This blog is penned by Geoffrey. It’s for the runners who will understand it. We love Chicago – this was our 3rd visit in 4 years. Of course if you are interested in visiting Al Capone city, the end of Route 66, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), cruise Lake Michigan, shop and eat the Magnificent Mile, visit the wonderful Art Institute or crazy enough to run the marathon than contact me and I’ll be happy to assist.
Over to Geoffrey …
Running marathons overseas has become fashionable in recent years. Chicago is one of the 6 World Marathon Majors – the others being Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin and New York
They are glamourous and BIG, the 40th Chicago event was 43,000 BIG. However many runners will attest to the additional challenges of running far-away marathons. Time-zone changes, jetlag, picking up bugs on the long-haul flight, an unfamiliar hotel bed, noisy and/or faulty air-conditioning, unfamiliar food, different climate etc. can all conspire against you on race day. You are at risk of standing at the start line a mentally and physically tired, sniffing and coughing wreck. Once the adrenalin wears off at the half-way point things can go downhill very quickly. Good planning is the key to reduce these risks. I managed to get good quality sleeps in the nights before departure; take ‘Blis Travel Guard’ (probiotic lozenges) to reduce the risk of catching something in-flight; stay at accommodation close to the start line and with a kitchen where I can prepare my own meals. The night before, I mix a few drops of elemental magnesium with water (which helps muscle relaxation) and take 2 ‘Estrella PM’ sleep tablets (supports staying sleep).
The ‘Estralla PM’ tablets were actually samples in the Expo participant bag (but I had used them before and knew that they worked for me). Like the rest of the event the Expo is well organised – easy to get to by free shuttle buses (departing from various points from the city) and well setup with short queues for pack and T-shirt collection. It is dominated by Nike gear however (being a major sponsor).
Despite the tragic events in Las Vegas the previous week there was no noticeable additional security from the previous year. There were reports however that there were an extra 1,000 undercover police alone for this year’s event. The general organisation of the event is excellent. Access to the start line is efficient and exiting after you finish is very good as well.
Race-day was unseasonably warm and we started off at around 14 degrees C. 4 hours later the temperature was 24 degrees. The aid stations are fantastic. There are 20 in total (so on average every 2kms); on both sides of the road, and they each stretch 2 city blocks in length. That’s 6,000 volunteers handing out cups of Gatorade for the most part with water at the end. I was easily able to take and consume 3 cups (2 Gatorade and 1 water) without stopping at each station. That’s 60 cups in total (although on average the cup was only half full). I was disciplined with this as I knew it was going to get warmer as the race progressed and because I perspire a lot anyway. The later aid stations have gels, chews and bite-sized banana segments. I felt my first leg cramps at around 32kms and I really do think this additional sustenance help managed the cramping
You can also take advantage of the shade cast by the city high risers on long stretches of the route early on and the smart runners did this. However the close proximity of the high rise buildings and a number of underpasses created an issue with my Garmin FR235. Data accuracy fell off at certain parts of the course which rendered some of the data unreliable so I also used the Garmin’s heart rate function some of the time to monitor pace. I used a chest strap as I find this is more accurate than the wrist monitor in the watch (especially during running).
The crowd support in Chicago is incredible – an estimated 1.7m people around the course. Can’t really describe this – you really need to be there to experience this yourself. It’s also a very flat course (only a 39m elevation gain) and a good one to go for a fast time.
If you would like more information about this destination please contact me.