I had no business doing it, but I ran the Chicago Marathon last week. My longest run in the last year was 12 miles (about two months ago), and I ran maybe a dozen times in the four months leading up to the race.
My plan for the marathon was to take it very easy - maybe do 15 miles. I had no preconceived notions of what it would be like past 15 miles. I mean, I've run many marathons, but none in the past 9 years.
I took it very slowly, right from the start - 11-12 minutes per mile. It was brutally hot, and there was a paucity of fluid at the first station. I actually saw hoards of people jumping into and drinking from the large fountain at Lincoln Park Zoo.
After 10 miles, I actually felt pretty good. I was trucking along, and at 12 miles, I made the decision to follow the course west away from the lake. Once I hit 13 miles, I was committed to doing up to 18, since that is where the course looped back. Apart from falling once and ripping the pad off of one of my fingers, I did OK. There was no water at mile 16, which was tough... it was in the 80's by then. But then some random saint gave me a whole bottle of ice-cold orange gatorade. That made all the difference in the world.
By 18 miles, I knew I was going to finish. It was just a matter of in what shape. I kept pushing along and was surprised at how many people were off to the side of the road getting medical care. The medical tents were all packed - I know this because I had to stop in each one and, er, lubricate up my nips. In any case, I saw dozens of people getting medical attention along the way. When I saw a Lincolnwood Fire and Rescue go by, I knew things were bad - what could they be doing out there. I would only find out later that they had run out of EMT's and were calling in all the suburbs.
Around mile 21, the police were shouting from helicopters and cars for us to stop running and walk. I didn't listen (stupid me) and kept jogging. At that point, I wanted to be done as soon as I could be. As it turns out, it is a good thing I did keep running, because at some point, they shut down the course and made everyone stop. I would have been pretty upset had that happened to me.
I finished in 5:23. The last time I ran Chicago in 1996, I did 3:50, and my best marathon ever (Twin Cities 1995) was 3:37. But given my training and the weather, I am lucky to have finished. Better luck next year!