The Chicago Marathon course has a reputation for being flat and fast. In recent years, the event has also earned a reputation of having unpredictable weather. In 2007, it was hot and humid enough that many participants had heat issues, and the event organizers stopped the event in the middle. In 2009, it was very cold.
In the interest of safety, the race organizers developed an Emergency Alert System (EAS) to enable them to notify participants on the course of changing conditions as the the event went on.
|The EAS flag at the Expo. Green means Low Level of Alert.|
- Green - Low; good conditions.
- Yellow - Moderate; less than ideal conditions.
- Red - High; potentially dangerous conditions.
- Black - Event is canceled.
As usual, I don't sleep well the night before an event. I was also anxious because I found out at the Expo that the course time is based on 6 hours and 30 minutes gun time. I had signed up for the event thinking that it was 6 hours and 30 minutes chip time.
I stayed near The Start and the Finish, so I didn't use gear check. I also didn't use the porta potties; the lines were long.
Free Gatorade Prime was available for free. But, I didn't see much takers. Folks just don't gamble on things they didn't do outside of their training.
Since I am on the borderline on finishing this event on time, I carried my own fluids, a course map and a few dollars just in case I have to duck into a store along the way for refreshments.
I was in the back. Plenty of room. It felt spooky being in the way back. Visually, I imagined getting left behind with myself running down the streets of the Windy City with no one near me. I don't want the spotlight that much. Someone else can have it.
Although I didn't sign up for a pace group, I decided to tag along the 5:45 pace groups and kinda of changed off the groups as we went on for a while into the event. There were 3 pace groups aiming for 5:45. They ran accordingly:
- 4:1 run and walk ratio
- 2:1 run and walk ratio
- continuously running, except thru the aid stations
Several folks in the pace groups asked the pace leaders how long the course was opened for. The pace leaders said it's 6 hours and 30 minutes from gun time...and not chip time, as I had found out the day before the race.
The pace leaders reassured folks that the organizers will leave The Finish open and if something should happen, we were allowed to finish on the sidewalk.
The Start -The Emergency Alert System (EAS) was Green.
Miles 1 to 3 - Went thru the downtown Loop. Plenty of people lined the streets cheering even though we were in the back. More importantly, plenty of tall buildings for shade.
Mile 4 - I noticed things were getting warmer. And, no more tall buildings for shade.
Mile 5 - Went by the zoo. The EAS flags on the course changed to Yellow.
The 1st - 5 miles went by quickly. As we were going along, I noticed I was passing up lots of people, many of them attempting to speed walk and can't keep up.
Mile 8 - Boys town. Men in drag. Go, go boy dancers. Looks like one nice street party as we went by.
Mile 13 - Went by the United Center. Made it past the half way mark and made a porta potty stop just past it, losing all the pace groups. Fortunately, there was no lines for the porta potties.
Mile 14 - Things started getting warmer and warmer, and I noticed my pace was slipping despite putting in more effort. I noticed a lot more people walking.
At one point, a police vehicle slowly rolled by, announcing on the PA system that walkers should walk on the sidewalk, allowing runners to run thru the streets. I noticed not many people were running. I was still run/walking, but it didn't feel good.
Mile 15 - The Gatorade was literally HOT at the aid station. I have never been served HOT Gatorade before. At that point, I realized that this event is going bad. Not long after the HOT Gatorade, a woman just a bit ahead of me, pulled off to the sidewalk. I thought she was going to stretch. Instead, she threw up.
Mile 16 - My running and walking pretty much ended during this mile. It was hot. And, the EAS flags on the course was changed to Red. I pretty much walked and speed walked from this point on.
Flasthback to being cooked at the 2009 RnR Arizona Half Marathon
In 2009, I did the hot RnR Arizona Half Marathon. The temp. at that event was 76 F. I had pushed hard early on during this event, got dehydrated, was sick for 8 to 9 hours afterwards and tossed my cookies. I didn't want to have the same experience again.
Mile 17 - Got my Accel Gel. Vanilla flavored. I saved them for later.
Mile 18 - Pilsen neighborhood. Heavily Hispanic. It reminded me of the Mission at home. There were a few families here and there on the side cheering although everyone by now was walking. I saw a push cart vendor selling icicles. I thought of buying 1 but figured I couldn't stop at one...or possibly 2...in this heat.
Mile 19 - I know now what the Official End Vehicle looks like. It was just a regular vehicle with decals stuck to it saying that it was the official end vehicle. The clock on top of it says 4:41:xx as it passes me. The vehicle's occupants didn't make any announcements telling me to use the sidewalk or anything else as it passed me.
For a few seconds, I was thinking of darting in front of the vehicle and just trying to stay ahead of it barely. But, common sense prevailed, it's just too hot to try to stay in front of any vehicle.
Mile 20 - Went by a building. The temperature on the building said it was, "88 F," much worst than the forecast of 86 F from the day before. I was told later by several people that it was 89 F during parts of the event.
I made another porta potty stop. Fortunately, no lines again.
But, I noticed that the aid stations were being dismantled as I went by.
Mile 21 - Made it to Chinatown. I noticed all these sanitation vehicles were driving by us cleaning up the course. The fumes from the vehicles didn't make breathing fun.
Mile 23 - I believe this was the first mile we were told to use the sidewalks instead. But as we went on to The Finish, the items from the dismantled aid stations forced us back into the streets along the way.
Mile 24 - I went by a Burger King. I thought of getting lunch but decided against it as not sure how my stomach would respond.
Mile 25 - As I was near the end of Mile 25, I saw the right turn going up hill heading towards The Finish and started running. I noticed no one was running with me. And, only 2 people speed walking not far ahead of me. At this point, I figure I can survive running to The Finish since I am that close.
Mile 26 - As I was running towards Mile 26, someone was walking away with the Mile 26 sign. I made a left turn, saw The Finish ahead and kept running towards it. To my surprise, there were a few spectators on the side cheering me on. I thought everyone would have been gone by now. I have a feeling they were waiting for a relative or someone they know.
The Finish line - Crossing The Finish felt surreal. This was my 2nd marathon. My socks and shoes were soaked repeatedly as I went thru hoses and sprinklers along the way. I was sure I had a blister on the bottom of my feet; I later found out I didn't. My feet were aching.
Post Race Area
The tents and food were still intact.
The post event celebration, however, had already ended. I arrived 15 minutes after their closing time. So, no free beer.
I got my bling, a mylar blankie and bottle of water. There was plenty of post race food left. One of the ladies attempted to give me an extra banana, but I declined. I have a feeling there isn't many folks left behind me to give the items to, and she was just trying to get rid of the items.
Calories: 2,800 gross
- This event was pretty brutal during the 2nd - Half. My 1st Half was a bit slower than I would have liked, but the heat totally destroyed my 2nd - Half.
- When I was walking most of my 2nd - Half, I was feeling pretty dejected. It took me a few days before I snapped out of it.
- I was very glad I carried my own fluids when so many didn't.
- I also felt bad for those who were trying to BQ. I have no doubt that the heat prevented some from BQ'ing.
- Because of the heat, it left me in great shape for the Nike Women's Half Marathon next weekend.
- Definitely pretty flat with the exceptions of the bridges
- Well done sprinklers and hoses along the way. I lost count how many I went thru.
- As they had mentioned, The Finish was left opened for slower folks.
- The EAS to alert runners of bad running conditions definitely saved countless of folks from trouble.
- The temperature for this event is all over the place, varying annually.
- To those that care, those finishing after 6 hours and 30 minutes gun time are not considered Official Finishers and won't see their names in the Chicago Tribune, I believe.
Would I recommend this one?
Yes to those willing to take chances on the weather.
Would I do another marathon?
Yes, a tortoise-friendly one.
Post Race Bonuses from Nike
The next day I made my trip to Niketown Chicago to see what Nike+ members get. Nike+ is a fun way to track your distance runned/walked. There are also challenges now and then, and you can score some neat perks or Nike items.
I was told at the Expo that if I finished the event I would get something at Niketown.
On my way to Niketown, I went over a bridge across the Chicago River.
|The Chicago River|
I was fortunate I have found my name on the "Names Wall" at the Expo because at the Niketown Chicago, it was too tall for me to look. I probably needed a ladder or something.
|"Names Wall" outside Niketown Chicago. As a Nike+ member, I went home with poster of it.|
|Nike also gave me pint glasses for being a Nike+ member and for finishing the event. Thanks, Nike.|