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Chicago Marathon
Jan 26, 2015 by Brianna Nightingale

Out of my one open eye I could see 5:05 MARATHON DAY!!! on my phone screen. I dragged myself out of the comfortable bed and put all of my race gear on, piling on the layers. I had a long-sleeved, red “Arizona” shirt to wear over my running clothes until I warmed up; it was a lucky last minute perfect-fitting purchase from my local Tennessee Goodwill.



For breakfast I ate a banana and half of a plain bagel with peanut butter. For the past couple of months my pre-run food choice had been gluten-free waffles with peanut butter, but since there was not a toaster available to us before the race that day, I opted for the food available in the hospitality room.

Around 7:15 when we had fueled up, we headed over to the start line where 44,997 of our closest friends were waiting. Corrals closed 30 minutes prior to the start of their wave, which meant we needed to be in our corral by 7:30.

The race started in two waves, 7:30 and 8:00; the three of us, because we asked to start together, were placed in corral F, which was at the start of the second wave. We chose to start a little further back, however, so we didn’t get run over. :) As Ashley and I stopped to decide which corral we wanted to join (we could start further back but not further ahead), dad kept walking toward the back and we didn’t see him again until we got to mile 20. We maneuvered our way into our corral and walked up to the front of it. By this time, the corrals were all merging together but we saw a few pace groups sporadically placed throughout the area. We lined up behind the 4:55 pace group and waited with them until we heard the start of the second corral. We were so far back that we hardly heard the beginning of the actual race (wave 1). At 8:00 we heard the announcement that wave 2 had begun.



Several minutes after wave 2 started, we caught a glimpse of the start line. By this time everyone around us seemed to be warming up as quickly as we were. The sun was shining and despite the cloudy forecast, I couldn’t see a cloud in the sky. The start line still seemed so far away, but with all the weeks of training I had put in, I realized this was it…it’s finally time to run 26.2 miles with 44,999 of my closest friends….

As we inched to the start line I realized I needed to go ahead and put my phone away. Stop taking pictures. I remembered my friend Amy’s instructions before the 2012 Indy Mini Marathon. “You’re here to run a race, not to take photos.” While I took the advice and put my phone away. However, I knew she would be proud of me for running this marathon, and if I wanted to take photos I was going to take photos. :)

As the crowd moved up a few more steps, I realized we were next! The announcer said a few things to motivate all of us, and before I knew it we were off. This was it…I was officially running The Chicago Marathon! The first mile came and went. Then, the second mile. It was around this point that I shed my first layer. I still had a t-shirt and another long-sleeved shirt on; two of my favorite running shirts that I did not want to discard. This race was going by faster than I realized.

At each mile I had a little something to look forward to. Prior to the race, Ashley had come up with the idea for us to each write a notecard for every mile along the way. We wrote quotes or dedicated certain miles to certain people. At first I thought the idea seemed like a little too much to worry about while we were running (my sarcastic dad even said “you’re here to run a race, not to read novels”) but it was a fun idea. We each added some motivational quotes as well as some funny quotes that helped us keep our mind off of the tough task at hand.

Mentally, I broke up the race into sections. All I had to do was run 6 miles at a time. Easy, right? Once I had finished 6 miles I could stretch a little and prepare for the next 6 miles. Mentally breaking down the race into short, manageable segments made it seem feasible. This idea of breaking down the race into segments was advice given to me by Joana in the Hendersonville Running Club. She has completed several races of all kinds, including The Ironman Triathlon in Brazil recently, so I would say she is possibly qualified to give marathon advice. :)

Although the course led runners through 29 different neighborhoods, each of the 26 miles seemed to blend together. The only miles that particularly stood out were mile 9, 12 and 20. I knew ahead of time that my college roommate, Allison, was at mile 9; that made several miles before and after mile 9 seem much easier.


I knew my mom was somewhere within the vicinity of mile 12, also. Once we passed mile 11 I began looking for her. There were hundreds of people in the area but we knew she would be around there somewhere. She was actually just before mile 13, after the Franklin Street Bridge.

We kept trucking along. At mile 16 it was time to get rid of my long sleeved shirt. I balled it up and carried it with me, preparing to throw it to Allison when I saw her at mile 20.

Side note: Our longest training run was 17 miles. We ran the old Country Music Half Marathon route, circled the Titans stadium and ran back to Centennial Park to get in all 17. We had several breaks (crossing streets, stretching, water breaks, etc.) during the training run, but it took four hours to do. During the marathon, we had completed 20 miles at the 4 hour mark.

Mile 20: We missed seeing Allison somehow, so I carried my shirt six more miles to the finish line. At this time, we did see someone else we weren't expecting to see.


We were on track to have a really good finish time, but with some personal issues I was dealing with, and with the awful blisters Ashley was developing between her toes, we decided to slow down and just focus on finishing even if it took all of the allowed time (6 hours and 30 minutes). We realized we were going to finish, and we were both ecstatic. I don’t remember at what point we realized we were going to finish, but I do remember that when Ashley looked at me and said, “we are really going to do this. We are going to finish a marathon!” I almost lost it.

Mile 23. We turned on to Michigan Avenue. We were almost there! The weather was perfect, the people were still supportive (as they were at every mile), and every step was another step closer to the finish line. At mile 24, we came across the #OWNCHICAGO figures that were at the expo. I found our messages rather quickly (hers is on her right forearm - AG 26.2).


Mile 25… and finally, 26. As we headed up and over the bridge on Roosevelt Road, we pulled out our cards for mile 26. Mine was for our running partner Debbie, because despite the number of miles we have left, she always has one answer: we're almost there!

One more turn. The finish line! I could see it! I expected to see a lot of people surrounding the finish line, but there were only staff members. We did it, we crossed the finish line! Immediately, our friend Rita met us at the finish line. She had been working the medical tent and what I didn’t know is that she had finished working over an hour before we finished, but she stuck around to wait for us.

We walked, slowly, through the finishers’ area where they had blankets for us, goodie bags and beer!

My dad finished just two minutes behind us. We wobbled over to the hotel where my mom, brother and some friends were waiting for us.

We did it!




My First Triathlon
Jan 24, 2015 by Brianna Nightingale

Everyone has a story of how they got started...well here is mine:


It was 1997 and I was a week away from turning 13. I cannot recall the exact temperature but from what I do remember, it was a comfortable, sunny day and I felt honored that my dad was allowing me to do a triathlon with him. I had done plenty of swimming and biking despite my young age, but not a whole lot of running unless it was to chase after something. Either way, I was fresh and full of energy. I made it through the race and finished a few minutes before my dad. A few weeks after the race I received a medal in the mail. As it turns out, I had won a medal for getting first place in the 12 and under age group. “What did you get, dad?” He still remembers my obnoxious question. I won something and I was proud of it.


Fast forward 16 years and there I was, preparing to do another triathlon. The opportunity was handed to me two days before race day. Ashley was in charge of setting everything out the night before our race. I was nervous enough; the last thing I needed was to forget something that was essential to my getting through the day. I did pay attention to what she did, though; she broke it down into sports. I’ll try to remember everything we had that day. There is a list in the triathlon book I am reading but it has a few extra items I am unable to identify so they were clearly not necessary. :)


Before the race:

-Tri-suit (or swim suit)

-Flip flops

-Sweatshirt and sweatpants (because it was 45 degrees)

-Water bottle Swim:


-Swim cap






-Sweatshirt (because it was 50 degrees)


-Water bottle

-Bike shorts if not wearing a tri suit





Optional: some people will want to wear their watches as well… I on the other hand don’t have one nor do I think I need one since I seem to do just fine without. Be sure to have air in your bike tires as well…get the bike ready a day or two in advance. I felt (and slept) better knowing that someone else had prepared everything for me so I didn’t have to worry or risk forgetting something. The morning of the race was fairly easy since everything had been laid out the night before. We arrived at the state park about 30 minutes before bikes had to be in transition, then set our bikes where they needed to be. We set everything out according to the order in which we would complete each sport. I had the honor of wearing a brand new tri suit so I didn’t have to worry about wearing a swim suit and dealing with bike shorts later. I wore my flip flops and long sleeves/pants to the race, I put my socks in my running shoes (I bike in my running shoes), my sunglasses with my helmet and my towel in front for easy access. My hat was in back so I could grab it before I started running.


A few minutes before 8:00 we left our warm clothes and headed over to the pool area (because it was freezing, so getting in the pool sounds like the logical thing to do). By this time it was still about 50 degrees out, not much of a breeze which was nice, but we were standing on the concrete around the pool which caused our feet to be numb after about 15 minutes. The race director asked us to line up in numerical order, made a few announcements and let us know that we would be starting about 3 seconds after the swimmer in front of us.  Six to ten people would stand in the water at a time, waiting for their turn to start the swim. The director also mentioned that we were allowed to move back in line but not forward. Since Ashley and I were 100 numbers apart, she moved back and started around 210 since I was 216. This way we would finish swimming closer to each other and possibly be able to do the rest of the race together. As I stood on the pool deck (concrete) I tried to keep my blood circulating by moving my feet a bit. It didn’t work too well since the concrete was so cold, but it made me feel better knowing I was doing what I could to warm up a little. 20140527-120217-43337634.jpg

As we inched closer to the pool, I realized this was it. I really had to do this. I had heard people saying earlier that the pool water felt decent since it was warmer than the outside temperature, so I had my hopes up. The tall, athletic-looking woman directly in front of me in line was covered in goose bumps as she told me that she had recently become a triathlete. She said her main passion is biking but she had recently picked up swimming. She said she ran only when she had to. This gave me the feeling that I may catch her during the swim, but since this was my first time swimming with others in several years, I had hoped she would be fast and I wouldn’t have to worry about passing her.


It was time to get in. I tried not to think about it too much; all I had going through my head was that there were hundreds of other people doing this also, and they all seemed to be fine, so I shouldn’t have any trouble. I eased my way into the water.

Every three seconds, another swimmer took off.  I moved up in line as I waited for my turn. I got about half of my body under water and tried to get used to it. The lady in front of me took off; I waited for them to say “216….go.” I went under water and pushed off the wall with both feet. The water was certainly cold but still not unbearable, or so I thought. I made it down to the end of the pool. I just had to do that three more times. Breathing was quickly becoming difficult and I had to breathe every two strokes rather than every three as I usually do. My oxygen level was so low that I started to hyperventilate. I quickly convinced myself that I was okay and I just needed to keep moving even if I had to slow down. How had everyone else made this look so easy while I was watching from the side? I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was breathing that way because I was freezing or if it was due to nerves. Maybe both. Either way, I got through it somehow and finished my swim. I walked a few steps before I started running (slowly) to transition. Once I got to the area where my bike was waiting, I dried off quickly and started layering; sweatshirt, socks and shoes, helmet and sunglasses. I headed out for my 10 mile bike ride. It was a slightly hilly 5 mile loop that we had to repeat.

My body would not warm up. My hands and feet were extremely cold and uncomfortable and I still had a hard time breathing. As I finished my second loop, I dismounted before the green line as instructed. Although I knew every second counted, I was too cold and stiff to run. I walked my bike over to my place in transition and took my helmet off. I proudly put on my “Da Bears” hat, slowly worked my way into a jog as I merged through the transition exit and headed out for the third and final part of the race. Running was hard. My legs were stiff and my feet were in pain since they were so cold and still wet. I walked/jogged through the two miles and tried my best to just get through it.


The good thing is that it wasn’t a dull course and there were plenty of other triathletes suffering around me! The run was a loop also, mostly through the campground area of the state park, so the scenery was pretty and there were plenty of people around. As I ran up the very last hill, with about 200 m left, a lady heading out on her run yelled for the man beside me and said “great job, dad!” This made me think of all the races I have done with my dad and how encouraging it is that he does races with me! It was exactly what I needed to get through the last bit of the run. I made it up the last hill, turned toward the finish and made it through!

20140527-120711-43631372.jpg It felt so good to stop running but it only took about 30 seconds before I was immediately freezing. None of the finishers were able to get into the transition area yet since the last runner had not gone out of there. I was so cold that I had a hard time eating the food they had out for the triathletes. We were offered drinks that I was too cold to hold. I figured out a place to set a drink, however, when I found out we each received two cans of Rammer Jammer, an Alabama beer that I quickly fell in love with.

Although I put up a big fight when I was originally asked to do this triathlon, I have to say I am very happy that the opportunity to do this race was placed in my lap. I had a hard time due to the lack of training and the bitter cold temperatures, but once I was finished (and warm), I realized how much I had enjoyed it. I couldn’t wait to see the results and photos, and I couldn’t wait to hang up my finisher’s medal at home because I was proud of my accomplishment even though I didn’t win anything for my age group this time. :)



Brianna's Fundraising Page
Jan 23, 2015



By participating as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) TNT, I am raising funds to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.


This cause is near and dear to me for many reasons, but most importantly because of two of my family members. I'll never forget the day in 1998; we were all gathered around the kitchen table at my grandma's house and my cousin Beth was working on her homework. She asked "how do you spell Leukemia?" It was just a short time after that when she was diagnosed with the awful disease.


My grandma, who is not only very special to me, but has also touched the lives of so many of my family members and friends, has Lymphoma. She has undergone two exhausting chemotherapy treatments and despite the blood disease that affects her daily life, still sits at the top of the list of people with a positive attitude in my life.


Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immnuotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. Every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these.


Please make a donation in support of my efforts with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers.  It takes more than one person to make up a team and that’s why I’m asking you to donate to my TNT fundraising page! Thank you for stopping by!


Please also remember to stop by Ashley's page as well, and check out the t-shirts (new link coming soon) she has designed (all proceeds will go to TNT). She and my dad got me started on this triathlon stuff so I have them to thank. :)


Supporter Comments

    "Glad you are doing this. It's an important cause. "

    Carol Nightingale

    Sun Dec 07 12:09:25 EST 2014

    "Good luck in your triathlon. This is a cause that is very dear to me. "

    June Garand

    Sun Dec 07 07:33:22 EST 2014

    "it is an honor to donate to this cause!"

    Debra watts

    Sat Jan 24 10:55:43 EST 2015

My Fundraising Total

Raised: $841.50 | Goal: $1,800.00
47 %

Make a Donation

We are sorry donations are no longer being accepted for this participant for this event.

In Honor of

Grandma & Beth

My Thanks To

McLanahan $291.50
Gerene Meyer $100.00
Carol Nightingale $100.00
Ann Cook $75.00
Debra watts $50.00
June Garand $50.00
Nancy Pederson $50.00
Pat Randall $50.00
Pat Johnston