Race review: Chicago Marathon, WMM #3

Friday, November 24, 2017

Kit lay before the race.  Thanks to my husband for the card.

This year was the 40th anniversary race of the Chicago Marathon who took part in the first weekend of October.  There was a big opening ceremony with the press as the expo opened, featuring some of the more famous participants of the race over the years.  I met one of the eight men (pictured below) who has run them all, who said to start off slow.  While waiting in the start pen, I learned there was a lot of security because of the recent Las Vegas shooting which was a bit sad to think about- how we live in a day and age where that needs to be a consideration.

The eight gentlemen who have ran every Chicago Marathon.

Race entry and fees:
 There is a ballot entry, along with charity places, legacy finishers and time qualifier (good for age).  In 2018, it will be $195 for US residents and $220 for non-US residents.  I feel very lucky to have won a ballot for my first and third World Marathon Majors (WMM) so far.  Direct flights to Chicago are mid-price.  As I added a stop in Houston to my trip, mine were a bit more.  I also was lucky enough to stay with friends in the suburbs which allowed me to save a lot of money during my one week stay in Chicago.  There are hostels local to the start line though if you plan ahead (or wait till the week before the race for people to cancel, we learned).  I arrived Wednesday to allow my body to adjust to the time difference but it didn't seem to be too much of a problem.
Obligatory bib shot at the expo

Course and bogs:
 The course travels through 29 neighbourhoods in 26 miles of the race.  I really enjoyed Mexican part of town as it was one big party with lots of fun music.  There were lots of bands long the way too with varying genres of music.  The portal loos were deserted at 6:30am in the morning but as my pen time approached at 8|:30am, the line was probably the longest I have ever waited in for a race.  Along the way, loos were available at some of the drink stations but I only used them once (big improvement from Berlin)  There were 20 aid stations long the way, some with medical tents and/or Gatorade.  I was pleased to find the aid stations were not bottlenecks along the race route.  They were so long, as well as on both side of the road, that I was able to keep a constant pace.  To compensate for the warmer temps, wet sponges were distributed at a few points, along with fire trucks and sprinklers offering mist across the road for runners to cool down.

6|:30am portaloos without a line

Come start time, the lines were the longest I have every been in

Location: 
Throughout the "Windy City" in the midwest of the United States.  The city is easily accessible by most major airlines.

Such a cool display to get the runners going in the early morning.

Atmosphere:
I love Americans.  They are excited to be there and cheer for the runners.  There was rarely a lull in spectators along the course.  Signs were in abundance and made me chuckle.  Favourites included 'You are running better than our government" and "Make America chaff again". People were also handing out candy, donuts, pretzels and beer.  I even heard someone say "Who shows up to watch a marathon for four hours and doesn't bring beer?"

Custom sign from my friend, Pattie, who flew in from Atlanta for the weekend

Race bling and goody bags:  I might be a bit biased, but the medal is pretty cool as it means I am 1/2 way through my WMM quest.  Goody bags had various drinks and snacks.  Everyone got a free Goose Island beer too at the finish.  Unfortunately, I don't drink beer but I took one to share with friends or fellow finishers.  No one was up for it though so I ended up throwing it away.

So happy to be done
Tips if you want to take part next time:  I did a lot of research before the race to look for other tips.  The best one I read was that the GPS get confused in the city because of the tall buildings.  The suggestion was to keep track of miles as "laps" for your mile splits.  I found this a good distraction tool but did miss the mile marker a few times.   As I have found for many of these big races, there isn't a need to carry water as the aid stations are so frequent.  I decided to wear my Osprey Duro rucksack to keep a small amount of water on hand in the heat.  I sipped it along the way and took Gatorade on board at the aid sessions where I could.

Halfway there!

I highly recommend you to do the 5k the day before the marathon.  It was a lot of fun and can be something to do with your friends and family who are in Chicago with you but not taking part in the marathon.  After the race, there is an awkward/stiff walk to the park where you can get a free massage at the after party.  If you tend to be stiff after a race, let me warn you that the walk is long to get there.  It is worth it though as you walk by the picturesque fountain and there was hardly a wait line.  Plus the massage feels so good after your efforts on the course.   I didn't stay for the party in the park because we had dinner plans but it didn't seem too busy.

Line to enter the massage tent

Finally, the weather is unpredictable for that time of year so be prepared to give up a PB (PR) if it is hot outside.  I know it sucks, but you need to take care of you.

Start of the 5K with friends
I want to say thank you to my friends, Pattie, Lisa and Mel who came to Chiacago for the weekend.  Also, big thanks to Christian, Leigh, Mia and Moo for allowing me to move in for week and for a fabulous celebratory dinner.  It was so good to be back in my homeland.  I was lucky enough to earn three medals and a belt buckle in eight days in two different states.  It is a trip I will never forget.

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