Third time around for Chicago and the farthest I’ve had to travel for it (was in Pennsylvania my prior 2 times for this). Chicago itself can give you a wide variety of weather challenges so I was glad the weather itself was 40s-50s for the weekend!
I arrived the Thursday prior to the marathon since I lose a day flying back east with long flights. I stayed downtown close to Grant Park to make life easier getting to and from the race. I caught dinner Thursday night and called it good. Friday morning, I went for a shake out run prior to heading to the expo. It’s easy enough to take either the Green line to McCormick Place or the 63 Bus. If you’re worried about figuring that out, easy enough to Uber or take a cab.
The Expo: security going in, which is to be expected with a marathon this huge, did lead to a little bit of a bottle neck heading in. Bib pick up involved scanning your participant packet or your emailed out bib information and showing ID and once you got through that, it was smooth sailing. You were given a numbered location to go to and your packet was waiting for you. After packet pick up, there were more than plenty of vendors, racers and charities set up. You have to stop yourself from buying all the things. The official race shirts were disappointing and running 2 sizes to small. While I appreciate the ability to swap them out, I wish they’d actually size them correctly. I was also REALLY disappointed in the official gear by Nike this year, it was so underwhelming. I feel like the other vendors had better gear than Nike did this year and I’ve done this race 3 times.
The race: 3 separate waves/start times depending on the time you give when you register. Each wave has separate corrals (3-4) with pacers for a whole host of time goals. Coarse itself is flat and fast, with really no incline (except for Roosevelt Blvd as you’re coming towards the finish). 29 neighborhoods, plenty of energy (though NYC might have it beat with the crowd support). Things do spread out which is appreciated (NYC I feel like is more crowded runner wise the entire race). Aid stations every mile or so with electrolytes and water. Plenty of Biofreeze stations on course of well. Mile 14 is fun, especially if your a charity runner, as all the charities line the last 1/4-1/2 mile. 6-7 hr time limit, though people will be out cheering the entire time
Post race: plan on walking a bunch to get out, just like with any huge marathon. You were given a bag of food, could pick up water and Gatorade and had the chance for the post race party (which I didn’t make it to). No chocolate milk that I could find, which was really disappointing. Not everyone wants a beer after a marathon (I’m probably in the minority on that one, but still). Medals and heat wraps for everyone, I think I saw wash clothes too this year.
Definitely a fun marathon to go back to, I’ve done it 3 times and overall is an awesome experience