Running a World Major Marathon – Chicago Marathon Recap Part 1

Much like I’ve done in the past, I’ll split up my recap of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon into two parts. Part 1 will take me to the half marathon mark. Part 2 will finish the race out.


So, on October 11th, I was up at 4:30am to get ready to head out to the starting area. I was in Wave 2, Corral K for the Chicago Marathon. This was the very last corral. Wave 2 was scheduled to leave at 8am. The first train from Park Ridge didn’t arrive until 5:33am. So, by waking up at 4:30am, I got out the door in plenty of time to make the very first train! My big dilemma was about packing a bag for gear check. You see, they advertised that they would be shutting down he back check at 3pm after the race. I was unsure if I’d get there in time. I took a chance and used my packed bag and chose to wear my Dumbo Double Dare jacket to the start area.


The fun part of taking the train to a race is that the train is filled with other runners. So, even though I had directions on how to get to the start area, I decided to just follow the crowd. Once we got off the train, it was about a half mile or more to the start area. I just walked with a bunch of other runners.


We passed by the Chicago Museum of Art on the way to Grant Park!


45,000 runners can create quite a bit of sidewalk congestion. All of the restaurants/coffee shops were open along Michigan Avenue. My start area was the last one.


Race organizers were out at every corner directing runners to the gate they needed to enter for their corral. I was very impressed with how many people they had out to help us get where we needed to get to. I was to check in through Gate #5.


Bag check was a breeze. After using the port a potties, it was time for me to get to my corral. As you can see, when I arrived, there weren’t a lot of people in the corral yet.


I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a selfie with the Chicago skyline in the background while in my corral.


It didn’t take too long before the corral filled in. One thing I hate about being a back of the pack runner is how long we have to wait from the time the race starts before we get to run. Especially when I have no one to really talk with. The nerves start to build and lots of crazy thoughts enter my mind. I was nervous about the cutoff time. I was nervous about making it back to back check before they closed. It was crazy.

At the Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon, I learned that listening to music while in the corrals really helps me calm down. This song is the one that I kept playing over and over again. Because it helped me so much while waiting, I knew while I was waiting that I needed to include it with my recap of the race.


As we moved forward, I saw this guy. At the Rock n Roll San Diego 5K, I met him! As we got close, I was wondering if he was the same guy. On the day after the race, he was on my tour of Soldier Field. So, I got to confirm that he was the same guy!


The moving forward was slow. I just wanted to get going.


So, I took a selfie. As you can see, there were still a lot of people behind me.


You’ll be happy to know that all the throw away clothing will be donated to a charity!


After a wait that seemed to take an eternity, we finally made it to the start!


I absolutely loved the first part of this race! Running right into the iconic skyline felt so epic!


I had heard that the first miles were kind of crowded. However, that wasn’t my experience. I mean, look at all the space!


One thing I was looking forward to at the start was running under the city buildings. I don’t know why. But, that was so much fun!


I’m sure running here at the end of the race might have felt a little different. It’s the little things that can make those early miles go by fast.


On the other side of the tunnel, we crossed our first bridge. When I had seen pictures of this race from years past and saw that red carpet, I thought it was weird to put a red carpet at the start of the race. However, as I ran over it, I learned that the carpet was functional. It was much easier to run over the carpet than the grate of the bridge.


By the end of the first mile, I was feeling my groove. The first mile passed pretty quickly. I decided before the race to take pictures of each mile marker to help me understand (after the race) how fast each mile went. In blogs I read before heading to Chicago, I learned that the GPS watches were nowhere near close to being accurate. So, I wouldn’t turn the distance feature of my Nike Plus GPS Sportwatch for this race. I’d use the time to give me some clue as to where the mile markers may come. My first mile was finished around 13 minutes into the race. Clock time and chip time are different.


About a mile and a half into the race, we ran by the Chicago Theater! There was a Gatorade stop right before the theater.


I want to say this here….at the first water/Gatorade stop. One of the truly impressive feats of this race is how they had these stations organized. Every single stop was organized the same way. There was a line of volunteers handing out Gatorade. Then, there was a small gap. That was followed by the volunteers handing out water. Every stop was the same. I loved the consistency and the fact that there was a noticeable gap between those handing out Gatorade and those handing out water. They had volunteers on both sides of the street as well. It was how every race should have their water/Gatorade stops on the course.


I loved running through the streets of Chicago. It was kind of fun with all the tall buildings. This kept us in the shade for so much of the first part of the course!


As you can see, I was pretty much maintaining a 13 minute per mile pace for the first two miles. This was right on what I wanted to do at the start. I had read so much about going out too fast. For the first two miles, I hit every run interval with no problems. After waiting so long to start the race, I was pretty happy to be out on the course!


Mile 3 went a little faster as I was just under a 13 minute mile. There wasn’t too much to report from mile three. It was more running in the city. I loved it. However, since I’m not from Chicago, I didn’t know what I was running through. I crossed the 5K mark in 40:03. I must admit that I was a little slower than I wanted to be at this mark. However, since I wasn’t too far off, I didn’t let it bother me and kept running 30 seconds, walking 90 seconds.


I think that I had slowed a little in the 4th mile as I finished in over 13 minutes per mile.


Right past the 4 mile marker, we started the 5th mile running by the Moody Bible Institute and Moody Church. There were plenty of folks out to cheer us on and lots of music. This was one area where the music that was playing on course drowned out the music from my phone. We were leaving the city in mile 5 which made for a nice change of pace.


Just past Moody, we entered Lincoln Park.


The crowd support was a little thin through the park. However, that kind of helped me settle myself and focus on maintaining my run/walk intervals. It was going pretty well. In the park, the winds started picking up.


As you can see by the mile 5 time, I picked up the pace again in mile 5 as I finished in just under 13 minutes!


The sixth mile started with running by the Lincoln Park Zoo! We didn’t get to see any animals. However, it was still fun to run by. I should mention that our run through the park gave us some rolling hills. Now, these hills were more like speed bumps. However, in a flat course, I want to remember that there were a few rolling hills here.


The mile 6 marker was the first one I missed. So, I stopped for a quick pick with the 10K marker. I crossed the 10K mark in 1 hour 21 minutes 45 seconds. As I thought about where I wanted to be at the half marathon mark, this time was pretty close. I was running a good race through the first 10K! Each running interval was starting to get tiring at the 10K mark. However, I kept reminding myself that I was completing each interval. So, keep on moving.


I have no idea what this is. However, it looked cool and I was on a walk break. So, I had to snap the picture. This part of the course was really windy. Every big wind gust made me think about running the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon last year and how bad the wind was on that day. I did laugh each time because I was wearing my Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon running hat for this race. It must have been a sign of things to come!


I missed getting a picture of the 7 mile marker because I was in a run interval. However, in mile 8 we entered Wrigleyville. This picture was taken on the street where Wrigley Field resides. It was several blocks past where they made us turn. So close, yet so far from Wrigley Field.


The end of mile 8 was in Wrigleyville. Since I didn’t take pics of the previous 2 mile markers, I’m not really sure how I did in mile 8. I was keeping the run/walk intervals going pretty well. In Wrigleyville, I was catching a second wind. The tiredness I felt at the start of mile 7 was kind of gone. Each run was building some confidence.


Mile 9 brought us through a part of town known as Boystown. This was one of the popular parts of the course with the runners. The spectators were very entertaining.


I believe “colorful” is a good word to describe the spectators. As I got the phone ready to take this pic, I could tell that the guys were wanting to pose. So, I made sure to wait.


We also passed by the Laugh Factory. As I saw the sign, I thought…”hey, I know that place!” Well, I don’t know the Chicago Laugh Factory. image

This is the Laugh Factory in LA during the Los Angeles Marathon.


As I continued on, it was clear how much Chicago was going crazy for the Cubs. There were Cubs flags flying all over the course.


My pace had slowed a little bit in mile 8. I finished that mile in around 14 minutes. I think taking all those extra photos cost me some time. As mile 10 started, I made sure to keep to the right of the street. I thought that I’d get to see some of the folks from the charity I was running for in this mile. So, I made sure to keep going strong. I didn’t remember exactly where they would be.


I can’t tell if the time reads 3:15:57 or 3:16:57. So, I either finished this mile in 13 or 14 minutes. Not bad. I could feel that I had slowed a little. That much was expected. What I was happy about at this point of the race is that I was still in contention to cross the half marathon mark in around 3 hours. That was the time I was shooting for. At the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon, we crossed the half marathon mark in 3 hours. So, that’s what my mind was thinking about as I continued on.


Not too far past the 10 mile marker, I passed by where my charity peeps were waiting. So, I got a free pic of me running! Score!


It was great to see Suzi and my sign! I’ve got to admit that it gave me some new energy to keep going on in mile 11!


We were heading back to the city at this point. I knew that I only had a couple more miles before the crowds would start to thin out (according to what I had read). So, I was taking it all in. The people of Chicago were wonderful supporters of the race and I was loving this part of the course because we were running through all these different neighborhoods. It was fun times.


Apparently, I didn’t get a picture of the 11 mile marker. I will say this, though. By the time I got to mile marker 12, I could feel a half marathon time around 3 hours! That was hugely motivating as that’s where I wanted to be at that point of the race. So, to be at the end of mile 12 and still have the possibility of a 3 hour half marathon was all the motivation I needed to keep with my run/walk intervals!


Mile 13! I guess it took me 15 minutes to get here. However, I was so happy with my time! I was still under 3 hours at this point and only a tenth of a mile to the half marathon point! Keep going! Keep moving forward is what I was thinking!


Ok. So, you can’t see the time here. But, I made it to the half way point in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 15 seconds! I was on a PR pace! Even though I was just under 3 hours for the first half, I knew I was slowing down and wouldn’t make a sub 6 hour marathon. However, I knew that I had crossed the half marathon point at Walt Disney World in around 3 hours as well (actually, a little over 3 hours). I had a fantastic first half of this marathon!

This is where I’ll end this post because it’s gone on long enough. My next post will be the conclusion of the race.

3 thoughts on “Running a World Major Marathon – Chicago Marathon Recap Part 1

    1. There was great crowd support throughout the race. Even towards the end were the crowds were light when I got there, I could tell that the crowd was much larger earlier in the day. I’ve heard that NYC is off the charts with crowd support.

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