I’d put in the training miles, dialed in my nutrition and felt fully prepared to complete my first 26.2 at the Milwaukee Marathon on Saturday. This event also offers a half and a 5k with packet pickup on Friday during the expo at the new Fiserv Forum.
I woke at 4 a.m. race morning not feeling 100 percent; determined, we drove to Milwaukee, where I met the 5:15 group pacers, Randy and Angela. The race itself began at 7:15 a.m., where we started out down Juneau Street into the East Town district with the half-marathoners. We then turned on N. Lincoln Memorial paralleling Lake Michigan. I caught the five-hour pacers and settled into an easy rhythm. After ascending East Water Tower road, which leads runners into the historic Upper East Side, I realized how sick I was and may have actually spiked a fever.
Fortunately, the descent down Lincoln Memorial and the 10k mark was only a few miles away with another 5k of scenic Lakefront views ahead. Somewhere in mile 9, I found my family cheering me on, which strengthened my resolve. This race is not very spectator friendly due to it’s two long out and backs; but, the community makes up for it by coming out and the volunteers at the aid stations were amazing!
As we turned back into the city, I felt my calves cramping. By mile 10, I knew I was in trouble and was forced to walk the gradual climb up Wisconsin Avenue into the beautiful Marquette Campus. I paused at the turn for the half marathoners and made the heartbreaking decision to head in with them to the finish as I watched the 5:15 group head off for the rolling hills of the closing half.
Staff Sergeant Ruben Velez made the turn with me. I learned he was carrying 22 pounds in his flak jacket in honor of the 22 military members who die by suicide daily. Working with the Wounded Warrior project and recruitment centers, he gained sponsorship with a per mile completed donation. Although he’d signed up for the full days earlier, by completing the half he raised over $1,300.
I muscled through the last few miles where I caught up with fellow Illinoian, Adrianne Hall, who was using this half as training for a future marathon. We encouraged each other across the final bridge and through the finishing chute agreeing even the hills of the half were nothing like Chicago!
While I was gutted to not complete the marathon, I made the right decision. Could I have carried on a few miles and caught glimpses of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, the Miller Coors Plant and the ballpark far off in the distance? Probably. But, poor form due to sickness could have led to a season-ending injury. Sometimes you have to listen to your body as confirmed by Floridian and marathon finisher Michael Dickey who said “even the descents felt like climbs during the back half.”
The 2019 Milwaukee Marathon team is under new management that put on a marvelous event. With 750 feet of overall climb over the full distance, this challenging but scenic course culminates with a fantastic finish festival capped by a Milwaukee Bucks game for those with tickets. If I have the opportunity to make another attempt at the full distance, I will definitely train every segment of the course prior to race day and hopefully be healthy enough to conquer the 26.2!