This is my fourth Chicago Marathon and by far, the best experience I've had at this race. I was coming off a very tri-specific training season and wasn't sure where my legs and endurance were at for the long distances.
Expo: As per usual, the health and fitness expo was located at McCormick Place, south of downtown. Some of the preliminary checkin stuff was located outside of the main room, which seemed to open things up a little inside. While Nike is a huge sponsor for this race, their merchandise section was less compact and it was easier to move through and around than previous years. Packet pickup was very smooth and quick around 3pm on Friday. Didn't spend a lot of time at the expo, bought a hoodie and a t-shirt and headed out quick!
Pre-race: I did not do the Gear Check provide by the race. Through Chicago Endurance Sports, we were able to hang out at the Race Day Resort located at Roosevelt University. It costs $50 for non-members, but IMO, it's still worth it: private gear check, indoor bathrooms, pre/post-race food and beverages, massages, medal engravings, finisher gear...it's pretty great. Our group headed to the corrals around 645am, leaving a little earlier than last year so we didn't get stuck in the gates (it gets pretty backed up after 7am).
Race: Weather was perfect this year (maybe 5º cooler would have been amazing) and minimal wind had a lot of thinking this could be a PR day. The aid stations and volunteers were great and energetic. There was a tangent blue-line painted on the course again this year. The crowd support was great, even south of mile 20. Usually it thins out a bit down there. The toughest part of the course is the LONG stretch coming home on Michigan Avenue. It seems like Roosevelt is never going to come, but when you finally turn that corner and head up the mountain to Columbus, you know you're so close to realizing your goal. The finisher chute is so memorable. Take it all in, the crowd can be deafening.
Post-race: After meeting up with some of the team, we made our way through the amenities and headed west back to the resort when we could. I can't speak to the 27th Mile post-race party; I've never been to it.
For me, Chicago 2016 was the best marathon I've ever run. It was my first successful negative split full, and the first time I've used UCAN exclusively for nutrition (all pre-race - only took 1 GU around 2hrs). I have a lot of fond memories from this season, but ending it this way, in Chicago, was quite the icing on the cake.