Today might very well be my last post before Chicago. After 11 times gearing up for Chicago, I’m still filled with the same excitement, nervousness, and awe as a when I ran my first marathon.
I've been blessed to have my daughter Laura join me in the past. Check out that sign! After graduating from college last spring, she's living in California volunteering for a year, so she won't be on hand. I'll miss her, but be carrying her image and words with me. This year I'll have my son, Daniel, and his friends supporting me around the course. He's a runner and big supporter, so it will be thrilling to have him on hand too.
Not sure why heading off to a marathon seems like such a fierce thing to do. I think it's because there are so many unknowns and so many logistics. So to get ready and also to help anyone else headed to Chicago, I’ve compiled what I’ve learned into a top list of must knows.
Arrive early to Grant Park. After 7:00 you're in a bind for port-a-potties, checking gear, clearing your mind, lining up, etc.
Bring your own TP to Grant Park.
Wear your name on your shirt or singlet. Using a Sharpie, write it in block letters on the blank side of an old tyvek race bib. You’ll have tens of thousands of spectators yell your name and cheer for you. Note: don’t use the shortened version if your formal name is Richard.
First mile: If you think you’re going the right pace, you’re actually going too fast! If you thing you’re running slow, you’re probably running the right pace.
Don’t let the congestion wear you down in the early miles. If you’re feeling a bit boxed in or behind pace after five miles, relax. You still have 21 miles to make it up!
Take in the ethnic neighborhoods. They are the fabric of the course. There are so many thrilling experiences at the Chicago Marathon.
The re-unite area has alphabetical signs for you where your family can gather to wait for you after the race. Use them according to your last name. They work. Don’t plan to outsmart everyone else by use the letter X or Z signs because you think it won’t be crowded. Everyone else tries that too.
There will be more than 100,000 people at the finish area for several hours. Be patient.
If you start to get weak legs on Friday or Saturday and wondering what the hell you’ve gotten into, you’re in good company.
Find a way to convey to that special person—spouse, family member, friend, etc. how grateful you are for their support. Don't buy the Chicago Marathon commemorative Christmas Ornament for sale at the expo for someone else to remember your marathon. A Polish tradition is on marathon day the men present their wives and girlfriends with flowers before the race. Hope my wife isn’t reading this post.
The DVD they sell with stock race footage plus customized footage of you running at half a dozen points on the course is a very good quality and great way to remember the event. I wouldn't miss it.
I’m biased, but I think Chicago is the most wonderful of the large marathons. It’s a great host city. Feed off the city’s October beauty, the marathon’s great organization, the tremendous crowd of spectators, and the celebration of the greatness of running.
Contact me if you need tips for your family and friends to find you along the course. I'll be at the Expo most of the weekend and not too far from The Stick exhibit space. My number is 515-229-6072
Below is some of the best advice we've collected in the Lounge by tons of marathoners. They're worth their weight in gold. If you have additional advice for marathoners, spectators, or anyone, please chime in!