Chicago Marathon

So, a year ago I ran my first (and only, so far) marathon in Chicago.

Somehow I never managed to finish my recap post. Maybe because I wasn’t entirely happy with the way the race went. Maybe because I needed some time to wrap my head around it. Maybe because I didn’t want to remember the struggles.

I’m a little bitter watching this years marathon, because they have absolutely perfect temperatures. Last year was, shall we say, absolutely imperfect. By the time I was finished temps were in the low 80s. Today? They’ll top out at about half that.

Watching this years marathon, broadcast live on NBC Chicago, has brought back a lot of memories.

Lakeview, Old Town, Little Italy, Near West Side, Pilsen, Chinatown, Bridgeport, Bronzeville, South Loop. Just a few of the 29 neighborhoods that the marathon course runs though and the most memorable for me.

Lakeview is one of the first neighborhoods you enter, and is possibly the most exciting. The streets are lined with spectators and roadside entertainment abounds.

Old Town is another exciting neighborhood to run through. The view is pretty darn beautiful as well, tons of historic homes and trees lining the streets. (This was pretty nice last year, as trees = shade!)

Little Italy smelled so delicious! The crowds here were awesome and brought the excitement.

The Near West Side is the halfway point, as you pass by Chicago’s Union Station. I was still feeling really good at this point in the race last year. I also got to see my mom (again), husband, and mom-in-law here. That was definitely a huge boost.

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I was feeling pretty good up until about mile 15 or so, until the heat started to really get to me. My legs started cramping like crazy and I was just feeling totally depleted. I took a lot of walking breaks and pulled off to the side to stretch a few times as well. At that point in the course the runners are kind of alone as well, not too many (if any at all) spectators at this stretch, until mile 18ish.

Right around mile 18 you turn in the Pilsen neighborhood and things start feeling so much more exciting. It seems like everyone comes out of their homes to cheer on the runners. Pilsen is a Hispanic neighborhood, so imagine mariachi, colorful decorations, and delicious smells of cooking food.

Chinatown is after Pilsen, and is another amazing neighborhood to run through. You can hear it coming before you finally pass under the iconic sign welcoming visitors. I saw my cheering squad again as I ran though Chinatown. This was also where I realized I was actually going to run farther than I ever had before.

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After Chinatown you head into the Bridgeport neighborhood, passing by U.S.Cellular Field, home of the White Sox.

After this the course goes across the Dan Ryan Expressway (via an overpass) into Bronzeville. My little bro happens to attend school in this neighborhood so he came out to cheer me on. He took it up a notch by not only cheering but actually jumping in to run with me for a bit. He had a nice, fresh, cold water bottle and fresh legs to keep me going for about a mile or so. He also made sure to tell me that he was officially scared of his big sister, since I was running a marathon.

After Bronzeville the course heads back into the city, eventually winding into the South Loop. When Grant Park is faintly visible in the distance, you know that you can make it. I started run/walking at this point, trying to run 3-4 minutes before walking for 1.

Coming back into Grant Park, there are a few crazy turns, including a hilly bridge which most people hate. Thankfully I ran most of my training runs on hills so I was able to power through and dominate it. Seeing my cheering squad again right before this bridge gave me the last little boost I needed.

Turning onto the final stretch your heart totally takes over. The finish line is visible, there are thousands of people cheering, and there is no turning back.

Crossing the finish line was probably the most emotional experience of my life. I’m not too proud to say that I cried after crossing and getting my medal. My sister happened to be volunteering at the finish line, so she found me and “assisted” me off the course.

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I felt pretty good right after finishing. Sore & tired, but good. And there really is no better place to run than in the beautiful city of Chicago!

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