Recapping Chicago: 26.2 miles of Awesome

@ mile 13 along the course

@ mile 13 along the course

If I had to sum it up in three words, I’d say the Chicago Marathon was “a thrilling experience.” It is the ideal race a runner desires for a PR, a qualifying time, or simply to finish well. Fast and mostly flat, the course boasted 26.2 miles of cheering, energy-giving, vibrant and entertaining spectators and awesome volunteers.

Whatever you needed was available, from volunteers handing out the expected Gatorade and water and continuos encouragement, to random spectators with pain killers, Vaseline, fruit, snacks, water hoses, beer – if you didn’t cross the finish line it was not from a lack of support. There seemed an organized and concentrated effort to get you through, from the range of awesome Nike pacers with those looking to finish in times of 3 thru 5 & 1/2 hours, to the enthusiastic spectators. I mean, what do you do when faced with an average of 1.7 million people cheering you on? Chances are you run your heart out, even if you’re in pain, want to give up or you’re sick to your stomach; you run because the odds are there will never be another occasion or opportunity where you get to take center stage to such a large audience. Finally, an understanding  of why there are so many in show biz, being in the limelight can be a heady feeling alright.

For the most part, I barely remembered I was nursing an ankle injury I sustained a week before, not until mile 22 when it appeared I developed a blister under the other foot. My struggle began in ernest at that point and it was all I could do to stay focused on the crowd and the finish line. However difficult those final four miles – my personal goliath if you will – it cannot take away from the sense of utter satisfaction I feel about the overall experience. Over 40,000 runners took to the streets to “own Chicago” as Nike’s official hastag for the event encouraged, to the thrilling accompaniment of music, cheers, chants and dance. It was similar to New York, only better. Here I was able to enjoy it more. You may recall that I was also nursing an injury in the New York race, only I ran that entire time in pain. It appears I am doomed to repeat past mistakes.

Chicago is a beautiful city with its towering skyscrapers and modern architecture, which was on spectacular display. Our course took us from Grant Park,through the city and neighborhoods, and back again. A much bigger city than New York, one would think this would allow for more running space as it did for the big buildings, sadly not. Runners were toe to heel for most of the race with enough bobbing and weaving to make you a little crazy trying to keep pace. But with perfect weather conditions, albeit a bit sunny, you really couldn’t complain. For as much as it was within the control of the organizers of the Chicago marathon, they ran a well-executed race. As a result, Chicago is high up there on the few courses I want to re-run, minus the injury of course.

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