It was the best of races,
It was the worst of races,
It was a day of wisdom,
It was a day of foolishness,
It was the marathon of belief,
It was the marathon of incredulity
I don’t think that I’ve had a more bipolar race than the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. How could things go so wonderful and later go so horrible? All within a span of about 45 minutes. With that in mind, this writeup will be two parts. In part 1, which is this part, I’ll cover the events pre-race such as the expo, part 2 covers everything up to about mile 16 of the race. Part 3 covers what happened that caused it to go terribly wrong and what I’m going to do about it.
First, this was my second attempt at running Chicago. Last year, 2010, I registered for the race and partially trained for it before giving up because of my hip injury. That utter failure taught me a valuable lesson, seek medical help earlier rather than later. This year when registration rolled around I was determined not to miss the race again. The timing was near perfect, I’d have 16 solid weeks of training since running Grandma’s Marathon in June. Unfortunately, a miserable August combined with travel (as detailed in my litany of excuses) meant that I was didn’t think was going to tear this up. Nonetheless, I had a plane ticket. My wife had a plane ticket. We had paid for a hotel room. I was going to run this race.
Now, before I get too far, let me say I’m very biased in favor of Chicago. I spent six wonderful years living on the south side of Chicago and I still think it’s one of the greatest cities on earth. Yes, I like it more than New York. So, in the following numerous upcoming locations where I describe how the Chicago Marathon is better than the New York City Marathon, please keep in mind that I’m biased. Also, remember the #1 scent of New York is urine. Okay, enough potty humor until part 2 of writeup.
Getting to the expo was a breeze. Hopped on the El down to the Roosevelt stop and wandered over to a well signed bus stop. A helpful volunteer told us we had 10 minutes until the next bus. This resulted in the second time in my life that I’ve ever walked inside of a Starbucks. I don’t drink coffee, but we did get a muffin. Back outside on the patio of Starbucks the volunteer chatted with various runners about the course and then a greyhound bus approached to shuttle us to McCormick place, which, just a stupidly as the Javitz Center in New York, lacks an real public transit. Fortunately, Chicago provides shuttle bus service rather than making you walk from the nearest train station the day before the race. Points for Chicago! Yay!
Arrived in McCormick Place and quickly found 45 booths handing out bibs. This actually made it really quick. Then the down side, you had to wander through the expo to get your T-Shirt, which was on the other side. Ughh. I love the idea of a marathon expo, but I’m a pretty crappy consumer. Heck, even products I like an support, like Injinji Toe Socks, I’ll look at during the expo and then buy online later. Yeah, I’m a bad marathoner. I missed many of the other interesting things in the expo. Apparently they had a wall with everyone’s name printed on it. I didn’t find my name — mostly because I didn’t know this wall existed until I read a writeup mentioning the wall from another marathoner.
What I thought was kinda interesting about the marathon expo is that there was one booth specifically protesting Bank of America. This wasn’t part of the Occupy Wall Street movements. Instead it was from the Rainforest Action Network and was distributing protest materials about Bank of America’s financial support for a very dirty and deadly coal fired plant on the marathon route. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall on Thursday morning when the expo opened and the title sponsor of the marathon saw the booth.
Rest of the day was non-eventful. Planned on going to Maggiano’s with my wife and a friend from college, but the wait was atrocious. Checked out a nice little Irish pub across the street where I was able to stock up on pasta and a little bit of beer the night before the race. Hopped on the El back out to our hotel and I was in bed by 10pm. Of course, I never sleep well the night before a marathon.
Next up, part 2: the first 16 miles.