Chicago Marathon has been a long time coming. I had a place for 2020 which was cancelled because of covid. I then got a place for 2021, which I had assumed would have been fine, but the control measures and restrictions on flights meant that the marathon went ahead, although we were unable to fly from the UK. I have always loved Chicago Marathon, and you can see my review from Chicago Marathon 2019. After 2 years running as a Pacer at Chicago Marathon, this year I wanted to experience it for the first time as a runner. I also thought it was the sensible option after running the London Marathon 2022 in fancy dress the weekend before.
The Chicago Marathon 2022 was my 96th official marathon, although I am already part of the 100 marathon club having finished 111 marathon plus distance events. This was my 3rd Chicago Marathon, and my 21st star for the Abbott WMMajors, although I don’t have the Tokyo star to complete the 6 star series yet.
This year I travelled alone again. With other family holidays planned, and school term times, it makes it impossible to go as a family to all my runs. It also means I can go for the shortest period of time and spend far less when there, making the many trips more affordable. I did however reflect a lot over the weekend about why I run, and I’m not enjoying the weekends away alone any more. I’m trying to find that balance, and I think I’m going to start doing a little less. I will miss the adventures, but I run for fun, and if its not fun any more something needs to change.
I had entered the Chicago 5k, which meant that I had to go straight to the expo on the Friday after landing early afternoon. I was worried I would be cutting it fine, especially if the expo was busy, but the train journey from the airport to the expo is simple. When I arrived there was no queue to get into the expo, and no queue to collect bibs. Simple and straightforward. At the expo you pick up your hat for the 5k, and tee for the marathon. I had a quick look around, and it’s a great expo, but I had nothing I wanted to buy.
My weekend was filled with Deep Pan Pizza and beer, with a side of running. I’ve never been so full of cheese. It probably isn’t the best preparation for the marathon, and I know many who were saving it for after the marathon. But sometimes that’s the benefit of just running to enjoy the event, and having no time pressures. Running faster would be easier with more sensible fuelling, but I got to have the best of both worlds this weekend. To enjoy the food and drink in Chicago, and to enjoy the run.
After a big pizza I laid out my kit ready for the morning. Minus the hat which was for before and after. I forgot my visor, but didn’t want to buy another as I have dozens at home. It was my first outing in my new adidas Boston 11. I really enjoy running in my Boston 10, and I wanted to get these ready for the Boston Marathon 2023. I would put money on the theme being the traditional yellow and blue next year as it will be the 10 year anniversary of 2013 event.
AD The trainers were gifted to me as part of an ongoing partnership with adidas, but I chose them as I want to run in these in Boston and I thought Chicago Marathon weekend would be the perfect time to break them in. They are very similar to the Boston 10, so if you have tried these you know what to expect. There are a few different features with a tighter sock like fit on the inside, and some material on the back to help get the trainers on. They certainly feel more snug, but feel very similar to the Boston 10 to run in. I like this model as they have the same light feel and adizero technology, but offer more structure than the adidas adizero Pro range which is purely a race day trainer.
On Saturday morning it was an early start. I was going to head down in just my running stuff as there is no bag drop, but it was a 40 minute walk to the start, and it was cold. I also had plans to go to Yolk for breakfast which was near the race. This would have meant around 90 minutes round trip to get back for food, and just wasn’t going to happen. I decided to take my rucksack and run with it. I wasn’t exactly racing the 5k, so it didn’t really matter. It also meant I could stay warm right until race start. It was nice to take a gentle walk to the start with my Dunkin coffee.
I had a good run, it was a nice shake out. I wasn’t trying to race hard, and kept a pace of around 7:30 min miles. This is harder than it sounds in the centre of Chicago where GPS does not behave.
I finished at exactly 23 mins, and felt great at the end. I was also able to change my top and get my jacket and hat on straight away, so felt particularly well prepared.
After I finished I headed to Yolk for the most amazing breakfast. It was also lovely to be joined by some friends from the UK, and I took full advantage of the free refills of the drip coffee.
After a rest back at the hotel I went out for more pizza.
I was staying in Chinatown and on the way home I went into a store to get some snacks, and certainly was not in the right place. You could buy live frogs, terrapins and eels. So I had to walk a bit further to find something else.
Chicago Marathon 2022
After another great pizza I got my kit ready. Second run in my new adidas Boston 11 and running light. Some maurten for my fuelling needs. Only thing missing was a visor.
It was another early start for the marathon. To be honest it wasn’t hard to wake up as I didn’t really sleep in Chicago. The jet lag messed up my body clock, and I just couldn’t sleep. So I packed up and took a walk to the start area, leaving just before 06:00.
It’s busy, but we’ll organised at the start. They are very strict about only taking in your race bag, but too many people worry about this. I have a big rucksack which comfortably fits inside my bag. So I put my rucksack in just before I get to the park, meaning it’s easier to carry everything, and at the end you have your rucksack with you already.
The only issue, which is similar in most big races, is that the toilet queues are long. I waited about 40 minutes, which was cutting it fine for race start. The start line is magnificent, such amazing views of the skyline. It was really cold, so I was wrapped in a blanket. It was pretty perfect running weather. Cold, but dry, is great to run in. It also warmed up throughout the day, making it nicer for spectators and perfect for that finish line pint.
I didn’t have any real ambitions for time. I didn’t think I would be anywhere near my PB as I’m just not in that shape, but I didn’t know how well my legs had recovered. I decided I would just run to feel at the start and settle into a comfortable pace, so that’s what I did. That comfortable pace turned out to be around 07:30 min miles, and I held this pace consistently for the first half. At half way I thought that would be good for around a 3:17.
I found my legs getting tired, and I naturally felt the miles from the previous marathons I’ve done. Combined with the lack of training, and it was clear my legs hadn’t recovered well, I knew I had to slow down. Perhaps I could have held the pace longer, but I really didn’t want to hit the wall, and I wanted to enjoy the race, and I knew it wouldn’t be enjoyable if I pushed through.
I eased off the pace a little bit, but as soon as I did it was a steady decline from here. Once I let my body slow, it took over and holding the pace got harder. I think the main difference is mindset. When you are trying to hold a pace you are focused, and you keep pushing. However, when you truly don’t care then its hard to tell your body to speed up. You can see from 30k my pace just really dropped, I just didn’t care any more. I was happy enough 😌
I enjoyed the crowds, Chicago is an amazing city. The aid stations are frequent with both gatorade and water (in cups… squeeze the cup and make a funnel and you will be fine). The roads are so wide it provides lots of space, but with such a big event it is easy to get carried away. The GPS is terrible so don’t trust the rapid change of pace and instead judge your pace by the mile markers. When you cross the bridges go over the red carpet which removes hazards.
The main thing in Chicago is have fun. This isn’t an event to miss, take in the atmosphere and enjoy. After the event you are given a can of Goose Island. It’s a good souvenir so I always buy a can of pringles to help protect it on the way home. After a couple of cans you can make your way to the 27th mile After Party where you have a token for another beer and you can buy more. I met some friends and had another beer, before going for my final Deep Pan before heading back to the airport.
So I had a great weekend at Chicago Marathon, and the main thing is I had fun. What did you get up to this weekend? And why are you running?