Our weekend started dark and early last Friday morning for the ~10 hour drive to Chicago. It went smoothly and went by pretty quickly, at least until we hit grid lock traffic heading into the city during rush hour. Ugh.
We checked into our [budget] hotel just steps from Grant Park and realized that we had enough time to hit the expo, so we decided to do that and free up our Saturday morning. We planned to take public transit, but the concierge was kind enough to inform us that there was a free shuttle available from the [not-so-budget] hotel just around the corner. Win!
It wasn’t crowded at all and we picked up our packets easily, then moseyed around the vendor booths for a while. Nothing much jumped out at us except I had to have this puppy print Bondi Band - I was missing our pup like crazy so this way he could be there with me (sort of) , and it even matched my race day outfit.
After dumping our goodies back at the hotel, we wandered into a pizza & pasta place for dinner. I resisted the urge to order the deep dish (saving that for post-race!) and enjoy a yummy pasta dish instead.
After dinner we all turned in early after the long day, ready to rise and shine to start our day with a run Saturday morning. The temperature had dropped significantly so we bundled up before taking to the streets for a little exploration, including a sneak peak at the start/finish area set-up for the following day.
We had a delicious breakfast to re-fuel, and spent the rest of the morning doing some more sight-seeing. It was a chilly day and quite the change from our 90+ degree days in Boston. We had to laugh because the friends we were travelling with have a history of bringing cold weather to their destination races – they ran a rare cold Chicago in 2009, and came to Florida with us for the sub-freezing Goofy Challenge in 2010. Nope, they didn’t come to Boston this year. If anybody wants to hire them to bring cold weather to a race, let me know!
After a light lunch and a short break at the hotel, I headed back to the expo in the afternoon to meet up with Marcia and her gang. We only had a chance to chat briefly, but it was great to meet these lovely ladies: Michel, Jill, Marcia, Me. [Thanks Marcia for the photo!)]
It was a painful shuttle ride back to the hotel thanks to traffic, road closures due to marathon set-up, the Miami-Notre Dame game and a driver who had no clue where she was going. In the end, the passengers demanded that she let us off the bus in the middle of the street because we had been within walking distance of our destination for no less than half an hour and continued to drive in circles around it.
We had a quiet dinner and an early night at the hotel to get ourselves organized for the next morning.
We got up early, bundled up and walked down the street to a cafe to grab breakfast. We were back at the hotel room in plenty of time to get ready and have a few quiet minutes before heading to the starting area, just a few minutes away.
At this point, we were very grateful for the cold weather. We were determined to wear the costumes regardless, but it would have been highly uncomfortable on a hotter day. As it turned out, we were quite comfortable and also had a nice outer layer to keep us warm in the morning while everyone else was bundled in throw-aways.
Patti (blue “m”) was seeded in corral C while I was assigned B, however I planned to drop back so that we could start together. Unfortunately we learned from the volunteers and officials on-site that runners were not being allowed to move back. I’ve never heard of this restriction before, but apparently it was a new regulation to help control the masses. It worked out okay for us since I was able to go to the back of B while Patti went to the front of C (although we had completely different entrances to the corrals), but I felt sorry for a husband and wife who wanted to run together and were seeded several corrals apart. I hope they were able to re-connect somehow.
We were already enjoying all kinds of smiles and comments on our outfits, and felt pretty relaxed and excited (only slightly nervous, since neither of us was feeling particularly prepared for a marathon) as we waited to start. Before long, we were off and crossed that mats about 3 minutes after the gun. Let the fun begin!
The following several miles are a blur of excitement as we began to pound our way through the streets. It was still pretty congested and we stayed to the right in order to keep out of the way of faster runners, since we were running considerably slower than our seeding.
We could not believe the amount of attention we were getting in our costumes. It was a frenzy of smiling, waving and saying ‘thank you!’ as spectators caught sight of us and cheered like crazy. Within the first few miles, we actually started wondering if it might get exhausting as the morning wore on, but we were having entirely too much fun!
The miles were literally flying by as people continued to notice and shout out “Look at the M&Ms!”; “I love M&Ms!”; “Which one is peanut?”; etc. The volunteers and even police officers seemed to be getting a real kick out of it and we soaked it all up. No word of a lie – my face was hurting from smiling and laughing so much!
Our plan was to walk through the aid stations and we were sticking to it, and also stopped for a quick potty break before 10K.
10K: 58:49 (diff. 30:25)
I somehow dropped 2/3 of the gels I had packed in the early miles. I had taken one but knew I needed to grab a couple at the mile 17 aid station. Patti offered me some of hers but I didn’t want to dip into her supply and thought I would be okay. Meanwhile, I took advantage of oranges being handed out by spectators a couple of times and made sure to drink Gatorade at every station to keep the calories flowing. I was also taking a salt tablet every hour or so.
15K: 1:27:10 (diff. 28:21)
At some point before the half way mark, I heard my name from the crowd and it was George! He happened to be in town and made it out to the race to see us run by. Thanks for the photo, G!
20K: 1:56:10 (diff. 29:00)
The half seemed to sneak up on us and we were surprised to see that we were just over 2 hours, which was quite a bit quicker than we had expected. We were having a blast and still feeling great.
The crowds were just insane all along and they were truly carrying us through this race. There wasn’t even an opportunity to feel tired or so since we were so distracted by our adoring fans.
The nature of the route made it easy for people to get around to various locations, so we started recognizing stand-out spectators with their unique signs or outfits, and many were recognizing us too. “There are the M&Ms again!”; “The M&Ms are still together!”; “Are you melting yet?”
I also spotted Marcia who was cheering with her Mr. Pumpkin on a stick at the Lupus Charity tent. It was great to see another familiar face among the sea of strangers.
25K: 2:24:57 (diff. from 20K 28:47)
I had started to feel low on energy and needed a boost. I worried that I was going to bonk before I could get some solid calories into me and started counting down to the gel station. Thankfully, it appeared right on schedule and I grabbed 3 Clif Shots. I took one immediately and another just 20 minutes later, and started feeling better almost immediately. Placebo effect? Perhaps somewhat.
30K: 2:53:50 (diff. 28:53)
Another potty break was needed before 35K. We were down to single-digit kilometres and could not believe (a) how fast the time and distance were going by, and (b) how good we felt.
35K: 3:24:32 (diff. 30:42)
The sun was out and it was warming up, relatively speaking. I had removed my arm sleeves and tied them around my belt and ended up tossing the gloves that had been going on and off all morning depending on the wind. We were still feeling pretty comfortable in the costumes (except needing to tug it away from our necks occasionally). We really could not have asked for a better day.
Chip Time: 4:06:29
Age Group*: 876/3653
*Last race in 25-29!
We slowly made our way through the line to collect our blankets, medals, water, beer, food, etc. The finish area was necessarily massive and made for a bit of a long hike to get back to the hotel. The city was packed with other runners hobbling along, wearing their medals and wrapped in the blankets. We were pretty warm in our Ms.
We honestly had the best time ever running this race and I am so glad we decided to have fun with it. I highly recommend racing in costume (especially at a huge event like this) some time if you’re looking for a change of pace and a lot of attention. I loved everything about the Chicago Marathon and I would do it again in a heart beat. The course and support were more than I could have asked for and the logistics went very smoothly for a race of this size. [although I understand they ran out of medals for the 6h+ finishers]
We put our feet up for a little while followed by a lot of walking and eating. We checked out a few more sights and enjoyed the much anticipated Giordano’s Pizza and Garrett’s Popcorn.
All too soon it was time to pack up and prepare for the long car ride home the next morning. FYI, a long car ride the day after running a marathon combined with access to popcorn is a very dangerous combination…