I had big plans to write my recap of Chicago Marathon weekend on the plane ride home but then the obsession to finish The Namesake overpowered me. I knew that if I didn’t finish the book, my brain would just be useless over the next couple of days wondering what happens. P.S. It’s an awesome book, slow to start, but then I really enjoyed it. It was a great distraction from all the marathon nerves.
I decided that it would be best to spend two posts recapping my weekend in Chicago. This first one will be about everything aside from the race and the second will just be about the race. It was such an awesome weekend and I wouldn’t do it justice combining the two.
Josh and I landed on Thursday late afternoon in Chicago and immediately took a train to the hotel to meet his parents who arrived earlier in the day. We were staying at the Palmer House Hilton, which is in the heart of downtown and so close to the start and finish of the marathon (that’s the reason I picked it!). Thursday evening was pretty low-key, we went to dinner and then planned our next couple of days out.
Friday morning, we had breakfast and first stop was the marathon expo. I know how the expo can really suck you in and I wanted to get it out-of-the-way as soon as possible. It was convenient for us to walk about 15 minutes to another Hilton (the official race headquarters hotel) and take the free shuttle from there. The expo is located at McCormick Place, which I learned is the largest convention center in North America. The entire experience at the expo was really organized. I’ve been to the NYC Marathon expo twice and then smaller city marathon expos — Miami, Philadelphia, and New Jersey and I had a hunch that Chicago would be much more like the NYC experience. It was that and better. They scanned my registration information to enter the expo and by the time I got to the bib pickup area, they already had my bib ready! After that, I was free to roam. T-shirt pick up was next and then we had a blast exploring. The layout was spacious and I think that really made the big difference between NYC and Chicago. We spent the next 1.5 hours getting free samples (everyone but me, I was too afraid to upset my stomach) and other goodies (this I could do!). I stopped by the Nike pacers section and had to wait over 20 minutes to learn that the corral I was in didn’t have a pacer for my goal time. The 3:55 pacer was in Corral D (and I was in F, but in another wave, so a 30 minute start later) and in Corral F, there were 3:40, 3:50, and 4:00 pacers. I didn’t really understand why the pacers weren’t set up in time order based on the waves and corrals.
Next up was some sightseeing. We spent a bit of time in Millennium Park exploring Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate (aka the Bean), and Crown Fountain. I’m beyond in love with all the cool exhibits in the park. For dinner that evening we met up with my teammates, Tania and Julio for deep dish pizza at Giordano’s, yum! After dinner, we saw Amazing Grace, a pre-Broadway World Premiere musical. The show was in its second night and I honestly had really low expectations. After donating to Roundabout Theater this year, we’ve seen many shows and have even more lined up for the rest of the year. However, I really enjoyed Amazing Grace. The plot was interesting and of course, there was a romance twist.
Saturday was a big day and in some ways, I wonder if we planned too much (more to come about this in the race recap). I started the day with my shakeout run with James. Grant Park was closed for marathon setup, so we ran by Lake Michigan and the views were breathtaking and it was so cool to be surrounded by all the marathoners doing the same thing. You could see all of the international tour groups meeting up for their runs and just many others all prepping for the next day. Afterwards, we all grabbed breakfast and went to the Art Institute of Chicago. Marathoners were allowed a free entry for themselves and a guest. With the help of Tania and Julio, we all made it in for free. The museum felt so much more manageable than anything we’ve been to in NYC or Paris even though we didn’t end up making it to every exhibit. I would definitely come back again, perhaps, another time when I would be more willing to walk more! Later that same day, we went on the Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise. It was so cool to see all the diversity of the architecture through the city. It was also neat being on the river seeing more of the skyline. I highly recommend the Art Institute and the river cruise if you’re in Chicago. We had our carb loading pre-marathon dinner that night at the official marathon pasta party at The Plaza at Millennium Park. Perhaps, I should have guessed that the dinner would be outdoors but we had no idea until we arrived, nervous to find that we would eating outside for the next hour to two. The food was great but I really wish that there had been heaters or if it were more clear that we would be outdoors. After dinner, we all turned in for an early night which worked out great to help prepare and get our stuff ready for the next day.
We spent the rest of Saturday night preparing the spots that Josh and his family would watch me from, catching up with a few friends and their well wishes, and just getting all of my gear together. For the first time before a marathon, I was in bed by and asleep before 10PM.
What happens next? To be continued…!