This is not a review of the Chicago Marathon race I ran. For that, you can go here. This is a recap of the amazing weekend I spent in Chicago while completing my first marathon.
This past weekend was the Chicago Marathon, and for me, my very first time visiting Chicago. Since I had never been before I scheduled my trip from Saturday to Tuesday. I wanted a few days post marathon to explore the city, but more importantly, get my legs right after running my first ever marathon.
I am lucky to be surrounded by a great support system as far as running goes so I was not the only one headed there. My girlfriend, parents and parents two friends all came with me. We flew out Saturday morning and landed in Chicago by Saturday afternoon. The girlfriend and I checked into our hotel and immediately headed towards the runners expo.
Luckily the race organizers were running shuttles to the expo, so all we had to do was walk to the local Nike Running shop and it would take us right there.
We hung out at the expo for a little while and took in all the sights. However the expo wasn’t without its own memories. As her and I were walking in a random person had stopped me. She was looking intently at something in her hand and then looking up in the crowd. She eventually stopped me. It turned out her husband couldn’t make the expo and she wasn’t allowed to get his bib. She showed me his ID and it was clear she was looking for someone who looked like him. I guess all dudes with shaved heads look the same. However it was clear this guy was 20 years older than me, so I wasn’t sure how it would work. Either way she asked if I would get his bib for her. Since it was my first marathon and I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if I didn’t get my bib, I happily said yes. I walked up the check in counter and gave this ID to the person checking me in. She was clearly confused that I didn’t look like the person on the ID but she let me in anyways. So I was happy I could get that strangers husbands bib for her, I couldn’t imagine not being able to run because I couldn’t pick up my bib. We enjoyed the rest of the expo and left.
We hopped back on the shuttle and eventually made it back to the hotel. I am glad we took the shuttle because I got to overhear a lot of runners stories. Whether it was the people behind me who were looking for their 5th BQ, or the guy in front of me who lost over 70 pounds and was running his second marathon looking to finish under 6 hours. It was a lot of fun to be in that environment and hear all the running stories. Truth be told outside of social media I am not a very social runner. I.E. I do not belong to any local running groups. So that was one of the first times I had been involved in personal running activity that wasn’t actual running.
We got back to the hotel, walked around the city a bit and eventually had to get ready for the pre-race charity dinner. Since I ran for the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) I was invited to a dinner for the night before. Myself, my girlfriend, my parents and their friends all got on the subway and headed for the dinner. For my dad being an immigrant who lived in a major city most his life, it amused me how foreign the idea of a subway was for him.
Dinner was awesome. It was a pure carbo loading dinner. As much pasta as you could get your hands on. Beyond the food it was also great to meet the other charity runners. I sat with a woman that Chicago would be her 33rd marathon! And she was running another one in Detroit the next weekend. We exchanged stories and sitting with her definitely calmed my nerves. She mentioned that even though this was her 33rd marathon she usually finishes around 5 and a half hours. It made me happy to be sitting with someone who wasn’t shooting for a BQ. Since Chicago is a world marathon it felt like everyone was racing under 4 hours. So she helped calm my nerves.
The dinner was also great because several speakers came up and talked about why they were running for OAR. Each person had a great inspiring story and I was happy to be surrounded by so many people doing so good. The one person who spoke even had his son with him who he was running on behalf of. He showed some videos about how his son was succeeding in High School football while being Autistic. It was great to see such a powerful message before such a major event. The organization also recognized everyone in the room. Whether it was your first marathon (2 of us), your first time running for OAR or any other reason everyone in the room got an applause for all the work they had done. It was an awesome memory to have.
The 5 of us finished dinner, hopped back on the subway and headed back to the hotel. My girlfriend and I stopped in a Walgreens first to get some race morning food. I had planned out the breakfast I wanted to eat before the race. Unfortunately when you go grocery shopping at Walgreens your selection is limited. I still got a few things and we went home for the night.
Luckily I slept well before the race. I was afraid I wouldn’t get much sleep at all, but that was not the case. I got back to the hotel and went right to bed. My 5:15 AM alarm went off early. I got up, ate some of my food and started to get ready. Shortly into my prep my mom knocked on my door ready to go. I tried convincing my mom and girlfriend not to come with me, because they couldn’t get to the race start and would have to stand around for hours. However they wouldn’t listen.
Before we left for the start line my girlfriend surprised me with a video she made. The video was a collection of people wishing me good luck on the marathon. My family, her family, my best friends and more. It was at this moment that all of the emotions from the past 6 months came crashing down. Training for a marathon is just as much an emotional journey as it is physical. It requires sacrifice and hard work that can take a toll on you emotionally. And as you get closer to the race those emotions only get stronger. While watching that video all of the walls I built to keep those emotions in check came crashing down. I haven’t cried that much in forever. It was a very nice thing for my girlfriend to do for me and meant a lot.
My tears were wiped away and it was time to head to the start line. The three of us hopped on the subway and made our way to the start line. However before we got on the subway I ran into another BibRave Pro. A bunch of us from BibRave were running this race so I knew it was bound to happen. However I have never actually met any of them so it was cool to see a familiar face in such an unfamiliar setting. Her name is Laura, she is awesome and you can check her out at her blog.
As I said above, I have already reviewed the race here. So while that was the most important part of the weekend, I can skip writing about it again. However I will say the race was amazing. My body held up better than expected and I didn’t deal with any running injuries I had previously dealt with. Honestly I can say I couldn’t have had a better experience for my first marathon. I can’t imagine a lot of people can say that so I am happy to be able to.
I got back to the OAR charity tent, met back up with my cheering squad and got ready to go back to the hotel. I got cleaned up, threw on my compression pants and my girlfriend and I headed back out. There was no rest for this guy! As I mentioned before a bunch of BibRave pro’s ran this race. So a bunch of us planned to meet up after the marathon at Goose Island. It was awesome meeting all of them. We have interacted so much on twitter it felt like I was seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while. We all shared our marathon stories over some great beer. Again, I am not one to be involved in a running group, so having this kind of interaction was a lot of fun. To be able to talk with other people who just experienced what I did was something I enjoyed so much. It was also great meeting people I feel like I knew so well.
The group of us went to Goose Island then over to Haymarket Pub and eventually went our separate ways. I can’t wait to meet up with them again in the future. My girlfriend and I headed out to grab dinner. It was 4 hours post marathon and I hadn’t eaten anything. Needless to say I needed food. We ended up getting deep dish pizza, because it would have been a failed trip if we didn’t. The wait to get a table was an hour and a half versus delivery being 30 minutes. We decided to ditch eating there, and ordered our pizza to be delivered. Took the walk back to the hotel and a few minutes later I indulged in this beauty…..
The next morning was the start to our exciting day around town. With the marathon behind us it was time to explore Chicago as a first timer. We took a trip to Wrigley Field, the Bean and had dinner 95 floors up in one of the nicest restaurants I have eaten in. Wrigley was tons of fun because it was also the first Cubs home playoff game in 7 years. So the environment by the field was amazing. My girlfriend saw a large group of people and we walked over. It turned out that’s where the Cubs players were entering the stadium. And it wasnt some sort of secured sealed off area. It was a walkway where they walked right through the fans. We ended up seeing a few players, and it made for an awesome trip to the stadium.
6:00 rolled around and it was time for dinner. My girlfriend had made plans to eat at the Signature Room which is a restaurant 95 floors up. For someone like me with a fear of heights it was an interesting experience. Once I calmed down I was able to enjoy myself. It was one of the best dinners I have had and couldn’t think of a better way to end the weekend. She definitely knocked it out of the park with scheduling dinner here. The server even brought out a little toy medal when she found out I had finished the marathon, it was very nice of them.
We finished dinner and made our way home. With an early flight the next morning it was time to get to bed. It was such an amazing weekend that I will never forget. When my girlfriend and I were sitting at dinner back in March discussing if I should run the Chicago Marathon or not I am happy we agreed to do it. I can’t imagine a better experience for my first marathon.
Now for some sights from the week…..
But one more thing……
This journey wouldn’t be complete without her. The picutres below are from every race this year. As you will see we have been to early morning freezing runs, 90 degree summer runs, middle of the night runs and more. She has been by my side every step of the way. It is very possible that I would never have completed this goal without her. There were times I thought I couldn’t do it, or wanted to give up and she wouldn’t let me. She stood at every finish line I crossed this year with a smile and never complained once. I know personally how hard it is to find support like this. I can’t thank her enough for what she did for me this year and there is no possible way to repay her. She has gotten up at 5 AM with me and has also stayed out as late as 2 AM to see me finish. I don’t know what I did to be this lucky, but I will never take it for granted and wish that the world was filled with more people like her.