There were actually six of us running from our little informal group in River Forest / Oak Park, and fellow rookie Russ and I decided to 'take it easy' and just 'go for a long run'. I ended up with a fairly even pace between 7:45 and 8:10, averaging 7:57 for a total of 3:28:24, or a few seconds faster than my very first marathon in Chicago. Which is quite pleasant, given the conditions, and the hillier course. The race went pretty well for all six us, which is nice too. Given how we trained together, it is neat how we all ended up within seven minutes of each other.
The race itself is quite stunning. With the required qualifying time comes a 'seeding' system for the start, so one tends to run most of the course with runners of fairly similar speed. That made for nice cameraderie on the course -- and for beautiful sights of nothing but runners rolling through the hills of Massachusetts. I think I'll be back next year.