I'm not even running the marathon this year, but I still wouldn't have missed the chance to hear from two of the best distance runners the U.S. has ever produced. Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi both have Olympic medals in their trophy cases, to go along with an assortment of other prestigious victories on the world stage.
They also happen to be two of the nicest people around, and great ambassadors for the sport. They were here in Chicago over the weekend to take part in a panel discussion at Fleet Feet Sports in Piper's Alley called 'Breaking Through the Wall', which is aimed at those planning to run Chicago in two weeks.
The house was packed with 500 runners, many of whom are running their first marathon on the streets of Chicago in less than two weeks. Many of them are a little nervous. Some are are a little more than nervous. All were looking for helpful information and last-minute tips to prepare them for the big day.
Coincidently, they were talking about the marathon on the day when Wilson Kipsang, from Kenya, set a new world record 2:03:38 in Berlin, shaving :15 off the men's record previously held by countryman Patrick Makau. It marked the fifth straight men's world record set on the fast course in Berlin.
Of course, we have a pretty fast course here in Chicago as well. And Race Director Carey Pinkowski was part of the panel discussion. Carey has seen world records here in Chicago over the years, but most of the questions for him involved logistics. Most notable was his advice regarding the increased security that will be in place this year in reaction to the Boston marathon bombings in the spring.
Carey advised runners to get there very early, and bring your patience. Also, make sure you bring any gear you plan to check in the clear plastic bag that will be distributed at the marathon expo. This will be the only bag they allow you to check before the race, and it will make it easier for security guards who will be posted at the entrances to the starting area.
Meb gave the crowd some insight into the world of elites when he told them that during his taper, he only runs about 90 mile weeks. He said he keeps a good journal during training and races, and he refers to that journal before big marathons to remind himself of what worked well, and what didn't.
Deena says she wakes up extremely early to eat carbs and a little protein on race mornings. And she shared advice a former coach offered her once before a big race. It came down to two words. "Define yourself." She said races offer a lot of opportunities to do this, "and it's important to remember that little moments and decisions can become profound."
Monique Ryan, a nutrition expert, and Mike Norman, coach at Chicago Endurance Sports, also offered some word of wisdom regarding diet and rest during the 'taper' phase of your training during the last two or three weeks. The bottom line advice from them is to stick to the familiar. Pre-marathon is not the time to try new foods or workouts.
A few years ago, I was honored to take part in this annual panel discussion, but I can't offer any better advice than the esteemed panel did over the weekend. If anything, I would just remind runners that they are doing this because it's not only a personal challenge, but because it's supposed to be fun. After all the hard work you've put in, make sure to remember to enjoy the experience. Good luck on October 13!
See you on the roads.............