|Feeling strong at mile 10 running through|
Old Town in the 2013 Chicago Marathon (from MarathonFoto)
Total Experience ... 1 2 3 4 5
Sunday, October 13, 2013
26th Marathon Completed
Start Time: 7:30 am
Course: Probably the flattest and fastest course I've ran
Weather: Perfect - Sunny & 50 degrees, 71% humidity, 8mph NNW
SWAG: Nike short sleeve t-shirt & race poster
Race Organization: Smooth and seamless
Crowd Support: AMAZING ... cheering spectators literally lined up from start to finish
Volunteer Support: Tons of volunteers who were very helpful
Water Stops: Perfectly organized, well stocked, two blocks long, with Gatorade first and water second every time
Food: Standard post race food with "recovery box" for all finishers
Health: Perfect - strong & healthy
Conditioning: Great "23 mile shape", needed a little more at the end
Finish Time: 3:14:48 New PR and Boston Marathon Qualifying Time
Avg Pace: 7:21
Place: 2,016/39,122 Overall 315/3,577 40-44 AG
|Beautiful view of the Wrigley Building early Saturday morning along the Chicago River Walk at the corner of Walbash & Wacker|
Everyone I spoke with prior to this race raved about how great it was ... and it was exactly as advertised ... simply awesome! For a race with almost 40,000 runners, the organization and volunteer staff made you feel like everything was centered around you. All times and locations were communicated well, and you just never had a question about where to go or when to be there. There were obvious concerns about it being the largest United States race since the tragic events at the Boston Marathon earlier in the year, but everything went off without a hitch. I would highly recommend it to everyone! It was just a great experience.
Michael and I left Kansas City early Friday morning for a long weekend in Chicago. We planned on taking it easy for couple of days prior to the race, and then flying home on Monday. And for the most part that strategy worked, although we probably walked way too much ... but that's almost impossible not to do in Chicago. It's kinda like Vegas in that everything looks a lot closer than it is because it's so big. Michael's FitBit step tracker she wears told us we walked over 7 miles both days before the race on Sunday.
|2013 Chicago Marathon race poster included in our race bags at packet pick up|
We stayed at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel on the corner of Wacker and State in the downtown loop. In case you're wondering, it was $734 for three nights ... yikes! Probably appropriate for where it's located, but I'm cheap. But since we got shut out during the Chicago Marathon online registration disaster, and then again in the ridiculous post-registration make-shift lottery, we had to settle on going through Marathon Tours. At the time, it was one of the only ones left. But it was great! It was located right in the heart of downtown, a couple of blocks from Michigan Avenue, and only about a half mile from all of the race activity.
It was also right across the street from the famous Chicago Theater. The theater is a Chicago landmark and has been there since 1921. So Michael and I took quite a few pictures with it. But on Saturday night we were doing the tourist thing, and a few young adults walked by and "not so under their breath" mockingly said ... "Wow, it's a theater!" We both died laughing. Mainly because we DID look pretty touristy ... but also because it's exactly the same thing both of us would have mouthed off at that age.
|We just can't go to Chicago without hanging out at Cloud Gate AKA "The Bean" in Millennium Park|
|We like PIG BUTTS and we cannot lie. Millennium Park pig sculptures have nipples and so do I.|
|Two lovely ladies and big dork in Chicago, Michael, Theresa, & me|
Michael basically spent the rest of the day snapping pictures of her man. Don't let the big ears, half-grown beard (sorry - it's all I can sprout), balding head, and frail physique fool you. Yes, individually those things are hideous, but wrap them all up in this package and I'm pretty sure it says "Chicago Fashion Model"! I think these photos speak as evidence.
Health & Fitness Expo
On Friday when we first rolled into town, we got situated in our room, met Patrick for lunch (Michael's friend from high school), and then met up with Coy to head over the Health & Fitness Expo. The Expo was held at McCormick Place. It's a large convention center close to Soldier Field, about two miles from our hotel and was a little too far on foot. So we opted for the shorter four block walk to one of the many shuttle bus locations to catch a ride over to the event. Most marathon shuttle buses are typically local school buses, which was the case in Chicago as well. As my knees grind into the back of the seats in front of me, and I do my best not to pull a hammy by simply sitting there, I'm reminded of just how much I've grown since 3rd grade.
For a marathon hosting 40,000 runners, the Expo and packet pick up couldn't have ran more seamlessly. When you first entered the packet pick up area, we had to show ID and our race booklet that had been mailed to us weeks before. Once officials confirmed it was you, they gave us a counter number where we could pick up our bibs. At the counter, a waiting volunteer CALLED YOU BY NAME as you walked up and made you feel welcome. It was a really cool touch. Like everything else at the race, it really personalized it. They then directed you to the back of the Expo where we picked up our race bag, t-shirt, and poster. The shirt I ordered was way too small, but no worries - they even had a t-shirt exchange booth and traded it out for me - no questions asked or trouble at all!
|Me with a beautiful girl on a date in downtown Chicago|
After that we just walked around and enjoyed the expo. Besides the fact that it was massive, it was pretty much the run of the mill marathon expo. There were a million vendor booths, promo videos playing everywhere, and a ton of volunteers there answering questions about the race. I think I also saw the Chicago Bears mascot wandering around at some point too.
As usual, we took a lot of stupid photos and pretty much acted like fools. But we also took a picture in front of a Nike LED sign that when prompted by your bib, read "(your name) Owns Chicago". Kinda funny.
We also saw Dean Karnazes, but didn't wait in the long line to meet him, but met and took a picture with Scott Jurek. I've read nothing but really good things about Scott and how cool he is, and in the 5 minutes we spent with him, he seemed like a good dude. He took a few minutes to talk with everyone and seemed really genuine. I was also surprised at how big he was. He was skinny, but his frame was bigger than me. He said he tried to stick up for all of the bigger guys trying to run.
After grabbing the shuttle back to our hotel, Michael and I had a little date night at a corner sports bar called Sweetwater. Honestly, it was "just okay" - but it was nice to relax together after a busy day of traveling. We ate a nice dinner and then walked around downtown a little more before heading back to the hotel to get some rest.
|Outside our hotel before heading to the race|
I got a really good night's sleep on Saturday and felt really refreshed when the race rolled around on Sunday. I had planned all year for the Chicago Marathon to be my "A Race", and I felt strong and ready to go. I really felt like I had a fairly strong race in me, but a few doubts danced in my head because of the longer than usual taper period I had utilized for this race. But I was determined that I was gonna "sell out" for this one and whatever happened, happened.
Michael and I started our races about 30 minutes apart from each other, and at different locations in the line up. So I basically packed my bag and we said our good-byes, but kept texting until I dropped my bag at gear check. The morning air was little chilly for walking - only about 47 degrees with a slight North breeze - but it would perfect for running later. Plus, there wasn't a cloud in the dark morning sky and you could just tell it was going to be the perfect day for a marathon.
I knew there would be a lot of people heading to the starting line at the same time, but I was amazed at the shear volume of people that flooded the sidewalks, all heading in the same direction. But I was also particularly struck by the amount of added security measures around the marathon, all weekend, but especially on marathon morning. In addition to the added check points, and sealed trash cans, there were added gates and police officers everywhere.
It was probably a 15-20 minute walk from my hotel to the Gate 1 entrance. All runners who were in Corrals A-G entered through Gate 1 into the "Athlete Village". Before we got to Chicago, I was a little concerned that it would be disorganized or difficult to make your times where you needed to be. But with so many people headed in the same direction, it was pretty easy to just follow the crowds. Plus, all of the Gates, Corrals, and Gear Check areas were clearly marked and hard to miss.
|Gate 1 - one of three entry points into the starting corrals and bag drop area - you had to have a race bib past this point|
|Huge volumes of runners on race morning, but well organized and running smoothly through all of the check points|
|Almost 40,000 runners finished the race at the 2013 Chicago Marathon (photo from the Chicago Sun-Times)|
|Cool, calm, & collected at the mid point of the race|
After dropping my bag near the Buckingham Fountain at a very organized and designated by bib number gear check area, I made my way down to Starting Corral B. The corral gate closed at 7:20 am, and if you weren't inside the gate, you basically had to go down to one of the other gates and start from a position further back in the pack. I made sure I was inside my gate, but watched as many people immediately on the other side of the chain-link fence took care of their final duties ... and I mean DUTIES ... as in several bare bottomed squatted women mooning everyone about 20 feet straight ahead ... and even more Full Monty males, some literally facing the crowd taking care of their business as well. There was runner nudity everywhere! It was like a really athletic Woodstock! Just crazy! If the Port-O-Potty lines were too long to wait, they just unabashedly dropped trou right there and let it fly. Male. Female. Young. Old. It didn't matter. It was crazy, man! Just a frantic last minute potty break for about 500 runners right beside the Starting Corral.
There was literally nowhere to warm up before the race with everyone packed like sardines into the starting gates, so we all just basically did some on the spot stretching and jumping to elevate the heart rate a little. I wasn't crazy about starting the race without warming up at all, but it worked out fine. Even though I was about to run really hard, for a about three hours, I had a genuine peace before this one. I knew that if I ran a relaxed, smart race, good things would happen. And when the gun sounded, the giant pack of thousands of runners all surged forward and we were off. For some reason it was a little surreal, but we were running the Chicago Marathon!
|Getting tired and form breaking down a little|
through China Town at about mile 22
It was such a beautiful morning and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was about 49 degrees when the race started and the light North wind made it feel a little cooler lined up in the starting area. I had arm sleeves and gloves on, but quickly rolled down the sleeves at about mile two. My hands always stay really cold during a race so I ended up keeping the gloves on all day. The conditions literally couldn't have been more perfect for all the runners. And as a result, a new course record was was set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at a blazing 2:03:45 on Sunday! Along with the course record, it was also the fourth fastest marathon ever ran.
Everything about the day and the course was amazing. We ran through the sky-scrapered streets of ChiTown, enjoying all it had to offer. At times the crowds would get so large and so loud that it was like running through a deafening scream-tunnel. Once we left one unique section of the city, we would enter another equally fascinating neighborhood. From Old Town to Wrigleyville. From Greek Town to Linkin Park. From China Town to Pilsen. It was all amazing. And there spectators at every turn. Chicago's finest did a great job of holding the crowds back so the streets didn't get too narrow as runners passed. We ran by as their outstretched arms held back the masses like teens trying to get a look at the Beetles. It just felt like a really big deal to be running the race.
|Fighting it at 25 & 26 ... but holding on for a PR & BQ ... Relax, that's just sweat|
All of the water stops were literally about two city blocks long with Gatorade first, and then water next, on both sides of the street. Some of the later stops had bananas in between. And in a couple of locations there were GU gels before you got to the water stations. Even though this race featured an unusually high number of runners, there was simply no bottle necking at the stops. You could literally run through every stop without slowing or breaking pace much at all. And as with everything else during the weekend, they ran smoothly. The water stops were a thing of perfection.
Even though the start of the race was pretty bunched up, we quickly spread out and there was room to maintain your pace. I'm a notoriously slow starter, so I spent some time dodging and darting around runners, which added about a quarter mile to my race. But that was completely my fault due to the slow start. There was plenty of room to run your planned race and keep the pace you trained for. The large crowds didn't slow me down.
|So tired ... but relieved and satisfied with a new PR & BQ after the race in front of the Buckingham Fountain|
|Runners picking up their bags at gear check after the race|
|Alphabetized tents to assist runners with finding their families in the Runner Reunite area in Millennium Park after the race|
|Thousands of happy runners with their runners on Michigan Avenue in front of The Art Institute of Chicago|
|Two Finisher Medals, two PR's, and four sore legs on the perfect day at the end of the Chicago Marathon|
We spent most of the rest of the day just relaxing and exchanging stories about the race, but not before we walked three blocks from our hotel for some Giordano's Pizza!!! It's maybe my most favorite in the pizza in the world and I started thinking about it halfway through the race. Michael of course tried to down the whole thing herself as soon as they brought it out, but I managed a couple of pieces. It was soooo good!
Following the race, the special edition Chicago Sun-Times listed all of the names and times of every Chicago Marathon finisher. It was really cool to open to the "W's" and see James & Michael Weatherly ... all the way from Lees Summit, Missouri ... listed right there with some of the greatest runners in the world. Also on Monday, we saw the story of Maickel Melamed, a Venezuelan batting Muscular Dystrophy who finished the marathon in 17 hours. People like Maickel are true champions and truly embody the spirit of the marathon. Amazing!
We retired fairly early on Sunday night in Chicago before waking up at 4:00 am on Monday to catch an early flight from Midway back to KC. Even though our legs were tired and the soreness was setting in, we both had really enjoyed the trip. We loved the Chicago Marathon and would recommend it to everyone! With the popularity of marathons continuing to grow, I don't know that we'll have an opportunity to run it again any time soon. But it definitely should be on your list!
... be great today!