My fourth go-around hasn't changed my opinion that this is a bucket-list event. My earlier review helps explain why: http://bibrave.com/races/the-chicago-marathon/303#.VD3eEPldWSo
This race is run by professionals in one of the world's great cities so you can expect things are pretty put together. Pre-race communications are clear and concise. The expo has all the excitement and buzz you'd expect from a 40,000 participant event.
I would strongly recommend attending the expo on Friday (as opposed to Saturday) as it can be quite overwhelming and tiring. I've taken public transit (the Red Line to Chinatown) and walked to McCormick Place the last couple years and I actually would recommend this as you get to cross the course which in and of it self is exciting. McCormick Place is a pain to get to, but it's worlds better than the hated Navy Pier. If you're not from Chicago, don't get me started on Navy Pier.
A lot of people were complaining about the t-shirt (rumor has it that it was trending on Twitter). Ha, I don't really care, but it was totally weak-sauce. This was of course completely intentional as NIke calls the shots in Chicago and wants to sell their head-to-toe memorabilia. Turns out showcasing the human spirit is a great marketing tool.
One of the most encouraging things has been the increased crowd support over the years. The second half of the course can be very tough as it lacks protection from the elements and crowd support. That said, I think 2014 had the best crowd support in the worst areas in my four years running the event (2010, 12, 13, 14). This of course could all be my distorted memory as 2014 was my fastest Chicago Marathon of the bunch, but I think there is still some truth in there somewhere.
Finally, a quick shout out to the aid station organizers and volunteers. You don't notice aid stations until you've been to a race with bad aid stations. The aid stations in Chicago are monstrous (spanning BLOCKS) and are very well run by a crew of experienced captains guiding both n00b and veteran volunteers. Each time I run the race the more impressed I am with how well run the aid stations are.
**I'm pretty biased as I grew up in Chicago and I don't pay for my entries to this race (well except for the first year...).
Photo Credit: Ruben Gonzalez