Chicago Marathon 2015

Sunday October 11, 2015. 7:30/8:00 am. Windy, Sunny. Race start in the 60’s ending at about 80 degrees.


Registration: The Chicago Marathon is a HUGE event, over 45,000 runners, unless you have a qualifying time or are running for charity, you need to enter a lottery and be chosen to run. If you are chosen, you are notified by email, and then given some time to decide if you want to run. The cost is $185, all done online. Included is a bib, chip timing, short sleeve gender specific tech shirt, post race beer, and post race “party”.

Gone are the days you bring your money on race day, sign up and run.

Expo/Packet Pick up: This event was held at McCormick Center, which is not easy to get to on foot. There is parking, but for a fee, and validated to around $10. Many shuttles around town provided to get there, or public transit was available.

  • Packet Pick up – only the participant could get the bib. No one else, no mailing options. Volunteers directed you to a person scanning your mailer or an email, which brought up your information on a screen/tablet. From there you were directed to a numbered station. At this station the volunteer already had a screen up with your information and the envelope with your bib.
  • Shirts – To get your shirt you had to then walk to the back of the expo space, but easy to navigate as there were signs posted overhead. The shirts were organized by gender, then size, a scan of the bib envelope, and you were given a shirt, in your clear gear check bag.
  • Virtual Bag – a few days before an email was sent to each participant as the virtual event bag, allowing you to claim offers and discounts.
  • Vendors – anything and everything. Sign up for races, spin the wheel for items, sign up for items, purchase shoes or race apparel, buy last minute fueling things, take photos, meet people, commemorative merchandise, posters, freebies. The place had it all. Plan for a an entire day to check everything out.
  • Volunteers – there were tons of volunteers, all very happy and eager to help.

Josh and I were on a whirlwind weekend, more about that later. However we didn’t have much time to spend at the expo, If I do this again, I will plan to check things out. We wish that packet mailing was an option, as we had to drive in just to grab our packet. Picking up our packet was the easy part. We were able to meet with Celeste & Dan with Motigo, Patrick with the Hot Chocolate race, and of course BRP Heather was there and her mom Marge. Also signed up for a chance to win a Grandma’s Marathon prize pack.


Pre-Race: The race is so huge that not only are there corrals, but there are 2 waves at the start. To get to each corral there are 3 entrances, and everyone has to pass through a security check point. Runners are encouraged to get to their corrals on time, otherwise they will be closed, and you have to start at the back of the corral. An each corral, volunteers were checking bibs. Three gear check tents were available, corresponding to bib numbers. Before the first start, the National Anthem is sung live. Once the race was over, there were announcements, and music over the loud speaker. Then each corral in the first wave goes, then the second wave corrals start. There were lots of port-o-potties around the start, but there were long lines. Parking was available, but it’s Chicago, nothing close, and nothing free, public transit encouraged.

Also each participant was kept in the loop with this race, lots of emails leading up to race day.

If you are in the first 3 corrals, great, you don’t have to hurry up an wait. You get to start running the race. However I was in Corral H, nothing wrong with that, it just takes a long time to start. I believe I started somewhere near 8:40 ish, which is an entire hour plus later. Which is also that much more time on my feet, standing around in the corral. Also, the corral entrances had bib check security, this did nothing for people just opening fences and getting into the corrals, especially for those who weren’t running. I am not sure this kind of thing happens in the fast corrals, but seems like a lot of people, just moving in and out in the back of the pack. It was also a cool start, so I brought a throw away shirt to stay warm, others did this as well, but instead of throw to the side, lots of clothing items were tripped upon on the way to the start. I also understand with so many runners, this is how the start has to be, so how about we start at 6:30 then, and just keep people moving.


I was also able to meet up with Paul, from NC, who I have been helping raise money with my headbands. Then of course I met Heather.


Race/Course: The marathon goes through 29 some neighborhoods on the streets of Chicago. First traveling north and back, then west and back to the south, to finish back where we all started.

  • Surface – Pavement or asphalt, lots of hard cement!!! Had to keep an eye to the ground, some potholes, or railroad tracks, places to trip you up, uneven areas.
  • Elevation – flat, ok there are some hills, like crossing bridges or going under overpasses, but no steep climbs.
  • Volunteers – lots of friendly volunteers of all ages, most were at the aid stations.
  • Medical – near almost every aid area there was a medical tent, near this there were cardboard Vaseline stops.
  • Aid Stations – These were almost 2 blocks long, paper cups with lemon-lime Gatorade first, then different paper cups with water. Up until about half way it was hydration only, then the later stops had some gels. Finally by mile 20 there were bananas. 2 stops with wet sponges. Spectators with make-shift aid, candy, pretzels, beer, etc.
  • Spectators – the entire course is lined with spectators. Some only looking for their runners or pre occupied on their phones. Lots of great signs & cowbells. Some spectators with food.
  • Photographers – MarathonFoto on course, stationed in many spots.
  • Course Markings – Each mile was marked, each marker had a clock. There is also the blue line, or the tangent line, which marks the entire course.
  • Bathroom – port-o-potties on course, each time I saw one there was a long line. One church had a sign opening bathrooms to runners. Some medical stops had bathrooms for medical staff only.
  • Scenery – City-scape, tall buildings, architecture, neighborhoods, US Cellular Field.
  • Timing – there was a mylaps strip on the back of each runner’s bib. There were mats on the course for runner’s to be tracked.
  • Course limit was 6 hours and 30 minutes.
  • The temperature was rising to close to 80, and there wasn’t a lot of shade on the course, unless provided my a tall building, which wasn’t a lot near the end.

Capture chi

I struggled with this race, for one it’s all pavement, and I had just done a trail 50k, the cement attacked my feet, which were in so much pain at the end. It was also pushing 80 degrees when I finished, which also isn’t good on a course with not much shade. Or maybe it was too flat and my muscles needed to have some climb or something that the constant pounding on the flat pavement. I wasn’t undertrained, I wasn’t well rested.

I had problems with my Garmin, I hit start, and due to who knows what, the first mile buzzed after 5 mins, which was not a mile, then the second mile at 7 minutes. At 2 miles, I reset the watch, it was still doing it, but I kept it on. It was throwing me off. I was then using the mile marker clocks to estimate time and pace.

I was basically running alone which is fine, and I knew where one person would be throughout the course, I was happy when I ran into Marge, Heather’s mom. However I struggled with the spectators, I had a logo on my tank and my hat, which makes it easy for people to shout and yell, yet I think I had one or 2 special shout outs. There were so many spectators on their phones, or only cheering for the runner they were tracking. Also this could be just my weird thoughts, or the placement I was in the race. Yes the course is lined with spectators, but it’s like they could only clap for who they knew. Maybe I excpeted more as I was a spectator last year and had a blast. However, it seemed at the end, when my feet were toast, and I was walking, then they were concerned, or felt the need to pick me up.  I liked that, but I knew the problem and knew I would finish, there was no doubt. ( I also know that everyone experiences a different race, I’ve heard others who didn’t have issues with this)

ATTN other runners, lets learn something, DO NOT STOP in the center of the course!!! Please go to the side and raise your hand. So many just randomly stopping or walking in the center. There are too many people for this to happen. Oh and the stopping to take photos with your spectators, then posing in the race course, ahh have some respect for those that are moving. Only once did I hear a volunteer tell a texter to move to the side. 

Also wasn’t sure why spectators were on the tangent line in some spots.

There are a lack of port-o-potties on course. With the long wait in the corrals, by the time we were at the first underpass, the sides were lined with men peeing. I am not stranger to this at a race, but usually there is a tree line, not the cement. Then at every toilet stop, until about mile 14, there was a crazy long line.

The volunteers are awesome, at the last aid stops, there were many announcements about keeping hydrated, to take that drink. The race organization itself is top notch, just some people are stupid. 

Even though I struggled with people on the course, I do want to thank everyone that cheered me on virtually/social media. Whether it was a good luck on twitter, a message through facebook, or your song suggestion for my play list (which I used as needed, as you could run the course with no music) I felt all of you as I ran through Chicago, THANK YOU!

Finish/Post Race: The finish was marked with a “Finish” banner above the street, lots of photographers and a timing mat. Once across the line, participants were handed a bottle of water, then after some more walking, a medal was hung around your neck. The medal has an image of runners with the “bean” in the background, there are no words on the ribbon.

Then after some more walking, a bag with some post race pre packaged snacks. Then a heat sheet, even though it was about 80 degrees. Then after some more walking, a banana (choice of one already peeled, or one sealed) Then a 312, draft beer, no ticket required. Then a wet towel. Then some walking and bags of ice. The last tent had some Gatorade post fuel stuff.

Then after about another half mile,passing by a bank of port-o-potties, a flight of stairs, you had arrived at the “post race party” and family meeting area. There were tents with giveaways, medical rents, information tents, lettered signs for post race meet up, rolling, post race massage, 312 beer (first free with ticket, then available for purchase) a band, banks of port-o-potties. There were no shade tents, unless you were a charity runner. There were security to get into the area and security posts throughout.


I finished in 5:13:16, I was aiming for 5 hours, but my feet and the heat got the best of me.

By this time, my feet were in so much pain, I just wanted to be done moving. The walk to the finish party was insanely long. On my way I saw fellow BRP Laura, who had finished, but wasn’t feeling to good, I was just happy to not be moving while we chatted.  The flight of stairs was almost a joke at this point, I just wanted to sit down and put my feet on the bag of melting ice I had in one hand. I was also excited to reunite with Josh at the “M” sign. I was happy I already had a cold 312 in one hand, maybe that is how I powered through this LONG walk.

I made it to the “M” sign and met with Josh, who had an amazing race and set a PR. I immediatly untied my shoes and put my feet on ice, relief!. I was glad I got the heat sheet to sit on, as the picnic tables were limited. Nothing like sitting on the ground after a marathon. I was also using my cold towel to provide some shade. We sat and did nothing, maybe even dozed off. We were in contact with Marge, and she told us about Heather. We  waited for her to finish.

It was 3:30 they kicked us out of the party, the band stopped playing music at 3. We made our way out, grabbing some freebies, and searching for water, which wasn’t easy. We were concerned about Heather as the heat bothered her and the official finishing time was over.  We made it back to the finisher area, and found Heather with a medal!!! WAHOO she finished!!!! 

Overall: This is World Marathon Major, it’s a big deal race. It’s also a big race. I am glad I did this once, not sure if I would do it again. It’s pricey and the start is a hassle, if you prefer to get to a starting line and go. The race organization is top notch, and there are no major pains, just stupid people. Also I think most of my problems are just my personal preferences. I also think with my racing background, I have enough ground to base my opinions and know what I like.

*Personal: Josh and I had a busy weekend. Due to the packet pick up situation. We drove into Chicago Thursday night and stayed at an Airbnb, we had a great experience with that, and Ubered around the city. We met up with Bart Yasso Friday morning for a shake out run and coffee. We spent about and hour or so at the expo and got back in our car and came home.


There was a home Iowa football game on Saturday. After the game, we got a pizza to go, and got back in the car to get to Chicago Saturday night.


We got to Chicago by 9pm Saturday night and were ready to get a good nights sleep before the race. Well the reservation through was interesting.  The place was an apartment building, to get our key, we had to go to someone’s apartment. The old building was cool, and it was clean, but that is about it. When we got into our room there was no queen bed as promised, but 2 twin beds. After some words, and being told it was not a hotel, we tried to get some sleep. However because it was an old building no city noise was blocked out, and we were right next to the “L”. At some point we realized we did not have any extra TP in the room too. AHHH!! We had a marathon to run.


We woke up, and went to our pre-race plan, coffee and bagels, luckily there was a Dunkin around the corner. Yes the room had a 12 cup coffee pot, but who travels with coffee and filters? Anyway, we both made it to the start on time, but were sleepy.

We ran our races…. then met up with the BibRave gang for post race fun. We made it to the Goose Island Tap Room before they closed, and claimed the virtual bag glass. Then we ubered to the Haymarket Brewery, and I had some amazing fries. I was exhausted, not hungry. So much fun hanging out with others!


By the time we got back to our room, I crashed, no problems sleeping that night.

Then we took an extra day Monday so we didn’t have to rush back. The first stop was celebratory donuts at Glazed and Infused, I had heard so much about them, we had to stop. They guy also gave us free coffee!!.


We thought we would take advantage of the free medal engraving. We were planning on hitting the Fleet Feet location when they opened, but I was in search of a finisher’s pullover, so we stopped at the Nike store. This was the best thing we did. I snagged a jacket, and we got our medals engraved all before there was a line and the jackets were gone. In the 15 minutes we waited for the medals, we were invited to a lounge for some juice and bars. It was a nice event.


Before we headed out, we also wanted to claim another virtual event bag item, the small Garrett’s popcorn. Well everyone else had this idea too. There was a serious line, but it kept moving and we were on our way. Oh a small bag will last 3 days!


Will we back, I don’t know…I have spectated and ran, maybe I should volunteer next?


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