Wow! What a weekend and what a fantastic race. This was my third major and second in two weeks. It was also my favourite by a long way! Firstly, Chicago is an incredible city. The people (Mid-Westerns’ are a lot more laid back than New Yorkers who have that London unfriendliness about them), the back drop of the city by the lake and rivers and the epic archicture all make for a diverse, friendly and stunning city.
I went to the expo on the Friday via a free shuttle bus from the Nike store on Michigan Avenue. These expo’s are all the same in terms of brands flogging their stuff and I’m proud to say I only parted with $12! I do like the atmosphere and pre-race buzz though. No queues and slick organisation made for a nice and speedy experience though.
Race day couldn’t come soon enough for me. I’d recovered well from Berlin marathon two weeks earlier and wanted to better my time of 3:07 and hopefully get a Boston qualifier.
This race isn’t cheap, over $200 if I recall rightly. But then it is a world major. The organisation and communication is brilliant and with over 12,000 volunteers, you’re well looked after. It’s a very early start though, race itself starts at 7:30am. with security and bag-drop, I made sure I arrived for 6am. This was plenty of time and I didn’t experience any long line ups which others had. I made my way to corral B in leaisurely fashion and felt relaxed and ready! Make sure to wear throw away warm clothes as it’s freezing at that time of day. I had a hoody and sweat pants which I chucked on the charity pile just before the start.
After a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, we were away! The whole route is well lined with raucous spectators making plenty of noise. This was great and so encouraging. Running through the city and the different neighbourhoods was brilliant. I found it a really interesting route and the support really does carry you along. Aid stations were every mile and had a mix of water or Gatorade. The last few stations had fruit. I made sure to take on plenty of water, a mistake from Berlin corrected.
GPS isn’t good in the city due to tunnels and the sky-scrapers. I relied on the old fashioned way of mile markers and splits written on my arm for pacing. Surprisingly, I ran one of the tightest splits I’ve done, every 5k was just one or two seconds apart.
With the crowd support I was feeling great and really strong all the way, pacing and fuel was spot on and I finished the race feeling brilliant and getting the BQ and a PB in 3:03:29. I was over the moon! It was the perfect race and my best marathon experience to date.
At the finish line, we were presented with our quality medal, fruit, protein bars, water and beer! The atmosphere was electric in the mid-morning sun.
The only slight gripe was the long line up to retrieve my bag with warm clothes! Fortunately it was sunny but it was cold and people were starting feel the effects. Once I retrieved my bag, I went to the after-race area and enjoyed another beer, listened to the music and took in the atmosphere, which was like a party. That night we went out to celebrate as he city was flooded with Marathon finishers. This was a phenomenal trip and a great race. If you ever get the chance to do it, don’t worry about the cost, do all you can to experience it and you’ll have memories that last a lifetime!