Kathie’s Marathon Training Blog: Twenty Ugly Miles and the Home Stretch

Written by Kathie Bergquist. Posted in Kathie's Blog, Running/Walking/Hiking

My training for the Chicago Marathon is slogging forward. After a very discouraging 16-mile run, Nikki and I actually had a pretty great 18-miler. What I did psychologically was break it up into bursts of three miles; after each three-mile run we’d take a slightly longer break and maybe stretch a little bit or just regroup. And, we did this six times. It worked remarkably well, and the happiness of this run did a lot to restore my confidence. Yay!

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The following week was about as erratic as our training has been in general. This lead up to our longest planned run – twenty miles. We had it planned for a Friday when the weather was supposed to be perfect: high sixties and sunny. However, the Thursday night just prior, we couldn’t resist the temptations of our back porch.


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Back porches are a big thing in Chicago. In our condo, we are very lucky to be good friends with the neighbor we share our porch with. Such good friends, in fact, that we took down the barrier between our porches and had a six-foot bar (like, drinking bar) installed. And we have it decorated with faux-vintage tin signs that say things like “Wine! How Classy People Get Wasted,” and “Wine Improves with Age; I improve with wine.” So, that should give you some insight into the dangers of our back porch. You only have to stand out there for a minute before a cocktail of some sort magically appears in your hand. This is even true for our cats, except in that case, it appears in their paws.

Back to the story…

So, suffice to say, on Friday we were not feeling up for the run. We put it off until Saturday, which was the only other possible day we could do it that week. Only problem is that on Saturday it was 85 degrees outside.

We always plan on getting out really early before the sun rises too high in the sky but this actually NEVER happens. We are ALWAYS stuck running between 11 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. That’s just the way it is.

For those of you familiar with Chicago, let me give you an idea of what a 20-mile run looks like. We started on the Chicago lakefront at Lawrence (4700 north), and from there ran to the northernmost part of the lakefront path (5700 north), and then turned around and headed south, past, Belmont (3200 N.), past Fullerton (2400 N.), past North Avenue Beach (1200 N.) and Navy Pier (500 N.), through the downtown area, and alllllllllllllll the way down to Soldier Field (Go Bears!), at about 16th Street south, where we turned around to run all the way back up to Lawrence Avenue. That’s a lot of asphalt.

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Nikki still looking good more than halfway in.

I’m going to cut to the chase. This run was miserable for me. For Nikki, too, I am sure, but I was being, like, a major baby. I was SO hot and red-faced and sweaty. I actually ended up having to walk large swaths of our return trip north, much to Nikki’s misery. Nikki’s theory is that the more miserable you are, the more you have to keep running, just to get it over with. That’s not my theory. However, by and large she was unwilling to leave me behind.

Ultimately I did finish the distance but it was the complete opposite of our fun, free-spirited 18-mile run. Which, of course, had me wondering again how the hell I was going to be able to finish the actual marathon.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of really good, fast five-mile runs. Which is a really nice benefit to training for a marathon: five miles seems like nothing. Tomorrow we are going on our last run of any significant distance: 13 miles. Please visualize a strong run for me. If I can pull off a happy run it will go very far to boost my confidence for the marathon, and after those dismal 20-miles, I really need it.

After that, it’s just chillin’ and laying low (and eating a lot of pasta)  up until the actual marathon on 10/13, one week from the day I am writing this.

As an aside, when Nikki and I decided to run the Chicago marathon this year, part of our motivation was to take what we’d learned from our half-assed training for the Prague marathon last year, and do it better this time. Do it right. But you know what? I think we’ve learned something very valuable about ourselves this time around. That is, this is the best we are going to do, and that is just the way it is.

marathon training blog, ms. fit mag, kathie bergquist, chicago marathon, running, feminist, women's health, women's fitness

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Kathie Bergquist

Kathie Bergquist

Kathie Bergquist is publisher and editor-in-chief of Ms. Fit Mag. She teaches writing at Columbia College Chicago and edited of the anthology. "Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast" and is co-author of "A Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian Chicago." Pulled reluctantly into a fitness lifestyle by her wife and partner of many years, Bergquist is now a runner, a boot camper, and a yogini.

Comments (3)

  • Allison


    I ran my first marathon in the spring. My 20 mile run was also horrible, it was freezing cold and icy, I hated it. I also worried about actually finishing the marathon. But come race day, the excitement of everything made the race much easier. I’m sure you’ll do great! We are actually driving up from St. Louis for the marathon, I’m just watching, the boyfriend is running. I’ll cheer for you in spirit. Good luck!


    • Kathie Bergquist

      Kathie Bergquist


      Thanks, Allison! Your words of support mean a lot. May your boyfriend be fleet of feet and have a great race!


  • Ragen Chastain


    Thank you for this Kathie! I am a couple of months away from my marathon (Seattle on December 1st) and I’ve been feeling down since my uber crappy 14 miler last week. This made me remember that training isn’t a straight line of improvement but a series of ups and downs.

    I also agree that one of the benefits of marathon training is that shorter distances seem like nothing. I found myself saying “I only have 7 miles today” and then immediately thinking “Who the hell have I become?”

    Thanks so much for sharing your story, I’m feeling encouraged!



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