I’m officially a Marathon Runner!!! No words have ever felt better to type. This past weekend was the Chicago Marathon and I am happy to say that I earned my medal! For someone like me who just started running in 2013 and the most exciting race I have run is Philly’s Half Marathon, it is hard for me to say anything bad about a World Marathon like Chicago. It was an overwhelming experience that I will never forget. Now onto my review….
The expo was amazing. I didn’t see exactly how many vendors were there, but if you couldn’t find it at that running expo, it doesn’t exist. The race management team made getting to the expo really easy. There were shuttles set up at different points throughout the city to take you there. I hopped on the one at Nike Running Chicago and got to the expo in no time.
Getting in and out of the expo was a breeze as well. You checked in with your pre-race packet and they assigned you a number. The number was where you had to go to get your bib. Since all of the workers were connected electronically, by the time you got to the bib pick up desk they knew you were coming and had it ready for you. From check in to pick up it may have been 3 minutes. I have run small town 5K’s where this process takes 5 times as long. For a world marathon to be prepared to handle 45,000 runners this quickly was impressive.
The expo was filled with vendors. From running gear, accessories, running nutrition and more. Goose Island even had their Beer Bus out serving beer! The energy at the expo was so much fun.
Race Day Morning:
My race day experience was a little bit different from the average runners probably. Since I ran through the Organization For Autism Research (OAR), I had access to what was known as “Charity Village”. This was an area where you could go to your charities tent before the race and drop off your gear. Along with that my charity had food and beverages out for all runners. Which was awesome for me because I didn’t have much for breakfast when I woke up.
More importantly charity village had their own private bathrooms! If you are a runner of big races I do not need to tell you how awesome this is. There was easily 3 portable toilets to every 1 runner. I was in heaven.
I was able to drop off my gear, eat some breakfast and head to the starting line ready to go. We even took a team picture before we left.
I walked with my OAR team to the starting corrals and got situated. After waiting for the corrals in front of me to go it was my turn to take off! I set my watch, started my music and got through the start line.
For the most part the course was enjoyable. It was my first time in Chicago so I really got to see all of the city. We ran through Lincoln Park, Chinatown, along Lake Michigan and through so many more sites. The course itself was also very friendly. I had heard before a bunch of people talk about how flat Chicago is compared to the other World Marathons. I’ve never run those courses before but yes it was super flat. In fact I can rarely recall a time when I was struggling to get up a hill. There was a few hills here and there but nothing to be afraid of, or even nickname like Boston’s Heartbreak Hill.
The course support was great as well. Every mile had the same set up. There was a medical tent, then a Gatorade stop then water. I forget now if they had that at every mile for sure, but it definitely felt that way. If you weren’t feeling well, there is no way you wouldn’t find the aid you needed. They even had a few stops with bananas and Powerade gels. Outside of the official support, the unofficial support from the spectators was amazing. There was really no time on the course where you couldn’t find some sort of screaming fans. Whether it was at official cheering stations, or in small neighborhoods.
It’s tough to give an unbiased opinion of a race when it is your first marathon as well as a world Marathon. When you combine those two facts how can you not be excited? But I have to imagine even if I ran other marathons before I would be very excited about this marathon still. With 45,000 runners it is hard to not get swept up in the buzz of this run. This should be a bucket list run for every runner out there!