I am writing this with a huge smile on my face. On the 7th October 2018 I took part in the Chicago Marathon. This is the second time I have ran in America after completing the Las Vegas Marathon 2017, but the first time I have paced in America. I am very fortunate to have paced 3 world majors this year, London 2018, Berlin 2018 and now Chicago 2018. Today was another milestone for me, marking the 60th event I have paced as an official pacer, and the 14th marathon I have paced. It is also my 41st marathon, 48 toward 100 marathon club.
Pre marathon fun
Leading up to the marathon wasn’t the most relaxing, to be fair it never is with my family. They always favour their mum, but for some reason they know when I need to rest, and so just want me, which I secretly love. I took my family to Chicago with me, as it’s an experience I wanted to share with them. We had lots of fun at the zoo, and exploring Chicago.
I was surprised about how busy it was to get into the expo, and apparently it’s not normally this busy. This part of the expo wasnt as well organised as it could be as the queue was mainly to scan your confirmation and tell you where to collect your bib. Beyond this huge queue there was lots of empty space and no queues to collect bibs. It would make far more sense to organise alphabetically, or by bib number, and have lots of smaller queues in the right place. Once inside the expo it was much easier to move around. I started the card loading with more pizza, and had a look at a few things, including picking up some special edition oofos.
As part of being a Nike Pacer for Chicago you are provided with Nike kit which is compulsory to wear. We were given Pegasus 35, and some other kit. Only issue is the pacer singlets did not arrive, so I just wore the event tee given to me. Not the end of the world as I dont need more tops, just a shame as would have been a nice momento. As a pacer I also had to do a 3 hour shift at the expo, so my family went home and I stayed to talk to runners for a few hours, a great way to get in the marathon spirit.
Chicago International 5k
On the Saturday it was the 5k event. Although I would have loved to have taken part in this event as well, I contacted the organisers and they said strictly no buggies or kids (the age of mine) allowed. So it was an easy decision, I was running the marathon, so Kirsty did the 5k.
The morning was grim and it was torrential rain, thunder and lightning. We got soaked, but then the COO of channel 2 called us into the studio to get out of the rain. It was handy as he also worked closely with the Race Director and was able to tell us that the event had been delayed. He explained that lightning was the only thing that would get an event cancelled. After a 15 minute delay they were off. I took the kids to go and see Kirsty finish and we were really happy that we managed to see her.
Kirsty did fantastic. The only slight annoyance of the event was that I saw a few people running with buggies and kids the age of mine with their own bib. Obviously they weren’t allowed to do this, but on race day they were allowed and even given extra medals for the kids. It would have been nice if I was allowed to push mine around. Oh well, it’s not the end of the world. I’m very proud of Kirsty.
Chicago Marathon 2018
As always the night before I like to get my kit all ready as a bit of confidence, to be sure I’m organised ready for the morning. Yes my trainers are new, and I know this is far from ideal, but it is compulsory kit. I dont recommend running in new trainers usually, but remember when pacing I’m not going at full intensity, so it’s like a training run. So this mitigates a lot of the issues you can get from breaking in new shoes on race day.
Race morning was a really early start. I had to be at the pacer tent before 6 am, so I left just after 5. It was a pleasant walk down Michigan in the dark with lots of runners around. I got to the race village in time and it was quick getting through security. I would imagine this would get busier the later you leave it, so I would always recommend getting in early just in case. I liked that there seemed to be lots of space in the village (although I couldn’t see much in the dark) and I went straight to the pacer tent. One thing I did notice was there were lots of toilets spread around, and in discreet areas to avoid queues getting in people’s way. The organisation at the start was really good.
Within the pacers tent we were looked after with everything we needed, including refreshments, and chairs. We also left our bags here which took away any stress about getting sorted. A lot of the pacers brought spare singlets with them from previous years for people to borrow. Unfortunately the biggest on offer was a medium, and was too snug around my chest. The pacers are organised by Paul, one of the pacers, and everything was so well taken care of, you can really tell the difference when things like this are organised by runners.
We had a group photo, look how many pacers there are for this event. After our team photo we made our way to the start line to find the runners joining our pace group. I made my way to the front of coral G with John my fellow pacer.
The marathon is split into 3 waves and we were the second group in the second wave. At the front of G you could see so many people all around us. I talked with everyone around me about the pacing strategy. I explained how the GPS was supposed to be poor, but not to worry as the Pacers were there to help people get their pace right. There were dozens around me running Chicago for the first time, and even more said they were running their first ever marathon. What a great race to kick things off.
Before long it was our turn to start, and I could feel the energy as we approached. We crossed the start after about 10 minutes of the second wave, so I guess about 40 minutes after the first runners. Although there were so many people it is spread with really wide roads, so I didnt feel held up owning to congestion.
Immediately I understood how bad the GPS situation was, as I had hoped people had been exaggerating. My watch recorded that I had completed a mile after only 0.77, but nevertheless I crossed mile 1 in 8:55 which was perfect. I had a great surprise at Mile 1 as I saw kirsty and the kids on the corner. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the road so didnt get close to them, but that was a great boost.
Once I got to Mile 3 my watch was recording 4 miles. I also wore Kirstys watch and couldn’t believe that it was recording 5 miles at this point. I found that I paced myself better not being able to rely on my watch and just settled into a good rhythm. I hit each mile within a couple of seconds, and so when I got to mile 5 I decided to pick up the pace slightly, as I like to have a 30 second cushion at half way. I never like leaving it without any buffer, as I want everyone to stay on target.
I kept a lot of runners with me from start to finish, and picked more people up along the way. As there was an overlap of pacers in waves I overtook the 4 hour pacers from F. This caused some confusion for runners around me, but I was vocal as ever making sure people knew what was going on.
Each mile I shouted out how we were doing, and it was great having such a response from everyone around me, Americans are fantastic and have so much energy. This energy was dampened slightly when we had a downpour of rain. Although this only lasted for a few miles, and then a light rain for a few miles more. It was actually perfect running weather, but not great for spectators. The spectators were actually fantastic. On the most part it doesn’t compare to the numbers out at London, but this is definitely the second best event in terms of support. The roads were wide and there was a constant noise of cheers and encouragement.
I always say I prefer events with water in bottles, and this remains true. However the cups in this event were really good, they were made of thin paper with a plastic coating, which meant they could be squeezed to drink from without them splitting. Stations were every mile or so, so it was never long between water and Gatorade.
As you can see my strava splits bare no resemblance of the pace I was actually running, and were a mile over. The more accurate recording came from the course markings. I’m pleased that they were mostly consistent which isn’t bad considering I had to run from feel. There were some slight delays around water stations and a couple of points that people slowed. Another tip is on bridges there are metal grates, the organisers put carpets over them on the right hand side, so I stuck to them.
This is an event that I’m not going to forget. It’s a long way to come to run, but certainly worth it. Crossing that finish in 3:54:53 I was so pleased to know I had come in 7 seconds within target. People always say that I make it look easy, and that I dont need luck. But I am always so nervous, I try not to let it show, I stay confident and keep it consistent, but it’s always hard, and until I cross that finish I dont underestimate what there is to do.
When I finished there were lots of people waiting for a hug, and so many hit their target. One of the runners who had kept with me for the duration asked if they could have my pacing sign, and I was happy to give it to him.
I collected my medal which has had mixed reviews. I for one love it, it’s different and I like something that will stand out. I stopped my watch accurately so it matches my official time. I couldn’t be happier with the time.
After the finish you get a bag of goodies and a can of beer. Apparently the cans are collectable, I dont know about that but the beer was so good I had two.
An amazing experience, an incredible city, and my 3rd world major. I hope everyone had as much fun as me. Next up for me is the Royal parks half next weekend.
I’m also nominated in the running awards for best blog. Feel free to help me out with a quick vote in blog, personal, pickupthepace paul. You can find the link HERE thank you.