Chicago Motivation

Yesterday I was reading Jenny’s first post in her Chicago Marathon prep series and realized there are so many things I did to prepare for Portland last year that I am not doing this year.

I’ve got all of the actual running stuff covered, but I was doing a lot more in the Motivational Department last year. I think part of that had to do with being scared as hell to actually take on 26.2 miles, but also it was fun to be immersed in training recaps, marathon documentaries and running books. As I head into the final weeks of training for Chicago I need to get back to that!

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If nothing else is true, miles 16 – 24 were a total mental battle for me last year. I was hurting physically, as one traditionally does in a marathon, but I was worse off mentally. I never thought about quitting, but I thought about a lot of other things that put myself down.

Instead of being proud of myself for setting my mind to a pretty big goal and then accomplishing it, I chastised myself for all of the little things I could have done differently during the months leading up to Portland.

I imagine that’s a pretty common thing for runners to do during marathons, especially first marathons, but I don’t want to take that same mindset into Chicago.

Truthfully, some days I still feel underprepared for Chicago in comparison to where I was at last year for Portland. I’m running many of my long run miles slower and I’ve done fewer long-long runs. That’s just part of the plan I’m trying out this season and I know it’s a proven method, but that doesn’t mean some aspects of it aren’t playing mind games with me now. Because of those mind games, I really need to focus on things that will motivate and inspire me so that even if when things get tough in Chicago I keep pushing on. Relentless forward progress.


One thing that I’ve already started doing after reading Jenny’s post is to bookmark a bunch of Chicago race recaps to read, including this one from my coach.

Jesica, my coach, is someone I consider to be a very strong marathon runner. I admire so many qualities about her as a person and an athlete. She has completed eight full marathons and we all know running marathons builds character!

When I meet someone who has completed multiple marathons I have this bad habit of assuming marathons are relatively easy for them. That’s such a bad assumption because a PR attempt is always going to be tough, and running fast for 26+ miles must come with an incredible set of difficulties. Still, I tend to think that someone like Jesica would never think of the marathon as tough, like I do.

Reading my coach’s recap from BQing at Chicago reminded me that the middle miles are usually tough for everyone. Jesica wrote in her recap, “miles 14 through 19 started to get tough.” Yup. That’s so relatable to me because I remember in Portland miles 15 through 22 were REALLY tough for me.

During mile 18 I figured I would die before I even got to the finish line. I didn’t quit because I thought it would make for a more noble story here on the blog if Adam could post an update saying I died trying to get to that damn finish line.

As much as I remember the really difficult middle miles, equally I remember crossing Broadway Bridge towards the end of the course and feeling so much relief. Once I crossed that bridge I knew the end was near and I was going to finish this thing alive. After that I actually picked up the pace a bit when previously I thought I had nothing left in the tank.

I hope to remember that feeling and that surge of energy when I reach the tough miles in Chicago. Hopefully the memory of kicking into another gear at the end in Portland will remind me to keep trucking along when I want to slow down.

I know that reading through other people’s race recaps and watching inspirational documentaries will help mentally motivate me both before and during the race. I distinctly remember during mile 18, which was probably my toughest mile in Portland, having a running graphic I saw on Pinterest run through my mind over and over again. That graphic helped me keep placing one foot in front of the other. That and I have too much pride to give up.

^ The exact graphic I couldn’t stop picturing during endless mile 18.

I think what will really help me push through the tough miles in Chicago is my own marathon running experience. Having a full marathon under my belt no doubt gives me so much more confidence. I feel like I know what to expect and how to prepare myself for it.

Last year I read so many race recaps but none of them really prepared me for how I felt in the endless mile 18 in Portland. Now that I have that learning experience under my belt I can really mentally prepare myself for it, and tell myself “just keep pushing because this will pass and your energy will come back!” That’s huge!


Also, I’ve been looking at weather predictions for this year’s race and it seems like we can expect temps in the 60s which is really nice. I know that may be a little warm for some, but it’s going to feel just right to me. Last year in Portland we reached 80+ degrees and that just added to the overall toughness.

Plus, have I mentioned that Chicago is nice and flat? Not flat like South Florida but pretty flat! I’m very happy about that!

My Chicago journey is to be continued… thanks for following along so far!

Experienced marathoners, was marathon #2 any easier than the first?
How was it different/better/similar?



  1. September 17, 2015 / 5:30 am

    I find it so helpful to read about other runner’s races before my own! It definitely helps me to prepare for whats to come and remember that its not going to be easy but that we can push through. I think you will have an amazing experience now that you already have already completed a full marathon and will be prepared for whats to come!

    • Kristina
      September 17, 2015 / 10:54 am

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Lisa! 🙂

  2. September 17, 2015 / 8:43 am

    Hi there! I’m running Chicago this year too, and it’ll be my first full marathon! I’ve been reading TONS of Chicago race recaps from previous years and have found them incredibly helpful and calming, since it helps me know what to expect (what parts of the course might be harder, where there will be fewer crowds cheering us on, etc.). I’ve heard nothing but great things about this race though! Good luck to you!

    • Kristina
      September 17, 2015 / 10:50 am

      Hi Hollyanne! I’ve heard so many good things about this race too. I’ve heard that the course gives you a great tour.

      Only a few more weeks until we get to experience it ourselves!!

  3. September 17, 2015 / 8:58 am

    Kristina you’re going to rock Chicago! I can’t wait to see it in writing in your race recap 🙂 I’ve heard nothing but great things about the type of training plan you’ve followed and know that you’ll be great.

    • Kristina
      September 17, 2015 / 10:50 am

      Thanks so much Maureen 😀

  4. September 17, 2015 / 9:21 am

    Well, I hate to toot my own horn, but if you want to read my Grandma’s Marathon (2nd marathon!) recap, it’s here:

    I also remember the middle miles being difficult. I vividly remember being at mile 15ish and thinking “wtf. It is WAY too early for me to start feeling tired! Oh no! What is going on?!?!” But I just kept going – I think what helped me most was trying to daydream and take my mind off the fact that I was running. After mile 22, all of a sudden a second wind kicked in out of nowhere and I finished my last few miles on fire. Would you believe that my fastest mile of the race was mile 26??? So remember it happens to everyone, but we all pushed through and so can you!

    I think my 2nd marathon actually was easier than my first, but it’s like comparing apples to oranges. My training for #2 was just completely different. I had different goals and different experience, so I did much harder, more marathon-specific training as opposed to just getting the miles in. It was still hard, but I think I was more prepared for the challenges.

    • Kristina
      September 17, 2015 / 10:54 am

      Thanks Hanna, I do want to re-read your Grandma’s recap! Bookmarking it!

      It seems like around mile 15 everyone starts experiencing some hardships. Maybe the adrenaline dump we experience at the starting line and during the early miles drops off around mile 15 and we’re left in a temporary state of fatigue?!

  5. September 17, 2015 / 9:44 am

    I ran Portland as my first marathon in 2013 and it was such a great experience, I love finding other people who have run it! The next year I trained for a different marathon and could definitely tell that my attitude was different, it’s funny how much of my motivation for training was straight up fear of the distance! You are going to do great at Chicago, pull your strength from knowing you’ve trained well and have the experience. And mile 17-18 in Portland were my worst as well… that hill up to the bridge? Yuck.

    • Kristina
      September 17, 2015 / 10:52 am

      That climb up to St John’s was SO INTENSE. When I was at the bottom of the hill I actually burst out laughing! Coming from South Florida I had never seen anything with such a steep grade before! The climb to the bridge was definitely so much harder than the bridge itself. The views from the bridge were so great!

  6. September 17, 2015 / 12:16 pm

    As someone who has run multiple marathons, I can tell you MOST of them were difficult for me! Even the ones I wasn’t trying to PR at were difficult! I can think of two or three in which I didn’t hit the wall and pretty much felt good the whole time, but for the rest, there was always a point where I was like “WHY AM I DOING THIS? WHY AREN’T I DONE YET? I AM SO STUPID FOR PUTTING MYSELF THROUGH THIS.”

    I hope lucky #2 is better for you and you don’t suffer as badly during those middle miles! My marathon #2 was in Burlington Vermont. I HIGHLY recommend this race! I remember feeling minor discomfort but I finished strong. When I got back to the hotel, I ate a whole box of wheat thins.

    • Kristina
      September 20, 2015 / 9:12 pm

      Haha I love that you remember that you ate a whole box of wheat thins!

      It’s good to know that everyone suffers through the marathon most of the time. I’ll definitely remember that when it gets hard in Chicago, as I’m sure it will at some point! I just hope that it doesn’t happen too early!

  7. September 17, 2015 / 1:41 pm

    Girl, I am right there with you. I am approaching marathon #2 TOTALLY different than #1. I think because the stress of the “unknown” isn’t there.

    ALSO…let me just say. Anyone that runs 26.2 is already a winner and an amazing athlete, both mentally and physically (in my book at least). you go girl, you got this!

    • Kristina
      September 20, 2015 / 9:13 pm

      Having the stress of the unknown lifted it so nice, isn’t it? I was so nervous this time last year!

  8. September 18, 2015 / 11:43 am

    Kristina Kristina – we can do this! I am all sorts of excited and scared (more so than last year). I think what helped me btw #1 and #2 was that it was such a long gap I forgot what I did. So I couldn’t compare my training, how I felt etc. Since there is only a year gap between #2 and #3, I am definitely comparing the two (and probably unnecessarily scaring myself). In the end I know I can finish, will it be the time that I hope for..maybe not but there will be many more in the future.

    You made a great point that no matter what speed or how many marathoners you’ve run…it hurts.

    • Kristina
      September 20, 2015 / 9:14 pm

      Exactly, there will be plenty more in the future! I’m looking forward to Chicago. I’m sure it’s going to be hard, but we’ll earn those medals and have a fun weekend!

  9. September 18, 2015 / 11:51 am

    I’ve yet to tackle marathon #1, but already I’ve learned that training is SO much more than physical fitness. Training plans give you the mileage that you need to run, but there is so much more that goes into it… You have to be mentally prepared and in the right mindset to train and run a marathon, and you also have to keep your body strong and healthy which means strength training and good nutrition (where I always fail). I feel like the more marathons you get under your belt, the more you learn about the little extra things that go along with training!

  10. September 19, 2015 / 6:20 pm

    I remember my first marathon like it was yesterday. It really is something you never forget. The thing is, the first marathon is a learning experience. You actually get to experience the race environment, the grueling miles, and the feeling crossing the finish line. These are things that one can not fully understand by reading others experiences. You have to go out there and feel it for yourself. Now that you have successfully been there, I have a feeling that you will be a lot more confident going into marathon #2. I sure was. I also had a better idea of what worked and what didn’t (pace, nutrition, bathrooms, attire). You are going to surprise yourself. You already know how to battle through those toughest miles and make it to the finish line. You’ll be there again in no time!

  11. September 21, 2015 / 9:46 am

    No matter how many marathons I run, they never, EVER seem to get any easier! You are going to kill this race, I just know it! Don’t like the mind games get the way of the serious training and months of hard work you put in…that’s always my #1 mistake! Enjoy your moment!! 🙂

  12. September 25, 2015 / 12:55 am

    No matter how many marathons we run or how fast we run them, every race is a battle. And every finish is a miracle. There are dark moments in every race, and it is what we tell ourselves and how we react to them that turns a potentially bad day into a good one. I have so many great mental “training” ideas that I’ll send your way these next two weeks. The most important thing is to believe in yourself. Truly. Tell yourself that on a daily basis. On race day, write those positive thoughts on your hands and arms and repeat them over and over. Know that what challenges us is what changes us, and that when we can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, that is when big breakthroughs happen. Every day I battle mental weakness on my runs. But once you BELIEVE you are stronger than the demons in your head, they can never beat you. xoxoxoxo

    P.S. Thanks for sharing my race recap and your incredibly humbling words.