This was my 5th Chicago Marathon experience and I ran this year for the JDRF charity group. I had a solid training experience that ended in a less than stellar performance on race day, BUT I am still grateful for my finish. So to break it down:
Expo - Large-style expo with tons of vendors and presenters represented! I always like the electric excitement at the Chicago expo. I found the packet pick-up process just okay - signing in was easy, but then there were long and unorganized lines for t-shirt/swag bag pick-up. But the volunteers were extremely kind and funny.
T-Shirt - Pretty standard, classic design. Comfortable and basic. Nothing special here.
Course - MY FAVORITE! Love the Chicago neighborhoods and the flat terrain. Each new area comes with special entertainment and unique characteristics - everything from the pizzazz of Boystown to the mariachi of Pilsen. It really keeps you going!
Aid Stations - So I have not had to use Aid Stations in the past, but this year I did. Unfortunately, I was disappointed because I really needed salt and we ran for almost 2 miles with no success or help from aid stations. Can't give high marks here, but this may be an outlier.
Management - Chicago has this wrapped up tight. Good communication and direction. There was some congestion getting into the race start due to very high security, but I am not sure this would be avoided in any situation. My Nike pacers struggled on this hot day, in fact all 3 ended up dropping out, but I would still use the pacers if you want a consistent guide for the run.
My run: Oh boy... I felt good going into the race. The first half was pretty solid and I stayed with my pace group. Then I started feeling some slight hip pain around mile 15, and I felt that I was altering my stride slightly to compensate. By mile 19 I had significant leg pain traveling all around my leg muscles. Luckily, I was picked up by my friend Jess around 19 and she helped bring me in. We had to start running for 4 mins, walking for 1 min to try to keep things moving while still taking breaks. Then I started cramping in my calves. In fact, around mile 24 I actually fell over due to cramps, screaming in pain. A good samaritan helped me by massaging my calves back into place with IcyHot. She got me up and got me on my way. I walked, or waddled, all the way to the finish. Not a great race, but I am always grateful for the finish and the experience. Doing it all over again next year!