Chicago Marathon Race Report
The short version
Great race, great city definitely put it on your to do list.
The long version
Twenty runners from K2J Fitness made the trip to Chicago for the marathon. The flight was uneventful and we got lots of help with our first hurdle figuring out how to buy a ticket for the train into Chicago. Two of us could not figure it out: you can’t use a credit card unless you have a zip code, you have to put the bills in facing up, it will not take bills that are old and faded and you can’t get change, we were eventually helped by a very patient CTA official. This lead to the first joke of the weekend: How many marathoners does it take to buy a train ticket? We are not sure but it’s definitely more than two!
We got slightly lost walking the four blocks from the train to the hotel and a passerby stopped and asked if we needed directions. This pattern, the us getting lost and the random strangers stopping and offering to help was repeated several times over the weekend. Thank goodness you can just follow the guy in front of you on race day!
As expected there was lots of additional security which started at the expo. We had to present ID with the personal registration cards we had received in the mail in order to get into the bib pick up but the process was very smooth and there was no waiting. The expo was huge (at least as big as Boston and much more spacious). Brian O and his wife Maureen bought so many pairs of shoes they must have bought an extra suitcase to get them all home.
There were 45,000 runners registered and just over 40,000 actually crossed the start line. Walking around downtown Chicago before the race there were runners everywhere!
Race morning we all met and headed for the start. Because of security concerns the start area was tightly controlled. The only bags allowed were clear bags provided by the race and all bags had to be screened. We opted not to check any bags because the hotel was close, allowing us to use the express line but even the screening line was moving well. We had to go through a number of check points to get to the start corals and they were diligent about checking bibs at each one. By the time we got through all the checkpoints we only had time to join the massive line for the port-a-potties before the start.
The start was a bit of a surprise. If there was a gun I did not hear it and I was not that far back. People started moving forward, I assumed it was is because we were moving up to the line but then people started running so I did too!
The course is flat, the weather was great, the crowds were great and there was lots of music along the course, which I love because it takes my mind off the pesky running part. My first km was pretty conservative but after that I was probably going too fast. I passed the 3:10 bunny and the huge group running with him at about 3 miles hopeful that I would not see him again. I felt good at the half way point 1:33:30 and figured I could hold it and finish under 3:10. I almost did but that pesky 3:10 bunny caught me at about 24 miles, I made a feeble attempt to stay with him but it was not happening. At 25 miles John T came flying by me and everyone else. I gave some thought to trying to catch him but that was not going to happen either! Turns out John had a successful but odd race: he saw the 3:30 pace bunny about 1 km into the race and accidentally stayed behind him for 6 km until his brain kicked in and he realized he was running way too slow. He turned on the afterburners and took off passing everyone in his wake including myself at high speed. John is now a true believer in the negative split, even if he did it by mistake. He finished in 3:09:12.
I crossed the line just behind the dreaded 3:10 bunny in 3:10:35 which earned me 3rd place in my age group. The finish area had all the things one expects Gatorade (who could possibly want more Gatorade after drinking it for 26.2 miles!), water, snacks and BEER! Given the choice between Gatorade and beer even though it was not even 11:00 in the morning I chose beer and I was surprised to discover that it went down quite well. They also had bags of ice which was amazing as my hip was killing me. So I walked off down the street drinking beer and rubbing a bag of ice on my behind. A little odd but quite effective!
If you have not done Chicago put it on your list! Congratulations to everyone who ran and a special congrats to everyone from K2J. A 2nd place age group finish for Brian, a PB of 2:48:36 for Mike, a 6 minute PB of 3:12:03 for Alan, a first ever marathon finish for Lynn and 14 BQ’s. Next stop Boston 2014!