Chicago Marathon Part One: Leading up to the race

My Chicago Marathon was a whirlwind weekend.  I left my school about two hours early in order to make a 5:00pm flight.  I arrived in Chicago at 5:48pm CT and utilized the rail system.  I had ordered a ventra card to use and paid for a special that they had for three days of unlimited use.  I really didn’t use it much, so I didn’t get my money’s worth, however I did love the cool marathon design that I got.

My husband and mother in law, who had gone down in the morning, met me at the train station and walked with me to our hotel.  We stayed at the Hilton Chicago, a host hotel, and it wasn’t a bad walk, except that it was drizzling.  When we got to our hotel, I was pretty impressed.  It was very nice and a great location, particularly for the race.  I dropped my suitcase off in the room and we went and got in line for the bus to the expo.

That part was a little stressful.  It was almost seven at this point, and I know that buses didn’t run much longer.  One bus came back from the expo to drop off people, only to tell us that they weren’t taking anyone back to the expo.  The person manning the pick up told us that there might not be any buses going back to the expo that night.  We were upset because the program said they would be running until 8:30, and she told us that with people’s shifts, they would be stopping.  A couple people walked away and we were about to book an Uber with a stranger when another bus stopped.  We decided to wait and see what this bus was doing.  Luckily, it was headed back to the expo so we got on, feeling bad for those people who had left to take a taxi.  That was poorly done and I feel like there needs to be better communication so that people don’t have to be turned away again.

When we got to the expo I knew we didn’t have much time, besides the fact that I was exhausted, so we rushed through a bit.  It was really easy to get my bib.  They scanned the code on my packet pick up materials, then sent me to a booth where they got my bib ready.  I then had to walk through all of the vendors (well played) to get to my race shirt.  Everyone was super nice and it was a huge place filled with so many retailers, I wish I had more time to spend browsing.  My husband had gone that morning to get his stuff for the 5k, so he had looked around for me and bought a few things that he knew I would want.  I had taken advantage of Nike having their stuff posted early, so I had already ordered what I liked from their online and it arrived before I even left for the race.  My husband had grabbed me a regular pint glass, a super nice water bottle, and a stainless steel pint that day.  The only thing I really was looking for was a hoodie, and I found a nice one at The North Face booth that I ended up getting.  It also blew my mind how many people were wearing the race shirt.  We saw them a ton prior to the start of race.  I have always considered that a no-no, unless I somehow packed poorly and had nothing else to wear.  Maybe I’d wear something I bought extra for the race, but I would never wear the shirt.  It just seems to jinx it to me.

We returned to the hotel, leaving a few minutes before the expo closed.  We had a quick dinner from a place in the hotel and called it a night early.  I was really tired and my husband was running the International 5k the next morning, so he needed to relax a bit.  I’m really jealous that I didn’t run that race, too.  It looked like so much fun, but I had originally hoped that I was going to be in PR shape for the marathon, which it ended up that life decided would not be the case, so I hadn’t registered for it.  I really regret it and will likely do it if I ever go to Chicago again.

The Hilton Chicago was not a far walk to the start of the 5k.  My husband left to go there while my mother in law and I decided to hit up Starbucks prior to heading to the finish.  The Starbucks was swamped, with the employees saying they didn’t realize there was a race that morning, too.  Hopefully they keep that in mind for next year!  We made it to see my husband finish, but we got a little nervous waiting so long.

The finish for the 5k was awesome.  The runners come around a turn and come barreling towards the finish line, with an announcer keeping everyone pumped up and cheering on the runners.  There were runners from other countries running with flags and some runners in costume.  So many people had come out to run the 5k, and it was awesome to watch people run for the finish.  After finishing, the runners got an awesome medal and a cool winter scarf with the race on it.  It was a shame, however, that there was no other race merchandise for it.  My husband had looked for a shirt or something at the expo, as well as the finisher area, hoping he could get something to wear, but there was nothing.  I think that’s an untapped market.  I bet, with a race of this size, that they could sell a bunch of shirts for this race.

We went and got breakfast at a cute little street-side Greek cafĂ© after the 5k.  It took a long time to eat and we watched a lot of people get up and leave because it was taking so long to just place an order.  We decided to wait it out and the food was really good.

After we decided to try and take buses to get to the aquarium, however the hotel didn’t give the best directions and we ended up on a bus going the wrong way.  We debated at that point if it was even worth going to the aquarium at that point.  I really didn’t want to be on my feet all day with a marathon the next day, and this experience was stressing me out.  We decided to get on a different bus, which still couldn’t get us there because they had started to close down streets.  It dropped us off as close as it could get and we walked the rest of the way.  When we got to the aquarium there were tons of people there, making us decide that it just wasn’t worth it to pay the cost of a ticket to go in and be so crowded.  We walked back to the hotel, realizing we should have just walked in the first place.

The Hilton Chicago did a pasta dinner buffet starting at 5pm on Saturday, so we went down around 4:30 to get in line for the dinner.  They said they weren’t taking reservations, so we sat down to wait, only for them to start taking names while we were sitting.  It wasn’t that big of deal, but they could have been a bit more organized at this point.  The restaurant is big and was able to accommodate all of the early bird runners, but it was confusing to everyone because some could put their names in and some were told no.  Once we were seated we went right up and the food was amazing.  They had several different pastas, lasagna, chicken, and great salad and dessert bars.  We got several rounds of food, rounding our meals out with yummy dessert.  Then it was time to go up to the room.

I had made the decision to book an extra room for the night of the marathon as I am a light sleeper and didn’t want to disturb anyone when I got up in the morning.  It was a pricey decision, but did end up being nice to be able to wind down how I wanted to and not inconvenience anyone.  I was still feeling gross from a pretty bad cold I was fighting and my knee and legs were stiff from walking, so I took a hot bath in order to try and loosen up a bit.  I set out all of my race stuff and lounged around, reading and going on social media a bit before turning off the lights around 8:30 pm.  I was anxious, but slept better than I had thought I would.


Stay tuned for part two!



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