We arrived midday on Friday and checked in the host hotel, the Hilton. The Hilton is located mere steps away from the start line. The lobby was buzzing with runners, so the energy was palpable. Our first stop was to make our way to the expo. After passing through security you were directed to check in. Upon scanning your barcode, you were directed to a specific booth to pick up your bib. From there we were directed to shirt pick up at the back of the expo. The Nike shirt fits a roomy true to size and was black with a neon green design. Definitely a shirt you will wear for years to come. Expo had lots of merchandise vendors, up coming race booths and lots of photo ops.
Saturday morning they offered a 5k run to warm up your legs. A check of the weather report showed 39 degrees, feels like 35. Very cold for this California girl. Fortunately, 5k runners were given lovely blue ski hats instead of a shirt. I would say about 90 percent of the runners were wearing their hats. The 5k course was a flat and fast sprint through a valley of tall buildings. It was a really fun way to get acquainted with running Chicago. After the run we headed to Stan's Donuts, a local favorite. We then went to the Nike store as race information advised marathon finisher jackets would drop at the store Saturday morning. In fact, they dropped on Friday morning and had already sold out by Saturday morning. That is the only reason I gave swag a rating of 4. It was very frustrating to not be able to pick up a jacket at the pre-advertised time. We then took an architectural tour via boat. Very relaxing way to spend the afternoon before a big race and also learned a lot about the city.
Sunday morning was soon upon us. Our back of the pack Coral N was advised to arrive at 6:30 a.m. to clear security. Security was a breeze. Since I was so early I snagged a spot at the very front of the corral. It was so fun leading the corral to the start line. Our corral had easy access to portables and a gear check area. I opted for a toss away foil blanket and sweatshirt that I tossed at mile 5.
I crossed the start line at 8:52. The race starts out running downtown but quickly heads into the outer neighborhoods with tree lined streets, brownstones and shopping districts. There were a few areas where runners were jammed up and/or where spectators impeded runners by standing on course. But they were cheering so you could forgive them their enthusiasm. My favorited was the latin neighborhood around mile 20. Considering the lateness of the day, it was great that they were still out cheering and dancing as the back of the packers came through. Mile 21 was the biofreeze station -- yes please.. Just what my legs needed as we headed into the last 5 miles. We again encountered spectator interference as many of them were crossing back and forth in front of runners. Granted it was towards the end of the official time allowed, but it was still frustrating to have to slow up for them.
Finally crossed the finish line to earn the beautiful medal and an Abbot star! Water and snacks were plentiful at the end as well as photographers to capture the moment. There is an after race party, however, I did not attend so I cannot comment on what was provided. We headed out for deep dish pizza instead and an evening with The Second City players.
All in all, Chicago didn't disappoint. Definitely worth putting on your bucket list.