I had entered the Chicago marathon ballot last year in my quest to finish the Six Marathon Major and been unsuccessful. Just as I was entering the ballot this year I thought I’d just check the Good For Age time and discovered that it was 20 minutes slower than for London. A quick check of my recent marathon results and I found a qualifying time and emailed off my entry. A few days later confirmation came back and I was in.
So off we flew to the Windy City (we being my wife and eldest daughter, one of whom had been with me at all the other majors apart from Tokyo and London). We checked onto our hotel and took in the stunning view down the river between the skyscrapers. As usual we had chosen a hotel within walking distance of the finish. We spent the afternoon and the next day sightseeing in the sunshine.
Saturday saw a 5k run starting from the original start for the marathon. Pouring rain when we opened the curtains but it looked like it was stopping and we had come a long way not to run so on with some jackets and out we went to the start. The rain eased and then stopped about 10 minutes before the start. My daughter and I enjoyed a slightly busier Saturday morning run than our usual ParkRun but very enjoyable.
After another day with slightly less sightseeing under grey skies and I got my race kit ready for the morning whilst watching the thunder and lightening.
The race information suggested getting to the start two hours before the start but I could not see the need so strolled out of the hotel and arrived about an hour early which turned out to be plenty. Plenty of evidence of it having rained in the night but it had stopped by the morning. Walking to the start was a great way to soak up the atmosphere as runners appeared from different directions converging on the start pens. The temperature was not cold and taking off outer layers was no hardship even though it was 7:30. As the start and finish were at the same place the baggage drop was in a series of tents and my bag was quickly dropped off.
Into the starting pens then a very low key start. No countdown, just an announcement that the elite runners had gone. I was in the first wave but even so it took over 15 minutes to cross the start line. When we had looked at the route we had seen that it might be possible to see my family at miles 1, 3, 13 and 25 due to the way the route went out and back in various directions. I was surprised that they were up so early to see me at mile 1 but there they were, and again at mile 3. The route is a lot of straight roads then a corner and another straight in another direction. Sometimes a long straight and other times much shorter. And then there is the elevation change – there is none! As the route winds through different neighbourhoods and each has a character and plenty of support and plenty of bands (maybe not as many as at London) and other entertainment. I enjoyed running in the industrial areas, historic areas and some really modern areas. It kept my interest and the miles passed quickly. It did rain briefly but otherwise it was warm, maybe a little muggy towards the end. Regular water and sports drink stops every couple of miles meant that hydration was not a problem.
As it was my sixth and final major I was out to enjoy it but thought I’d see how aiming for 3:30 went. Nice relaxed running right from the start, enjoying the marathon and it looked like I was going to be well under 3:40 and at one point under 3:30 but it was not to be and I finished in a comfortable 3:30. After collecting my Chicago marathon medal I stopped off at the Abbott stand to collect my Six Majors medal and congratulations from their staff. I went off to find my family and we took some photographs of all my major medals and strolled back to the hotel. Overall a great city to visit and a relaxed way to finish my Majors campaign.