Race: Chicago Marathon
Runner: John Gregson
Race Date: 10/09/2022
Location: Chicago, IL
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7938195691
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- The course was nice and flat, and the weather was perfect for running
- The aid stations were plentiful and well organized
- The crowd was amazing
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Nothing really. One little quibble might be the recommendation to get to my starting corral two hours early. That seemed excessive.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
Running on carpet across a couple of the grated bridges was a little weird.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
Negative splits! My rest and nutrition were on point and, for the first time ever, I felt strong enough to pick up the pace in the second half of the race. The weather was perfect, and even though there were a lot of runners on the course, the congestion wasn’t too much of an issue after the first couple of miles. PR by 15 minutes and just 1:07 short of my 4-hour A goal. Coming off a slower-than-expected Berlin Marathon two weeks earlier, I kind of shocked myself by improving my time by 28 minutes over that race.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Grab a pace band if you have specific race goals. GPS is notoriously inaccurate in downtown Chicago, so you’ll probably need to rely on the mile markers and your overall time to calculate your splits/pace. I forgot to grab a pace band at the expo, so I just scribbled a few key split times on my arm with a Sharpie. I didn’t carry hydration with me and there was plenty on course to meet my needs. You may not need sunglasses at the start of the race, but there was a lot of sun/glare in the back half of the race.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
Maurten gels are amazing. A bit spendy for everyday training, but I took one every 20 minutes during Chicago and they were great. I mixed in the caffeinated version in the second half of the race. I also worked to get myself on Chicago time (from Seattle time) in the week leading up to the race, going to bed early and getting up early. I felt like I was fully rested on race morning. In the days leading up to the race, I ate a lot of bagels, pasta, and bananas, which seemed to be a good combo for me.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Try and stick to the “blue line” to take corners at the right angles, but be aware that the congestion will be heaviest here. As mentioned previously, don’t really on your watch GPS for splits/pace. Have an alternate plan to track your progress if you’re aiming for a specific time. Unless the weather dictates that you’ll need warm/dry clothes to change into right after the race, I’d probably skip the gear check and go the old, giveaway clothes route. After checking my gear, I stood around shivering for about 45 minutes before I actually started running. Smarter people than me stripped off their old sweatshirts at the last minute and tossed them to the volunteers collecting clothes for charity.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
I mean, as far as urban races go, it’s not bad. Lots of cool architecture and bridges. Not exactly picturesque while you’re running though.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
Other than the runner traffic you need to navigate, no, not a tough course at all. Flat, wide streets, lots of aid stations, great environment, etc.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Amazing. Coming on the heels of Berlin, which felt like a cluster at times, Chicago was incredible. Volunteers everywhere, clear instructions, and organized from the expo to the finishers’ village.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Yes, very strong. This year (2022), Ruth Chepngetich ran the second all time fastest women’s time and Emily Sisson ran the fastest ever US women’s time. Conner Mantz ran the sixth-fastest US men’s time.
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.
For middle-of-the-packers like me, you can get in via lottery, which you enter a year in advance, or by running in support of an approved charity. I was selected in the lottery then booked my hotel through Marathon Travel and Tours. I gather that some places do sell out, so if you are lucky enough to get in, you might want to book a hotel as soon as possible. I really liked being right next to the Grant Park start/finish line to eliminate another potential source of pre-race stress.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Pretty standard fare. Gatorade Endurance and Water at the earlier stations, and a few stations with gels and fruit later in the race. Spectators are also shoving stuff (e.g., popsicles, pickle juice, beer, Malört) in the runners’ faces though out the race. I avoided all of this.
Weather and typical race conditions
We had great weather this year (high 40’s to start, low 60’s by the finish), but it sounds there can be a lot of variety year-to-year. Last year (2021) was apparently very warm (68 at the start) and humid (84%).
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
Nothing special, but I would recommend a pace band if you’re so inclined. See above.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Yes, I think so. I went solo, but I gather that it’s possible for friends and family to cheer you on multiple times if they move around a bit.
How’s the Swag?
Pretty good. Short sleeve Nike tech shirt (picked up at expo) and finisher’s medal. There was a lot of stuff for sale at the expo, but by the time I got there (when the doors opened on the Saturday before the race), there wasn’t any official gear left in my size (or the size above, or the size below). I ended up ordering a half-zip from the Nike website has soon as I got back to my hotel room.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5 out of 5. I would absolutely recommend it. I wasn’t planning on repeating any of the majors before I complete my Six Stars, but I’d make an exception for Chicago.
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