2012 Chicago Marathon Race Recap

As I get ready to pack my things for this year’s Chicago Marathon, I realized I had never written a recap of the 2012 Chicago Marathon (my first time running it). So, I figure what better time than the present (I’m sure my memory is crystal clear after 11 months and 2 days). 

I have to preface during last year's race we were living in Chicago, the southernmost section of Lincoln Park/Old Town Triangle near the Lincoln Park Zoo to be exact (otherwise known as Mile 5.5 and Mile 9.5 of the race). This year will be a little different as we will be guests in the Windy City and staying in the Loop (a surreal feeling for sure). While the cab ride to the Start Line last year was a few short minutes, it will be nice to sleep in just a little later this year. Anyway, let's rewind the clock to 2012.......
Game time.
2012 was my first year running this race and I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to participate. For so many years we used to watch the runners pass outside our front door and now it was my turn. My wife was scheduled to run but an unfortunate stress fracture caused a late scratch from the race, so it would just be me competing against the likes of some of most elite runners in the world. Of course, from my view in Corral F, they would be miles ahead by the time I crossed the Start Line (maybe this year will yield me a better shot to catch them from my elevated perch of the C Corral). 
This year I moved up to C.
The weather was about 38 degrees and cloudy as I made my way to the race just a shade under 4:45am. I wasn't due at the race until 6:40 (bag check didn't even open until 5:30a), but from a recent experience from a large event where we couldn't catch a cab, I wanted to be sure to get there in plenty of time. Well, I got there with more than time to spare. In fact, I beat most of the volunteers, so I just sat on a bench and froze my ass off. Not the best way to prep for a race. After what seemed to be an ice age (literally), the corrals opened and my fellow 30,000 runners and I shuffled towards the Start Line. The excitement built as the mayor said a few words about whatever it is mayors say to show they are part of the community and then the national anthem. After all the fanfare completed the horn sounded we were off. Well, not me as I still had 5 more corrals to get through before hitting the race start. As mentioned above, I was in the F Corral, which was the front line of the second wave of the race start. After what seemed like a frigid eternity, I crossed the Start Line and began my 26.2 mile journey through the wonderfully diverse neighborhoods that make up Chicago.

Passing through the start and heading north towards the Gold Coast, the sheer amount of spectators littering the race start was unbelievable and awesome. As I passed under Wacker Dr. the pungent odor of urine permeated throughout the underpass as hundreds of runners, both men and women who had spent the last hour packed like sardines in the corrals, relieved themselves right in front of a police officer (who wisely turned a blind eye). The course vertically serpentined the city proper and the wide streets gave me the opportunity to find my groove. As I traversed the city I knew the corral ahead of me (E Corral) was the charity group corral, I caught up to them relatively quickly and began to pick off groups of runners.

Heading north out of the city, the race descended on Lincoln Park, my home turf. This is where living on the racecourse played a big advantage. Since my wife was not running, she was able to be my personal pit crew at Mile 5.5, taking my gloves and hat and stocking me up with GU gels. I continued up Stockton Avenue to Addison, which was nice for me since this stretch of the course was the exact path I ran nearly everyday. It’s also very picturesque with the zoo on the right and parks on the left, and gave me something to look at and enjoy. At Addison we made the left turn signifying our race to the north had concluded and it was now time to retrace our steps back towards the city. Heading south, we passed through Boystown, which is, well an experience not to be believed and definitely entertaining.  Passing Mile 9, and at the backside of our condo, I received another handful of sustenance from my wife and headed towards the Loop.

Crossing over the Chicago River I headed deep into the city and made a right onto Jackson as it was time to venture west. This stretch of the course is one of the longer straight-aways and takes runners all the way out to Damen Avenue. Around Mile 13, I started to feel really tired and decided to finally look at my watch which alerted me to say I was going way too fast. As per usual, I had gotten caught up in all the excitement and was now suffering the effects. But, this is where the awesome spirit of Chicago came to life. All along Jackson, the street was littered with partygoers and food as far as the eye could see!. It was a veritable smorgasbord of delectable treats to keep my feet moving and came without a minute too soon.  I helped myself to Fig Newtons, Jolly Ranchers, oranges and bagels all the while folks continued to party along the racecourse. It was inspiring to say the least. In fact, I can’t think of one place along the course that didn’t have fans cheering. I guess that’s why I love this race so much. It really is a gigantic party for both runners and spectators.  

Mile 15 turned the race around and steered us back towards the city, we now had the Chicago skyline in sight from the west.  Turning south onto Halstead and then back west the course took us past the University of Illinois: Chicago campus with all the students out with some great signs (definitely a lot of Chuck Norris ones). I continued away from the city into some of Chicago’s more diverse neighborhoods to which the nonstop party continued on with new sights and sounds to experience. In fact, one girl ran with me for 100 meters or so just to give me a few sweet sips of Guinness beer. Thank you whoever you are! At Mile 22, we were still heading south and away from the city, past Chinatown. At the drink stop they had meat sticks, a first for me in any race. But, I muscled it down and turned onto Michigan Avenue for the final push. 

Most folks know Michigan Avenue as the “Magnificent Mile” adorned with Tiffany & Co, Fendi, Apple and similar stores. But, this section of Michigan Ave looked like it was frozen in time from when the city may not have been so large. It looked very Midwestern, with modest houses and tree-lined streets. This was about Mile 24 and I had a nearly empty tank. My legs were on fire and my back ached, but I was determined to finish in under 4 hours. Heading back into civilization, the crowds got bigger and more boisterous encouraging me to dig in. Sadly, there was nothing left and I crossed the Finish Line 2 minutes on the wrong side of four hours. No matter though, I did it and had a great time doing it. 

I have the best support group in the world.
So, that brings us to today. I’m excited to head back to my hometown to see my friends, family and participate in a great race. My training has lacked any real discipline, so I’m not expecting anything amazing, except to have fun.