, S. Block, J. Adams, A. Labbe, T. Scott, A. Walker, M. van Rooden, B. Ball, K. Dakake, C. Howell, C. Schickel, B. Blackford, S. Jacob, T. Newton, R. Castellani, W. Melancon, D. Mottern, J. Schickel, J. Petty, J. Underhill, L. Vesole, S. Palmer, K. Johnson, A. Freeman, F. D’Avanza, T. Sullivan, G. Guthrie, S. Sevinsky, S. Nicholson, B. Bochnak, L. Donovan, E. Sullivan, A. Nelms, V. Massulik, K. Kijanka

Have you ever run the Chicago Marathon? What did you think about it? If you’ve run the Boston Marathon, what tips do you have for me if I get in? 


Sandra Laflamme

Wooooooohoooo! Congratulations on your huge accomplishment and or going for your big goal! You rocked the marathon and ran a smart race!!! You are a Boston Qualifier!!! You will have such an amazing time in Boston and I will be cheering you on all the way when its your big race day!


Thank you so much Sandra! Your constant words of encouragement and your donation to MDA are appreciated more than you know! Thanks for being so awesome! One of these days we will meet in person 🙂

Kim W

CONGRATS JESICA!!!!! You never fail to inspire me and I know you are going to completely own Boston!!! Thanks for sharing your journey with us!!!


LOVE this. SO proud of you. Tracking you, I knew you had it. Hate to say I told ya so :):) Hoping all goes as well for me as it did for you. Can’t wait to catch up soon!! huge congrats (again)!


Thank you so much Elizabeth. I’m so grateful we’ve gotten to share this marathon season, and I have no doubt you will do amazing in NYC. You will whip my time I’m sure. You’e got this!


Congrats — especially on the BQ!! Chicago was amazing this year! I really don’t know if I have it in me to run any faster – but your story is telling me I do, so I guess I need to suck it up and keep going, huh?

Thanks for the inspiration!


CONGRATS again!!! I’m so happy for you! I knew you could do it! I’m so glad you did. I’m going to re-read this post before CIM. I feel like I relate to you as a runner a lot and I’m even more motivated now to conquer that BQ after reading this post. Thank you for the inspiration!

Enjoy the celebration of your hard work and accomplishment!!!


Thank you Nicole. I know you are going to get that BQ you have been searching for and I have no doubt you will. The kind of sad part is that I likely won’t get into Boston because my qualifying time is only 56 seconds under the limit and the past 2 years people under 1 minute didn’t get in, but knowing I did it is enough. Good luck with the rest of your training. xoxo


Yayyyyy!!!! I’ve been checking obsessively for the last two days for this recap!! HUGE congrats, Jesica! I so admire how committed and hardworking you are — just look at where it’s gotten you. You inspire me so much and now I’m very excited for my next training cycle (Big Sur)!


Awe, thank you Devon. You are so sweet. I appreciate your support. Big Sur is on my bucket list. It’s so awesome you are running it! Good luck with training when it starts to ramp up. xo

Gabrielle from Austria

Glückwünsche! Congrats!
You did so well, Jesica. And your race recap is giving me goose-pimples and fills my eyes with tears. You so beautifully described the spirit of running. (sorry that I can’t express myself in English as well as I wish to do. But I know you can read between the lines…) Some passages I print out to keep with me when I’ll need inspiration for my next marathon.


Thank you so much Gabrielle!!!! I’m grateful to have you reading and following all the way from Austria. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you here on the blog and appreciate all your kindness and support!

Tina Muir

AMAZING Jesica! SUCH a feel good post, and you ran so very well. Quite the opposite experience to me, but you deserved it. You are so right about running, and it really is hard to describe to anyone who is not a runner, but I think you only need to be near the finish line of a marathon watching to begin to understand. Your race recap is wonderful, and this is not only great for us to read, but will also be a great reflection for yourself to go back as you go through this running journey! I only wish we could have met afterwards!


Thank you so much Tina. I was thinking of you all day up at the front of the pack. I know you are disappointed with your day, but I think you are incredible. I know I’ve told you again and again, but how fast you can run is just amazing. Hard for me to even wrap my brain around. So many things have to align for the “perfect” race, and the race where it all falls together is waiting for you too. It’s such a science. Like you always say, we have to do the best we can with what the marathon gives us on that day. I really appreciate all your support and love following along and learning from your journey too. xoxo

Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom

Congratulations on the BQ!!! You worked hard, trusted yourself, your training, and ran smart. You pushed your limits and found success! We can all learn from that!! Big kudos to Mr. rUnladylike as well for being so supportive, I know my hubs doesn’t like having to rush around either but does it for the greater good (at least that what I tell him!)

Shannon @PurveyorofPD

AWESOME! Congratulations and thanks for sharing your race journey – very inspiring and helpful on many levels. And kudos to your husband for being an amazing Sherpa and navigating the streets of Chicago on a bike.


Congrats, Jesica!! I am running my second marathon this weekend and am already psyching myself out. This is great motivation to run strong this weekend! Thanks for the encouragement. Way to go!


Good luck this weekend Abby!!!! You’ve got this. Just remember all the things that went right during training and think about the shiny moments where you ran and felt great. Hold onto those when doubt creeps in. Get your mantras ready and surround yourself with inspiration and positive support. You will do this! Good luck this weekend and let me know how it goes!


Great post! Congrats on such a fantastic race! This post has me believing maybe one day I can BQ, my PR is 3:54 and just like you I’ve said I can’t imagine running under 3:35!


Of course you can, Allie!!!!

Melissa McLachlan

So lucky and blessed you are my SIL! Congrats on reaching your goals. I never had a single doubt.


Thank you Mel! Love you!!!! xo

Amanda - RunToThefinish

CONGRATS!!!! I love that you are sharing how you didn’t think you could ever go faster and then you did the work and you worked the mental game and you did, congrats.

Ahh the peeing everywhere, seriously races and porta potties I don’t think there can ever be enough


Congratulations on your incredible PR and BQ!! It sounds like you ran this race perfectly. I love the idea of mantras written on your hands and arms, so I’m stealing that idea for Detroit in a few days.

I really loved the descriptions of everyone peeing everywhere. Made me laugh.


Good luck this weekend in Detroit Bari! I can’t wait to hear how it goes! xo


CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!! You are such a running inspiration and your recap was sooooooo funny (bathroom) and inspirational!! My best friend & I are runners and LOVE your blog! We really enjoy your running information & race recaps. WAY TO GO!!!!


Thank you so much to you and your friend Audrey! I appreciate your kind words and am so glad you find runladylike.com helpful. Happy running! xoxo


FANTASTIC!! I loved every bit of this race report. I’ll be shooting for the BQ myself and I’ll def be picking your brain as I go. The part about not even thinking you could run in the 3:30’s is truly inspiring. You can and you did!!CONGRATULATIONS!!! I’m so freaking excited for you! (I get to run a 3:40 since I’m old so that’ll help. hahaha)


Thank you so much Beth! You already conquered your big IM goal. BQing will be a walk in the park for you! Hopefully we can get together for a run during the holidays. xo

Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom

CONGRATULATIONS!! You inspire me so much. I really need to get back into training consistently and back to the fitness level I was a few months ago. Your posts (especially this one) always remind me that I can do more than I think I am capable of. You are SUCH a rockstar!!!!

Carolina John

Congratulations! Chasing that BQ is a tough goal, and you nailed it perfectly. We should all be so lucky to pull together that one great marathon like this. And you’re exactly right, marathoning is so much more than just covering the 26.2 miles. Great post.

Mike Podracky

A great summary and a story of triumph. Congrats again to Runladylke !! I only would point out that qualifying at my age of 61 (3:55) is supposedly just as hard as qualifying in your 30s at 3:35. You had thought you would only BQ once you aged into a slower time. Got to stick up here for any other older runners 🙂 I only started seriously running when I turned 57, so I have no basis of comparison for times in my 30s. A 63 year old in my running club can still run a 3:50, and ran 3:25 is his early 30s. He believes the effort required is similar at each age group.


You are so right, Mike! When I said that I actually meant aging up by 2 to 5 years. In 2 years my time will be 3:40 which I thought was much more attainable for my current fitness level vs. 10 to 20 years from now 🙂 BQing is hard at ANY age and I know you will get there!!! Thanks for keeping me honest here. xo

Mike Podracky

A typo above. My 63 year old friend ran in the 3:05 range in his early thirties. Don’t even know if that was a BQ back then.


Great post Jesica and congrats on your BQ time! You are such an inspiration to all of us and I love reading your posts! You kick dirt in the Boston Marathon, no doubt! I am sure you are still on your runner’s high from this weekend so enjoy! Congrats again!

Alison (Fueling for Fitness)

Congratulations on your amazing marathon! I ran the Chicago marathon in 2010 as my first as well….and had a horrible time. I walked a lot, felt super defeated, and crossed the finish line holding back tears of disappointment. It was meant to be a great birthday celebration (my birthday is Oct 10), but instead, I just felt like I had been cheated of a great marathon experience (my fault, my stuff…. I’ve learned a lot about setting expectations since then) . ANYWAY, while I’m still a little nervous about attempting to run another marathon, I recently decided that when I am ready to try again, I am definitely making Chicago one of my must-(re)dos. I have to come back and conquer it and enjoy it for what it really is – an amazing race with some of the best crowd support I’ve ever experienced! I’m so glad I didn’t see any of the rogue bathroom stops, though. I’ll have to think twice before I sit on the grass in Chicago next time!! 😉 Congrats again, and thanks for the amazing recap!


Hi Alison! It sounds like you and I had almost identical experiences our first time in Chicago. We learn so much after that first marathon, and we just keep getting stronger and more knowledgeable with each race we conquer. I hope you’ll keep me posted when you pick your next race. And beware of the grass at the start. LOL! xo


AHHHHH!!!! Loved, loved reading this so much. I got goosebumps with what Sarah wrote to you – OMG. I also absolutely loved the advice from Amy about breathing in strength – I used that in my race too. I was laughing my ass off at the “zoo” of human waste. So gross but so runner-like. I couldn’t be happier for you and I really hope you get into Boston this year!


Great race report, and congrats on the PR and BQ! Love what you said about running being so much more than “just running”- this is something my non-runner friends and family just don’t understand!


Ahh, so well done. The marathon (of course) and the recap too. I’m in the thick of training for Memphis in December and am so inspired after reading your recap! Thanks so much for sharing and a HUGE congratulations for crushing it in Chicago!


Thank you Sarah! Good luck with your training for Memphis! I hear that is a really great race.


Congratulations on an amazing race! A PR and a BQ!! This was one of the best race recaps I’ve ever read and really appreciate the level of details you included. Very inspiring to read your story and see you accomplish your sub-3:35 goal. Looking forward to cheering you on here in Boston when you run it!
I was wondering – do you walk while you’re drinking from aid stations? I can’t seem to master the “drinking as I run” during races – any tips?


Hi Katrina. Thank you so very much for your very kind words. I appreciate it very much and am so glad the recap was helpful. I do not walk through the aid stations. I find that if I start to walk I can’t stop, so I try to never walk unless I have to or unless I’m running a race for fun (or there are a lot of intense hills). I drink while I run. The key is making sure your cup is only about halfway full (dump liquid if needed) and then pinch the top between your thumb and rest of your fingers so you create a very small opening like a little spout rather than the full opening of the cup. That makes it easier to drink. You’ll get a little on you but most will go in your mouth. I hope that helps!


I thoroughly enjoyed your race report! BIG CONGRATS on a great race and working so hard to reach your goals!


I ran your race recap this morning and I’ve been thinking about it all day! Running really is more than just running!!! I ran with my brother-in-law and he was telling me the other day that he just felt like running was boring. After reading your post, I was trying to convince him that running is so much more when you allow it to be!!!
Congrats on your reaching your goal and having all that hard work pay off!! I haven’t run a marathon yet, mostly because I’m still scared to get started, but I hope to someday soon!


Hi Becky! I’m so glad the post resonated with you. If you want to run a marathon some day, know that you can do it! Good luck convincing your bro in law 🙂 Thank you again! xo


What an awesome race report!! Thank you and Congratulations!!!

Sarah @RunFarGirl

I was looking forward to reading this recap and it didn’t disappoint: lol at all the peeing at the start! Haha! And friend! I am so honored that what I said to you was an encouragement! And so, so proud that you BQ’d! I knew you would!

Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen

Huge congrats, this is such a great recap to read! I really love that quote from Amy, it fits a marathon so well. I ran Chicago too and it was such a fun race and great weekend. And you are so right, that it is more than just running. Congrats!

Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

Congrats on the BQ, Jesica! You are so inspiring and I really enjoyed reading your race recap! After watching the Chicago Marathon streamed online this year I really want to run it next year – Chicago is such a cool city.
Your post-race beers sound so tasty – Well’s Banana Bread Beer is amazing!

Leslie @ Triathlete Treats

Awesome job!! Congrats!!! You are such an inspiration. I am going to try and channel some of your fastness and mental strength to get me to the NYC finish line as fast as possible!! 😉
I loved Chicago last year. It was a rough race but i really want to go back next year and try again!!!


Thank you Leslie! You are going to ROCK NYC!

Laura @losingrace

So SO Sooooo proud of you! I have been waiting to read this recap, I was tracking you Sunday and cheering as you went. Knew you had that PR and BQ in the bag! You trained and worked so hard for this and earned every second!

I was dying laughing about all the peeing and xrated stuff before the race- hey we all have to do it! Made me think of a race I had to go in the bushes before a race in Canada and I thought a Mountee was going to arrest me!


Hooooorayyyyy!!!! WTG lady! You are awesome! Way to hold strong and totally. hit. your. goal.!!!! Love it!
Want to run in Boston together!? I qualified too!


Thank you Carolyn and congrats! I would LOVE to run Boston together. I hope I qualified by enough time to get in! Can’t wait to read your journey. xo


WOOHOO! Congrats on your BQ! What an awesome race for you. I also enjoyed reading about your fueling strategy, so thankd for sharing that, too:) Can’t wait to continue to read along and follow your Boston journey!


Chicago was my first marathon and you’re right – the roller coaster of emotions (first marathon, Chicago Marathon itself) just can’t be put in words. It was an incredible event for me (I traveled half way around the world!) and I’m so glad I did it. P/S: I’m way way much slower than everyone here though.


Congrats! However, a Boston qualifier course -especially Chicago is certified and would not be long. Just means you ran the tangents long. 🙂


Hi Jessica, I´ve been reading your blog and it´s a big motivation for me. I´ve just ran a marathon yesterday in 4:31 and was a big disappointment for me, I´m not a good runner but I was expecting a little better result. But I know it´s matter of constant training along the years as I could see reading your race recaps.
Congrats for your blog. Thank you.


Eduardo, Thank you so much for your kind words and congrats on your marathon. That is a FANTASTIC time and anyone who completes a marathon is a great runner. My first marathon was 4:32. We learn and grow with every race we run. One run or race doesn’t define us. I hope you hold your head high about your finish! xo

Messi Albert

Hello! My son will be running my first marathon this October, and I was just reading random blogs on race recaps… you know, Just to make my son feel motivated. He got injured a lot of times during his training, wasn’t able to run a lot of the long runs and still recovering till today. I don’t really know if he can finish or if he should even run it.. But, thanks for this post.. It definitely helped with some of my negative feelings!