SWEET HOME, CHICAGO. My first marathon ever was in my hometown, and I ended up running it more times than I can count. Chicago is truly a great race, especially for beginners. Every mile has something cool to see – my favorite moment is cruising through Boystown. Still, it is good to be aware of the downsides. Much like my Boston post, I’ve compiled a list of “this sucks” when it comes to Chicago.
Curbing Your Diet
Without a doubt, the best part of our city is the food. Unfortunately, all those deep dish pizzas and hot dogs are the last things you should be putting into your body before race day. Take my advice: make a checklist of everything you want to eat after the race.
The Cluster to Get to the Start Line
No matter what time you get to the gates, it is going to be an absolute cluster. Once you get past the security checkpoints, you and 40,000 other people are set loose in a maze that could rival the trenches of World War One.
The lines of people move slowly. The signs are confusing. At a certain point, people get desperate and start jumping fences. When I ran in 2011, I barely had enough time to get to my corral. Try to go at least 90 minutes early.
Chinatown at Mile 21
Chicago advertises the ability to run through 29 neighborhoods, but once you hit the wall you just don’t care anymore. I remember the first year that I ran, I was PUMPED to hit Chinatown and watch the advertised dragon dance around.
By the time I got there, I hit the wall so hard. It felt like I was going to collapse, and that stupid dragon was mocking me with its high-energy moves.
I am 99.9% sure Columbus Drive is Bank of America’s sick joke. The entire race, you are flying on a flat course. Then, right at the end, you meet Columbus Drive.
Check out this chart from Runners Connect:
If you blink you might miss it, but there is a significant incline towards the end of that chart that’s going to make you hate your life. On the bright side, the crowd is loudest here, so use it to fuel you.
Leaving the race
Remember that maze you entered? Now, you have to leave it. One year, I timed how long it took me to find my family. Even though it wasn’t my first rodeo, it still took over 30 minutes to reunite.
Speaking of “park”, you’re now in Grant Park. It’s pretty, but it’s huge. Unless you’ve booked a hotel on Michigan Avenue, it’s going to be a hike.
Your best bet is to hobble over to Lake Shore Drive and grab a cab. On the Michigan Avenue side, there is some stiff competition.
I hope this helps you as you take on the flat Midwestern masterpiece that is the Chicago Marathon.
Will you be running this year?