The Bank of America Chicago Marathon, one of the world marathon majors, took place on October 12, 2014.
I was attending as a spectator. Why was I not running? The race takes place during Hawkeye football season, with the lottery registration opening before game times are announced, it didn’t make sense. The logistics of picking of a packet at the expo were not feasible. Yes, I chose my Hawkeyes over running.
However my BRF (Best Running Friend) Laura, entered the lottery and got in. How exciting!!! Planning to attend as a spectator, commenced.
As the big day grew near, more and more people I knew were running. How was I going to cheer for them all? Enter Bibrave – they hosted a cheer station at mile 11.5. I could tell everyone where to find me and their sign. I know how excited you are when you see a familiar face on the race course.
On Saturday, before the race I cheered my Hawkeyes to victory over the Indiana Hosiers. The weather was perfect for an outdoor event, we were hoping it would be the same for the race. Lots of twitter banter in the days leading up to the race about the weather, it could have been cold and rainy, heck anything is possible in Chicago in October.
Josh and I said our goodbyes to the Hawkeye crew, loaded up the race signs and pointed the car east, headed for Chicago. We arrived about 9pm, checked into our hotel, met with fellow cheer squad member and (BFF) Kate. After some spectating carb-o-loading, we hit the hay.
We woke early to discover the continental breakfast was already set up at 6:30 for racers. (We stayed at the Kinzie, I would recommend this hotel) Kate, Josh and I were off to find Laura. She was already downtown. We spotted Laura and her main squeeze, Tom, on Michigan Ave. She had a smile on her face. The weather was shaping up to be perfect for marathon running.
After a round of high fives and good lucks, Laura was off to enter her starting corral. The starting area was restricted to spectators. Josh, Kate, Tom & I went back to the hotel, grabbed the bag of signs and the bag of cheering goods. On our trek back we noticed all the trash cans on the route were locked up. Kate and Tom departed the hotel, which was on the race course, and went to mile 3 to spot Laura. Josh and I were on our way to mile 11.5 to join the BibRave cheer squad.
It was only about a 15 min walk from the hotel, however we didn’t plan very well. After loading the marathon app, looking at the logistics, we forgot one important thing, crossing the race course. I was not very happy, it was already 8 am, the time I was to be at the cheer spot. So we back tracked the course, looking for an opportunity to cross, and we made a break for it.
We hoofed it through some alley, as the sidewalks on the other side of the race course were blocked because of the water / gatorade stops. A great tip as a spectator, wear your running gear, if you are tracking a runner you have to get to the next cheer spot quick. Also wear something runners can spot you in, have a giant sign, balloon or sparkle skirt.
We made it to the mile 11.5 cheer station just in time to see the wheel chair racers pass by, always inspirational. The elites started just before 7:30 am, they rolled by the station with a race time of 55 minutes, they are fast! After they passed, it was game on! There were also other Bibrave Pro’s, twitter personalities at the spot, I wish I had a chance to meet them all. There were also donuts and coffee!
My race strategy was to follow my runners via the tracking system, I had text, twitter and the phone app. This wasn’t going to work, I had 18 race signs, a cowbell to ring and a camera. I gave Josh my phone and he was on tracking duty, the race has 46,000 runners, this was going to be fun.
As more runners started to pass, I saw the first person I know, Phil Young from my local running store, Running Wild, DAMN! He was fast! Then the Bibrave runners started to pass the station, Tim, Julia, Jess…trying to keep up with the signs, photos, tracking….it was hard. Bibrave Pro Heather was cowbelling near us, she thought she saw Kristen.
The amount of runners passing the cheer stop was growing, the crowd was thicker. Josh was doing his best tracking, so he just started holding up signs hoping we would see the next group…However we did not see Chad or Erica. I had 2 signs in my hand, Krissy, which I didn’t see, and Paul…woohoo! I saw him, he gave me a hug, he was looking speedy! We then moved to holding up our signs for Becca & Rachel. The racing group was so large, we didn’t see them either.
I had many more signs to share, but I couldn’t keep up. so we shifted our focus to just cheering. In the mean time the Bibrave flag had to move on. Heather, her mother, Josh and I stayed. I pulled out my “Free High Fives” sign. Josh grabbed the cowbell. There was also this weird cone and parking block thing near our area, Josh became a course marshal and warned runners of the hazard.
Unexpectedly Sarah showed up, she was kickin ass, and we handed her a requested Snickers bar. Sadly we didn’t have her race sign ready either.
Tom and Kate showed up with the “smoke ’em Such” Sign, just in time to catch Laura, fly by, still smiling. I continued to shout “Way to Go Runners!” “Lookin Good” “You Got this!” “Go You!” While slapping high fives. I refuse to ever say “this is the last hill” or “you are almost done!” I also like the racers who put their names on their shirts, they all got a personal shout out.
At this time, the sun was shining, it was 50 degrees, perfect! Then I saw a familiar face, Lisa from Iowa, she gave me a high five and carried on. I wish I had her sign out. Then another familiar face, Stephanie, she is on a quest, marathonpalooza. She is doing Chicago, Marine Corps and the NY marathon. She is also from Florida and not ready for the “cold.” We handed her the pickles she requested, and took a photo. (Starbucks always gets her name wrong) She then left with a smile.
We double checked with one another, we thought everyone we knew had passed. Then I remembered all the snacks I had for the runners, which I had no time to share as the people we knew passed (sorry Paul, didn’t get you your Swedish fish) I had tins, we dumped the Snickers, gummi bears and fish into them. I also had Clif Shot bloks.
OH MY, the runners flocked over, the Snickers were gone in 2 minutes. They were so appreciative.
I had also packed an extra trash bag, we thought it was time to move on and try to catch Laura at the finish. We cleaned up our spot. Gave a homeless man the extra coffee and were en route to the finish.
In the mean time Tom and Kate were on a tour of Chicago, catching Laura at random spots along the course, most of which she never saw them, guess she was in the zone. Kate and Tom also stopped at some random street fair for tacos, I am still mad they didn’t get me one.
After some texts, Heather, her mom, Josh and I met Kate and Tom. We were now near mile 26. Heather and her mom had to get going, so we said our goodbyes, (you can read Heather’s thoughts about the day) and went to find a less crowded spot to see Laura. The finishing area was restricted to spectators.
We spotted Laura one last time, we screamed, and cowbelled, finally she saw us. She was moving well. After snapping some photos, we moved to the “mile 27” after party to find her at the meeting spot “S”
Michigan Ave was crowded at this point, but we made it the additional 5 blocks or however long it was to the meeting spot. The after party area was crowded, almost claustrophobic, but there was music and beer. We found Laura and learned she had PR’d the marathon by about 20 some minutes, she was also still standing and smiling!
What a day! As a 6 time marathoner, I can say I would rather run the race, than spectate. All the logistics that go into tracking and following your runner is hard work. There is no course mapped for you. Deciding when to put up a sign, when to take a photo, when to check your phone. I even stayed in one place for 3 hours. I also received many thank you’s, to which I say “You are welcome!”
With that being said, there is nothing more inspirational than watching people accomplish what they set out to do, especially if that thing is something you are passionate about. Congratulations to everyone who took part in the marathon.
Also if you want to tell others about your race experience you can always write a review at bibrave.com