Latest reviews by Mary Jo Minarich

"2015 Chicago Marathon"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Wow, the Chicago Marathon again. Where do I even start? This was my second time running this course and it never gets old. The spectators, volunteers and all the people who put this race together do an incredible job. I’m just in awe of how they can maneuver over 40,000 people across 29 Chicago neighborhoods with ease.

Let’s start with the Expo…

Since the Hubs couldn’t run this race, my roomie was my friend Teresa. We did all the regular expo things. You know, take tons of pictures, play the games for the free stuff, buy more shirts and of course try all the samples. It was a great expo with all the usual running vendors and things to do. We even signed the wall together.
We stayed at the Palmer that night. It’s perfect because it’s only a couple of blocks from the finish. That’s important especially after the race! We hit an early bed after doing all the usual Facebook chatting with our run club friends back at home. What was weird is neither of us were nervous for this run. We both slept like rocks and got 7 hours of sleep that night. That is very unusual!
We got up at 5 and started eating our pre-race foods. I ended up eating some cold scrambled eggs that I had packed. The Palmer wanted $40.00 to rent a microwave. That was not going to happen. I ate 3 cold eggs in a tortia, 1/2 bagel, 2 bananas and drank a bottle of MeStrength. And just to let you know, cold eggs are not that bad…


I broke up the race into 3 sections. North, West and South. My goal was to start out slow and progressively finish faster with each section. Well I’m letting you know now– that didn’t happen. I forgot to take into account the unpredictable weather of Chicago. It got prettttttty toasty near the end with temperatures reaching near 80.
Breaking up the race into 3 sections rather than thinking 26.2 miles helps at the Chicago Marathon…

SECTION 1: Heading North

The vibe in the corrals gets you moving easily. And the announcer is funny and keeps the energy up until you cross the start. I heard about the blue dashes that they paint on the road. This line indicates the exact distance of 26.2 miles so I made sure I stayed on it. It kind of became my friend throughout the race. Every time I veered off of it, I looked for it to get me focused back on the course. I tend to lose focus when there’s buildings, people and shiny things around me.

Once running, my mantra was “slow it down, this is a marathon.” I know this is totally making all my fast running friends cringe but I really wanted to make it across the finish without feeling like death.

I did end up going faster than I had expected. Probably because my body was really ready to run again (Taper week was not as fun as I thought it would be). And this part of the course was cool and shaded.

Here’s a helpful hint. Write down the miles where you are going to see people on your arm. It helps when you lose track of time. And by the end of the race it is totally sweated away.

I saw the Lincoln Park Zoo, crossed a bunch of bridges and just enjoyed the neighborhoods. Heading north was incredible.

I couldn’t get over how easy the first 13 miles went by. I saw my friendsJayme and Sandy again and they handed me a new water bottle along with a wet, cold towel. As I was moving along, I remember thinking to myself, “dang, I’m already at 14 miles?” The first leg of the run was done and the second was beginning.

Section 2: Westward

I knew I was heading west because the sun was behind me now. Still following the blue dashes, I looked forward to seeing my BFFs again at mile 17.

Then I realized I needed to use the bathroom. The aid stations were wonderful with rows of port-a-potties. I knew I wasn’t going to win the race and I’m not one of them runners who will pee on the go. So I stopped and enjoyed a port-a-potty. When I got to my friends, I remember apologizing for “being late.”

Section 3: Southbound

I felt great up to mile 20 and that’s when I started feeling a little tired. I stayed with my friend the blue dashes, and kept thinking, this line is taking me to the finish. I knew this was the last leg of the run and more miles were behind me than in front of me now. I made sure I took in all the sights and I even tried to memorize all the restaurants I wanted to come eat at with the Hubs.

During the last 6 miles I focused each mile on someone special and thought about them as I ran. That way I wasn’t thinking about how much my legs were hurting. That worked well because before I knew it, I was 1 mile away from the finish.

I saw my friends for the last time at 25.2. Sandy knows that I hate when people say, “you’re almost done” so she didn’t say it at all. I was actually the one that said, “Wow, I’m almost done!” I gave my water bottle to Jayme with a thumbs up and finished the last mile.

I did walk up Roosevelt. Who the hell puts a hill so close to the end?! That’s just mean! But what gave me a surge of energy was hearing my name from one of my run club friends right before the finish. It was so nice seeing all their faces in that crowd. I will never forget that as long as I live. I wish I could have taken a picture of them but all I could give was a thumbs up at that point.

Crossing the finish was wonderful and the bottle of water felt like a Colorado stream. It then hit me that it was hot outside. I started to feel a little light-headed so I grabbed the packet of pretzels from my goodie bag and gobbled them up. I think I even licked the salt off the bag. Then I grabbed a frozen towel and a bag of ice and had both on my head for a while. After that I felt much better.

The medal is cool with the bean on it. And I hit my goal. I just wanted to be somewhere in the 4 hour mark. And I did it in 4:53:12. I’m pretty happy with that.

The day ended with a shower back in the room, lunch at Miller’s (my favorite place to eat close to the Palmer) and a ride home with my BFF’s.

Everyone is asking me now if I’ll do another marathon. Currently it’s a definite “NO!” But then again, you never know…

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"Chicago Rock n Roll"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The Hubs and I had a fun and “toasty” weekend in the city. We ran the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon on Sunday! I really went into this race for basically one thing….

To have fun in the city!

Running has got to be the coolest way to see Chicago. In a race, you notice all kinds of things that you wouldn’t see in a car…

…Like what your running reflection looks like on the shinny buildings.

…Like how the bridges feel under your shoes.

…Like how many people are in one place to do just one things together–RUN!

We hit the expo first!

Chicago Rock n Roll ExpoWe got through it pretty fast. We no longer need to spend $200 for every big race event. Sorry vendors…

Then we headed to our hotel room, dumped our bags and headed off to explore. We always stay at the Palmer House since it’s so close to the start.

Plus we can go in any direction from the hotel and enjoy the city. Here’s what we did..

Lunch at The Corner Bakery

A walk in Millennium Park!

Had to see The BEAN!

And of course we had to have pizza for dinner in Chicago!

We hit an early bed time because the race started at 6:30am.

Race Day!

The morning of any race is really neat to see. I love when you walk outside and the city comes to life with runners. It’s fun standing among 12,000 friends.

The only thing bad about running a half in July is the weather. 13 miles is stinking hard in warm weather. And it was already hot and humid in the corrals. The announcer kept warning us that this was not PR weather conditions and to run smart.

Running smart was our goal but of course the first 3 miles went by really fast. I tried to keep it at a nice 10 minute pace. But you know how it is when you first shoot out of the start. Everything feels great and you’re excited to run. After 3 miles I was hot and thirsty.

One thing great about the Rock n Roll series is they were really supplied. The only thing they needed were more volunteers. People were sucking down water and at EVERY water station. And the volunteers had to work really hard to keep up.

It was HOT and you could tell no one wanted to dehydrate! I did see a couple of runners down on the ground with people helping them. And there were more ambulances working than I have ever seen before at any race. That was kind of scary.

I’m sure the heat had something to do with the lack of bands too. I think I only saw 2 or 3 bands throughout the course. But during the last couple of miles they had some great music blaring through some huge speakers. That was very helpful.

R ‘n’ R supplied water misters, ice and cold sponges along the course. It’s wonderful how great a frozen sponge feels on top of your head. I kept a good pace (for me) through most of the race and made sure I was well hydrated. My mantra throughout this run was….

Run your own race

We finished and we truly earned our medals.

After meeting up with our run club, we headed straight to the beer tent! It’s amazing how good a beer tastes at 9am after such a long, hot run!

This was also the first year we stayed for the concert.

Andy Grammar was the headliner and he was fantastic. His song, “Honey I’m Good” is on my running playlist!

Well that was another run done in the city. I’m not sure if I’ll do this one again. This was my 5th Chicago R ‘n’ R and I wouldn’t mind trying a different Rock n Roll location. I’m shooting for Vegas or Philadelphia!

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"One of my favorites!"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Let Me Tell You About the Soldier Field 10 Miles!

The Hubs and I ran the Soldier Field 10 Mile race this weekend. It was a blast! This is my fifth time running this race and it never gets old. So I put together the top 10 things about this race.

Soldier Field

Finishing on the 50 yard line has got to be my favorite part of this race. It is the coolest feeling when you come out of the tunnel and look up and see the amazing stadium. I felt like a Chicago Bear!


One of the packet pick-up location was at the Naperville Running Company. It is one of our favorite running stores.


Free parking is almost unheard of in the city! And they have 3 HUGE parking lots that you can park in. Plenty of room but you do need to get there early.


A huge group of us meet after the race. There are a lot of cool places to take a zillion pictures.


The race happens on Memorial Day weekend. So the pre-race ceremony is loaded with honor, remembrance and pure pride for our military men and women. Taps was amazing and sad at the same time.


The course runs south of the stadium right onto Lake Shore Drive. Don’t worry-they close the street just for us! At mile 5, you turn around and get to view the city the entire time you head back. It was beautiful.


You get a comfy technical shirt that you will definitely use throughout the summer.


10 miles is just enough to make it a fun challenge. But short enough to let you enjoy the rest of your day without having to take a 3 hour nap.



At the end of the race, you receive your medal from active servicemen and women. It was great hearing everyone thanking them for their service.

You’ll have to join me next year. I promise you will not be disappointed.

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