Chicago Marathon Race Report – Rohit Eipe

In this race report, runner Rohit reviews the Chicago Marathon, including what to know about your start time and planning for aid stations.

Race: Chicago Marathon 2021

Runner: Rohit Eipe

Race Date: 10/10/2021

Location: Chicago, IL


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chicago marathon review

3 Bests – Review the aspects of the Chicago Marathon that you liked the most

  1. It’s pretty well organized overall.
  2. Aid stations were really great. There were stations every 1.5-2 miles. Gatorade and water at all of them, gels after 18 or so, and bananas after 18 as well. A couple of spots had wet sponges to cool off and some pain-relief “biofreeze” gel, but I didn’t try these.
  3. The course is very flat. The only spots with the slightest of elevation were the bridges. I wouldn’t call it the most picturesque, and it was so crowded that you can’t really take your eyes off the road at any point anyway; you have to look out for people all the time.

Not so much – Review the aspects of the Chicago Marathon that didn’t work for you

All in all – it was a really well run race, and these are really quibbles, and there’s not much they can do about the weather.


Apparently this race usually has perfect running weather, high 40s to start to mid 60s at the end and no rain. But this day had most of the race in the 70s and it was quite humid due to cloud cover all the time. It actually sprinkled a little right at 8am, but fortunately that didn’t turn into any rain, so I guess it could have been worse.


They were actually quite clean, but perhaps not enough for such a large number of people. I saw lines at the restrooms throughout the race. Also there were some extremely long lines at some places at the start (like 200 people long) and some very short lines elsewhere (5 people long), so it seemed like it would make sense to communicate better where all the restrooms were. Fortunately I heard an organizer directing people from the very long line that wasn’t moving at all to the very short lines that only took 2 minutes to get through.

Communication about when to get there

They recommended getting there at 6am for an 8am start of Wave 2, which was just completely unnecessary. I ended up getting there at 7am, and even that was excessive, and I could have got an extra 30 minutes of sleep given that I was staying so close to the race start. The Expo to pick up your race packet as well was very crowded and it took an hour plus to get through the line, and I must have walked 2 miles in the line to pick up my bib etc. Not sure how to solve that, but maybe encourage local people to pick up on Friday instead.

Finisher shirt

I’m guessing you had to pay extra for one of them, because I didn’t get it and I didn’t see many folks with one. The shirts that everyone got for picking up the packet were a little plain as well, and now I have 4-5 black t-shirts.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your marathon in particular?

I think I fueled really well leading up to and through the race. I’ve been using Spring Energy oatmeal and fruit packs and they give me a ton of slow-burning energy and cause no stomach distress at all. The pack is a little bulky for the calories but it worked well. Logistics went well overall. I found a hotel really close to the start, so it was low stress to get there the morning of.

Apparel worked really well. I found a pair of running shorts a couple of months ago that I liked a lot – lots of pockets! I got a new pair of shoes a month prior and broke them in with about 40 miles, so they were perfect for the race.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the Chicago Marathon to help the next runner

The recommended time to get there is vast overkill; I got there at 7 and still easily had 30 minutes sitting around doing nothing plus another 20 minutes from the start of my wave until I went past the start line. Next time I’d just get there at 7:30. It took less than a minute to go through security, and maybe 3 minutes to walk up to the corral. Restroom lines might be an issue but I wouldn’t have to use them if I had arrived just in time anyway.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

My hydration level could use a bit more tuning. It was a very warm day for this time of the year, and I didn’t take in enough fluids the first half of the race. I got more for the second half but couldn’t make up the debt. Core strength was the limiting physical factor for me. My lower back starting hurting around 18 or so and that was a much bigger limiting factor than any leg pain, though there was plenty of leg fatigue, knee pain, etc. I’d started some strength training a few months prior but for next time around I hope to be significantly stronger.

I ran with the 4:30 pace group for a while, which was too fast for me for the given day, training level, and conditions. Although I hadn’t officially signed up (for free) to run with them, I just saw them and followed them. I was able to stick with them for about 16-17 miles, but I think I’d have been better off sticking with my own race plan and running a little slow to begin with and not dropping off so much after 18.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the Chicago Marathon?

It’s really flat, so a great course to go for a fast time. The bridges are covered with a red carpet which is mostly fine but still feels a little tricky so watch for bumps and go carefully there. The streets are very wide, so I assume you really have to run in a straight line from corner to corner to really hit 26.2 miles. For the first few miles, my GPS was well off; my watch registered 2.9 miles at the 2 mile marker due to the tall buildings. Even out in the open, I would often hit a mile by my watch anywhere from 10 to 120 seconds before hitting the course mile marker, which was mentally deflating for me.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Not really, and especially not compared to the Seattle area. The bridges are interesting, but there are also so many people that you can’t take your eyes off the road for long enough to appreciate the scenery.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No, it’s as flat as they come.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Very well run.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I’d say so, this is probably where a lot of PRs are set so lots of great runners.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The Chicago public transit is excellent, so even if you’re staying a little out of downtown, it’s super easy to get to the start. Ubers and Lyfts are extremely expensive these days and I imagine would be impossible to get one the morning of the race, and probably costing in the $100s of dollars if you did. Hotels aren’t super cheap but not terribly expensive either; definitely cheaper than Seattle.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard fare for water, and lots of aid stations. For food / gels etc. I think they should had more and should have had them much earlier in the race. They only offered them from mile 18 or 19 onward. I carried a lot of calories in the form of solid / goopy stuff, but I looked around and saw that most people in my part of the field weren’t really carrying much.

Weather and typical race conditions

I read that typically, the weather in the high 40s at the start and mid 60s by later in the morning, and almost always dry. However, this time around it was low 70s at the start and climbed from there to high 70s, plus there was cloud cover most of the race, resulting in a humid setting.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Carry calories with you for the first 2/3 of the race.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

I’d say so, yeah. Easy to get around on the CTA, wide streets with sidewalks throughout that I can remember, goes through lots of neighborhoods (29, officially) so you can just stay where you are and wait for the runners to come to you.

How’s the Swag?

Ok. The medal was nice. The free shirt was just ok; decent material if a little thin, but a bit boring. I think there wasn’t a finisher shirt included in the price of entry.

The Overall Score – What is your final Chicago Marathon review, and do you recommend that others run it?

Definitely a 5 for 5 for me. I don’t think I’d care to run it every year if I had to travel for it but if you live in Chicago I think it’s a fantastic choice.

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