A blog about the Chicago Marathon? That was way back in October, I hear you cry! Yes, this has been a long time coming. It’s taken me a really long time to attempt to write this because I had such a great experience there, that I didn’t want to ruin it all by analysing it for a blog. However, with New York on the horizon, I thought it was about time that I tried to get it all down on paper before I forget it!
The Chicago Marathon is part of the World Marathon Majors and I found out that I would be earning my third star there, way back in December 2017. It’s known for its flat and fast course that starts and finishes in Grant Park which is nicknamed ‘Chicago’s Front Yard’. I desperately wanted to earn a PB there but, with one of the hottest summer’s on record, training for it would be no easy feat. We start our story two weeks before I flew to America …
I’d been training with Team Project Run since I ran the London Marathon. London had been a tough experience with it being the hottest on record and I’d lost my confidence after finishing in a time that was well outside of what I was hoping for. I knew this training cycle would be different with them behind me as this time I would have a support network. However, unexpected things can happen during marathon training that derail your plans.
I was 14 weeks into my 16 week training plan when I hurt my back shortly after an event at work. I’d been on my feet all day, gone home, showered and, when I stopped out of the shower, that was it. Pain. I couldn’t bend or twist so I definitely couldn’t run. I rested, telling myself that taking a few days out wouldn’t affect 14 weeks of hard work. A week later I was back, running 12 miles on a day that the rain didn’t want to stop. Unsurprisingly, shortly afterwards, I got a head cold. Then I found out that the Chicago Marathon ban hydration vests. I had bought one especially for Chicago so had to rethink my plans, making a last minute purchase from Spibelt. Nothing seemed to be going my way.
On the day we flew out I was apprehensive. I knew I wanted a PB but I had concentrated on times so much during the training for London that I ended up not enjoying the race. With everything that had happened in the two weeks leading up to Chicago, I decided there and then to forget about times and enjoy myself. After all, when would I realistically get a chance to come back when I have other marathons to run?
The flight across the pond went smoothly and we even had a flight attendant who was from Chicago so she was able to navigate us to the train terminal. The train from the airport into the city was easy, quick and cheap and, not only do you avoid the traffic but you get to see the city slowly come into view as well so I’d recommend using this. It takes you right into the city and once you’re on the river’s edge, it’s really easy to find your way around. We were staying in the Hyatt close to the Navy Pier and , when we arrived they offered us an upgrade which meant we would have a room with a view. How could we say no?! We could see the pier out the window (and the first bridge that we would run across on race day).
When we had settled in and stopped looking at the view, we headed out, straight to the marathon expo (I like to get this done early to get it out the way). The hotel had laid on buses to and from the event so it was really easy to get there but, if your hotel doesn’t provide this service, there are plenty of public transport options. The expo takes place at McCormick Place and, once you’re inside it’s really easy to find the entrance. The queues were minimal and I was inside before I knew it, browsing the Chicago Marathon merchandise. There were maps everywhere so it was easy to find the stalls you wanted and it was never so busy that you couldn’t get to what you wanted.
You get a Nike top with your entry but when I picked it up I found that it was too small. I asked someone about changing this without hope but they were really good about swapping it over for a larger size. We had a quick browse around while I shopped for the race jacket and a Brooks t-shirt before leaving to head back to the hotel. We had a bit of trouble getting back from the expo because of protests in the city so we actually ended up on the opposite side of the river to our hotel! Once we were back it was time to chill for the evening.
The next morning we woke up at 4am so we just decided to get ready and go out for some early sightseeing. We left the hotel to thunder, lightening and heavy rain but we were lucky to be next door to a place called Wildberry (who make the best pancakes!) so we headed for breakfast while the stormy weather passed. We walked around the city, looked at our reflections in the Bean, checked out the start line and managed to catch the runners doing the 5k which takes place the day before the marathon. Cheering them on made me very excited for the next day!
We headed back to the hotel after seeing a little bit of Chicago where I fuelled up from the hotel dinner buffet and went to bed thinking about the next day.
When I woke up I couldn’t believe the day was finally here. It was time to tackle 26.2 miles of Chicago streets. I got ready and headed down to breakfast in the hotel (there was a small market in the lobby which was really good for bagels and coffee). I had plenty of good luck messages to read as I headed to the start area in Grant park with my poncho. The queues to get in to the start area weren’t long at all and they separate your start gates depending on what starting pen you’re in to minimise the crowds which really worked. The buzz in the atmosphere was amazing and it really got me excited for what I was about to attempt. It was time to leave my boyfriend … from here on in I was on my own!