The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the pinnacle of achievement for elite athletes and everyday runners alike. On race day, runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries will set out to accomplish a personal dream by reaching the finish line in Grant Park.
At least once in a lifetime runners should compete in a World Marathon Major. It’s an incredible, unforgettable experience, regardless of the outcome of the race. I chose to run the 2015 Bank of Chicago Marathon as a last attempt at an Olympic Trials Qualifying Standard. I didn’t hit my goal, but I still completely enjoyed running in such a huge, high energy marathon.
The best thing about running a race like the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the intense energy of the experience. I was so motivated by the company of 45,000 runners, all with their own goals and reasons for running the race. You can’t help but feel inspired on race morning, standing in the corral, waiting for the gun. I love the positive energy brought by a crowd of dream chasers.
With 45,000 runners, It is important for a race to be well-organized. The Chicago Marathon was exceptional in this regard. They thought of every detail. Packet pickup was relatively short and painless. The race provided shuttles to and from the expo. We were in and out in no time. I will say, give yourself extra time on race morning. Even with supreme organization, it takes awhile to get 45,000 runners through the security checkpoints and on to the starting line.
I was impressed with the amount of fluids and fuels available on the course. I had no trouble getting enough Gatorade and water from the volunteers. Stations were placed at least every two miles. One running tip: Don’t go for the first cup you see. Run a little further down the line. This prevents collisions and backup on the course.
The course is billed as flat and fast. There is a small incline at the 26 mile mark. It is placed perfectly to feel like Mt Everest at the end of the race. The course is definitely fast, but the repetitive pounding takes it’s toll. There are also many turns through the neighborhoods. Failing to run the tangents will add time and distance to your race. There is a blue line that indicates the shortest distance through the course. Stick to that line.
As with all marathons, weather can be a total crap shoot. This year, the weather was a bit warm for marathoning, with temps in the 50s-60’s. However, it was pretty breezy, with winds in the 15-20 mph range. It wasn’t too noticeable during the first half, but definitely hindered the second half of the race. Just be prepared for anything, and adjust your race plan accordingly.
A couple of tips for a great Chicago Marathon experience: First, fly in at least two days before the race. It takes extra time and energy to get from the airport to downtown Chicago, get familiar with the start and finish areas, and pick up packets. Give yourself time for error, and to relax. Secondly: Do not wear a Garmin in the race. Wear a basic watch, and learn your splits. With the underpass, the many turns, and all the buildings, I guarantee that your GPS will be off. It’s best not to rely on it’s accuracy. Third, write your name down your arms or display it prominently on your body. The crowds are amazingly supportive. If they can see your name, they will cheer for you, which provides a much needed energy boost to the struggling marathoner.
Finally, don’t let the crazy energy pull you out too quickly. It’s easy to give in to adrenaline, nerves, and thousands of screaming spectators. Rein it in early.
I enjoyed the Chicago Marathon immensely. I wish I had scheduled a couple more days in the city for sightseeing. Chicago is a beautiful, tourist friendly city. Turn the running trip into a mini-vacation. There is so much to do and see. I missed out by being a little too focused and business minded in my approach to the race. In addition, make sure to take it all in. I remember nothing from the course except an Elvis impersonator. The course showcases 29 Chicago neighborhoods, so look up occasionally. A marathon of this size and magnitude should be about much more than the outcome. It should be about creating lasting running memories. Enjoy the experience.
This is my third time doing the Chicago Marathon. I’m drawn to the race because of the energy and size. Never will you feel like you are just out for a training run- the energy and crowds will remind you that this is the day you’ve trained for! I love how the whole city of Chicago seems to rally around the marathon. Of all the marathons I’ve done, the crowd support in Chicago is by far superior. However, with this energy comes the tendency to start too fast- be careful of that!
The Chicago Marathon is a pancake flat course expect for a small short hill at the end. However, I’ve learned that flat is not always the fastest. Some inclines and declines can be nice to switch up the muscle groups. I’d recommend doing some long flat concrete runs to prepare the legs for the repetitive motion and pounding. The other thing is that Chicago is called the Windy City for a reason and the weather is unpredictable. It’s always a gamble if Chicago will be fast conditions but I think it’s a worthwhile gamble.
With the participant size of the Chicago Marathon come the perk of lots of people to run with and water stations go on for a whole city block and are every few miles. You never have to worry that you will miss an aid station.
As for after the race, I can’t think of a better city to enjoy! Bonus: you won’t feel weird hobbling down stairs after the marathon because it seems like half the city is as well!