The Chicago Marathon 2015 – Part 2 of the 640 Challenge – An introspective

It was dark, somewhere in the darkness an owl hooted, ok it was not an owl but the alarm clock in our hotel room going off at 5am! Actually 5am is probably a lay in compared to the 4am training runs, but sh!t the day was finally here! We had survived training injury free (Well relatively Kym had fallen over taking all the skin off her knees only 4 weeks prior!) we had survived the 12 hr travel, 2 flights numerous security checks and the bags had arrived. The hotel had our reservation and all of the worries associated with the trip just melted away because now was the big one. Now was the day, cometh the moment. 26.2 miles of who knows what.

For someone who has never run a marathon before this was the day I would check that bucket list item, I had always been fascinated by endurance running and secretly always wanted to do one but had switched the marathon off to watch football after 10 minutes, because lets face it, it was very dull to watch on TV. When I had tipped the scale at 300+ lbs my dreams of doing a marathon we a distant memory, there was no way within 12 months would I be heading towards a start line.

We picked Chicago simply because people who had done it before said it was EPIC. They said the crowd will push you along, the city loves the marathon! I have to say they were not wrong.

So having woken with the realization that it was go time I jumped out of bed and immediately ordered coffee and oatmeal from room service. We needed to be at the corals for 7am so that gave us about an hour and a half to brew for a … lets call it a solid constitutional. Bowel movements and marathons are the thing of nightmares, if you haven’t gone before the race you are most certainly going to need to go during it, you do not want to have to visit a marathon day portaloo! So stretching and coffee were my remedies of choice and thank the lord we had lift of. A few pounds lighter Kym and I headed toward the start line along with the 40,000+ other people giving this running thing a go.

I had been honest about my time, as mentioned in previous blog posts I have what I call a steady plod its not going to break any records but it will get me to the finish. I had said I would do it in under 5.30mins so into Corral G I was put. Kym on the other hand wanted to do a qualifying time for Boston which is something like 3:45 for her age group. An ambitious target for her first marathon. So with emotional hugs and lots of good lucks we parted at gate 3, her to run her race, me to conquer mine.

Of course being in a coral near the back meant I had a bit of waiting to do but I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere chatting with their runners and just being thankful that I was there.

I heard the announcer send off corral C where Kym was and sent up a silent prayer to whoever listens wishing her an amazing race. At 8:15 I crossed that anticipated start line, I was off. Wooooshhhhhh a release of adrenaline, I had planned my playlist so that I had one of my favorite running tracks playing as I crossed the start – AC/DC Thundersturck if you have not heard the opening guitar riff of this song I dare you to listen to it and not be moved…

As we passed under the first overpass I think half of the runners stopped for a pee! Simply hilarious! As we headed out into the city Chicago came alive, the noise of the crowd reaches you first and it never leaves. I had my name on my running shirt and therefore complete strangers would shout go Chris! Your looking great! You can do this! If you ever want to see the amazing side of human nature in action go and stand along the route of a marathon. Not only is the support from these people amazing but every single runner is running for a reason whether its for themselves or for a cause there is a reason and the inner battles that take place along the 26.2 mile route are the things of legend and movie sets.

As I “hi-fived” the crowd I  read motivational posters there are a few which stuck out in my mind:

“This is the worst parade ever” made me laugh

“The Kenyans are drinking all the beer hurry!”

“Never trust a fart”

“If a marathon was easy it would be called your mother!”

Best-Marathon-Signs-2015

There were so many of these and just brilliant support from all the crowd which was some 1.5million people! Chicago you represented!!

Running through the 13.1 mile sign letting us know we had officially done halfway also marked the furthest race I had done thus far which again lifted the spirits knowing that each step now meant a step closer to the finish! It also meant a step closer to the furthest I had run in training, about 16 miles.

I had followed a training plan but it had to also include swimming and cycling in preparation for the upcoming 70.3 Ironman only 10 days after the marathon, plus a trip to vegas had also got in the way! To top it all I simply got bored of running on my own in the dark in 100 degree heat. So I had assured myself that I had the mental ability to push myself an extra 10+ miles on the day… I hope.

I think I hit my wall about mile 18 – the legs had started to seize up and my quads felt like lead weights – I fuelled with a gel took a couple of Tylenol washed down with Gatorade and had a conversation with myself. “You only have 8 miles left, that’s not far, your not really in any pain just enjoy the day look someone’s giving out bananas got get one….. That’s how I got over my wall, simply talking to myself and picking out something of interest up ahead and saying “go on lets go see what that is. Then I would laugh at myself as I arrived a sign saying wine only 6 miles away.

20 Miles – I got a text from Kym – “Done!!! –no idea on time think 3:40!! Hope you are ok thought of you all the way.. let me know how your doing!! Love you xx” – I fired off a quick congratulatory text saying I was at mile 20. I shed a tear out of pure joy for her achieving her goal that she had worked so hard to accomplish. An amazing time sooo pleased for her. It motivated me I wanted to see her at the finish and share that hug of relief that we had done it, the training had paid off and wow!!

I plodded on like this until around mile 22 – this is where it got really tough. Allot of people were walking and struggling, I didn’t want to struggle I can do this, I don’t want to walk but yet I’m walking – Your mind starts going a little crazy you think you are running when actually your are at a slow crawl! I crawled until mile 24 – then a sign said 2 miles to go, that was it, I was running home I was going to beat this bad boy – I was going to run a marathon. 50 meters later I was walking again! The legs had gone and it was all I could do to keep moving one foot in front of the other. Which is how the weight loss had started. Put one foot in front of the other and move. Just move. 1 mile. The crowds were thick here screaming at everyone telling us how great we are, telling us we were nearly home. 800 meters said the sign, I’m not walking now, I have a slow jog on and I’m picking up speed, I see the finish, I know Kym is waiting ready to celebrate both our achievement.

I crossed the line. 5 hrs 19 mins

Wow its done – where is kym…. My father text me my time, he had been following on-line along with my mum and kyms parents plus friends here in Cayman. A flood of texts came in all very humbling and amazing to receive. Again people can be so thoughtful, this meant so much to Kym and I plus the charity and these people supported us. Amazing.

Kym and I met up and had our hug and photos – we talked of our individual races our own struggles and high points and where we hit our lows. Each of us inspiring the other. We began the 1.5 mile walk back to the hotel. It hurt, but I didn’t care.

We had done it.

The 640 Challenge continues in earnest as I get back on the bike and in the water this weekend in preparation for the Ironman 70.3 in Miami next weekend.

I spoke with the legend Derek Haines this week who completed 6 Marathons in 6 Months at the young age of 66 and he did Paris and London within a week of each other. He actually went quicker in his second marathon, which is simply stunning and quite inspirational.

So there is hope that my legs will recover from the Chicago marathon in time! Thus far only 3 toenails have turned black, I will spare you the pictures as some things should not be shared! A great line from Mr Deeds “The hideousness of that foot will haunt my dreams…”

For someone who has only just scratched the surface of endurance events The last triathlon being the sprint triathlon I have certainly jumped in with both feet going straight for the 70.3 distance Ironman.

The euphoria of finishing my fist marathon has definitely given way to the dread of this upcoming challenge. However the sense of achievement in finishing the marathon can only be heightened by the possible completion of an ironman event. I doubt it will lead its way into the full ironman but for this year with 2 more challenges ahead it will have to do!

I’m doing these events and challenges in support of two wonderful causes – the Life foundation here in Grand Cayman which provides literacy and learning for those that require support. The other cause is the Guatemala literacy Project a simply epic sustainable program that helps beat the cycle of poverty through education in Gutemala. I currently support two children through this project by paying for their schooling. The letters they now write and hope for their future is heart warming. Until you have seen 3rd World poverty up close and personal its hard to imagine what these families go through. Everyone can make a difference.

So I know we are all asked to give a plenty to various great causes. I can’t tell you this one is greater than any other. But I can tell you your money makes a difference, plus it truly helps me get across these finish lines!

Please support: 640Challenge

Up Next!!!! 640 Challenge art 3
Up Next!!!! 640 Challenge part 3

Breaking your cherry…..(marathon style)

T-Minus 5 days until the start of my first marathon – Chicago – There are a million questions going round in my head and for anyone who has ever trained for a marathon or any endurance race they are they following:

Have I trained enough
Have I trained right
What if I get cramp
What if I need the toilet
What if I don’t finish!
What if I’m tired before I start as my coral is near the back!
What if What if What if…..

I seriously have run out of running Mojo, its supposed to be a glorious taper time…. but I cant even be bothered to run the 3 mile taper runs this week! Its a real force to put the trainers on a get out the door! I just want it to be over! But I also want to enjoy it and its way too late to worry about the training. I’ve got up to 16 mile runs, I know its 10 miles short of the distance but I was soooo bored running in 90 degree heat and I didn’t feel it was lack of fitness it was more lack of motivation. I live on a small island so the scenery whilst beautiful is the same and when you have to run in the dark (as its too hot for distance running in the day) there is not much to see. I have listened to all of my music so many times that Im sure i’m not even listening to it anymore. Therefore I have run out of running mojo. Yet I am excited for this coming weekend! I am now committed to the fact that my time wont be quick, in fact it would rival that of a slug wading through glue, a determined slug at that and thats where I think Chicago will come into its own. The crowds the scenery, the other runners, the atmosphere will hopefully allow me to forget that at 17 miles this is further than I have ever run before. That at 18 miles my legs will be hurting, That at 19 miles there are still 7 more to go! So please Chicago if you see a man wearing a 640 challenge running top on with the name Chris on cheer loud for me I will be a hurting but determined slug.

Ticking the marathon bucket list box whilst doing it for a great cause is also the most motivation I will need on the day! http://www.facebook.com/640challenge part 2 here I come!

You have been doing conferences all wrong – Try this!

#SHRM15

So I am currently stuck in the Las Vegas Airport – don’t you just love when they don’t tell you about a schedule change, which causes you to miss your flight! So I have a 7 hour wait plus I missed my connection so have to overnight in Miami before flying home. Trying to see the upside in every situation I thought I could bang out a couple of missives. Mainly because the people I met at this years SHRM15 conference were simply amazing and some of the best bloggers in the country.

Before I left for SHRM15 (Which is the biggest HR conference in the world) I had already made up my mind that I was going to do this one differently. For the last couple of years I have attended this event in Orlando and Chicago and its done on a simply epic scale. 20,000 people hundreds of sessions and probably over 1000 exhibitors in the convention hall. It is mind blowing. But I think many people miss what a conference is all about. They spend hours ruminating over which session to go to, who is going to be good what topic they want to learn about . They busy themselves by scheduling everything so that their days are locked in, it’s almost like being in school. I have honestly seen draft fanatics spend less time figuring out their strategy than some of the HR folks spend figuring out their session planner. But they miss the biggest fundamental reason that we go to conference for. Meeting people!

I asked a colleague who was “locked In” how many people they had met or connected with their response “I haven’t time for all that I need to learn stuff”. Now forgive my cynicism but how much are your really going to learn in an hour session that would be worth more than connecting with an expert that you could pick up the phone to later down the line?

So I mixed it up:

  • I didn’t plan one session
  • I went to the networking sessions
  • I reached out to a couple of people I was interested in meeting as they would be at the conference plus they were also speaking
  • I let people know I would be there in case they wanted to meet me.
  • I only booked one evenings entertainment (A show, it is Vegas after all)

The result:

  • So much more relaxed
  • I met up with a great speaker buddy called Tim Sackett and we hit the convention center together. He is a pro at this and knows everyone so I got introduced to plenty of people as we hit the booths. Made some great connections
  • A by product of this was I was allowed access to the bloggers lounge, guess what I met more really interesting people who were the writers behind many of the blogs I read so for me it was like meeting celebs. I connected in person with around 10 members of our blogging community who we have swapped details and a few stories. Plus they were all interested in coming to speak at my conference in Cayman.
  • All of them are experts in different levels of HR and many have held the very top jobs in our industry so I f I need to learn something, guess what I’m picking up the phone.
  • It was interesting to hear who they were going to see speak and see them speak, so my sessions revolved around who was saying something the blogging community thought was interesting rather than just blindly picking horses (you get what I mean). In turn I attended several really interesting session that gave a different insight or some big data revelation’s.
  • I was invited for drinks with a few of them so I went, lets just say its Vegas, it got messy and we ended up in a penthouse suit of the cosmopolitan at a small private party!
  • I attended the international networking event – but I participated and did the “passport game” (You have a card and you have to get people from different countries to sign it then you put it in a draw for a prize) – I met a bunch of people from all over the world and guess what – I won a prize in the draw a new Ipad which was awesome as mine had just broken. I had done this event for the last 3 years and always just talked to the group I knew. So it paid off big time.
  • I met up with a couple of people who reached out to me on twitter, they were great meetings with something coming from both of them.
  • Within just 3 days I met more people and went to some of the best sessions I have been to simply by allowing myself to be flexible and understanding that I know nothing about where is going to be the right event or session.

So in summary I will never do a conference the old way, this one was so much more fun. Made more so by they accepting nature of a few new friends that allowed me to tag along, were accepting of the introduction and happy that I was happy to meet them.

Tim, William, Laurie, Jennifer, Dawn, Jess, Matt, Career builder, Mel, Sarah, Merren, Robin, Heath and the many others – thanks