Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chicago Marathon: From the Runner's View

The Chicago Marathon is an amazing event where the whole city comes together as a community to watch and cheer on 40,000 people crazy enough to run over 26 miles. It's an amazingly scenic course with neighborhoods pulling together entertainment and support.This year I ran with a disposable camera to show what the runners see as we run the course.
The race starts at Grant Park in the heart of downtown Chicago:
There are so many people it takes 20 minutes just to cross the starting line. People wear old sweatshirts to keep warm in the morning and toss them right at the start. Since it was already 65 degrees at the start of the race, there wasn't the usual amount of sweatshirts being thrown around. This was good for not accidentally getting hit in the face with a sweatshirt, but a bad sign that it was going to be a hot and hard marathon.
The race winds through downtown and heads north towards Wrigley Field.
It looks just like a huge sea of people. The first 7 miles are actually a mess where everyone is trying to dodge and break through masses of runners. You're supposed to start according to pace, but nobody really does this and for miles you'll have bottlenecks, people going too slow, and people trying to dodge around. I learned it's too early to waste my energy dodging around so I try to run a slower first half.
The spectators are one of the best parts of the race; I honestly don't think I could do it without crowd support. They line the course with signs, costumes, and words of encouragement. I have my name written on my top so people can actually call out to me by name. It feels like you're part of a big parade and I just have to be careful to keep the fist-pumping and high-fiving to a minimum because I know I'll need that energy later.
Boystown, at mile 8, is one of my favorite areas. Filled with male cheerleaders, live bands, the twirling gun brigade, and incredible crowd support. They even choose a theme, this year it was Superheroes:
Usually there are a lot more runners in costume. I've seen full out gorillas, lots of wings and wigs, and even firemen in full gear. With the heat this year, I didn't see that many costumes, but I did see this guy dressed as the Eiffel Tower:
The race heads back downtown passing singing Elvis, people sitting on sidewalks in bathrobes and full on breakfast spreads, and lots of crowd enthusiasm. It's really easy to go with the excitement and use up your energy too quickly. I saw a lot of people already starting to walk at mile 3, but by Mile 11 a lot of people had already started losing energy: From this picture it looks like nearly everyone is walking.
The next few miles are brutal, heading west with absolutely no shade. It's at this point I always start to lie to myself and say just to get through the next 5 miles and I'll only have 5 miles left--anyone who can do math can see how wrong this is, but with my exhaustion, somehow it makes sense.
I run the entire thing because I know if I stop, I won't be able to start again. The only exception is I do a brisk walk through the Gatorade stations. I've learned that Gatorade can be slippery, as can some of the banana peels being thrown on the course:
We wound through Pilsen for mile 19.

The crowd support is amazing with the restaurants and people coming out from their homes to give runners pretzels, ice cubes Twizzlers, the occasional spray from the hose, and entertainment by these huge guys:
Mile 20 we they gave us sponges soaked in water.By then I think it hit over 80 degrees. I saw one sign on the course saying it was 96 degrees. I don't know if it was right, but on the shadeless course it definitely felt that way. A lot of people were walking, or had stopped completely and were stretching on the side. You can see how much the crowd had panned out:
 The next highlight is heading through Chinatown. You hear a big roar, see the dancing dragons and race through hoards of screaming spectators. This year the heat even slowed down the dancing dragons:
And it's after this that things really start to get brutal. There is a slight incline as we head towards Comiskey and literally everyone around me was walking. This is terrible for morale, not to mention I had to dodge and weave through everyone walking.
Besides lying to myself about how few miles I have left, the other thing I do to deceive myself is smile big. I figure, if I'm smiling I can't really be in pain. Plus, the spectators love a happy runner and I get a lot more cheers. I was cursing my lack of training, as that last mile was the worst I think I have ever experienced in a race. Then I saw some familiar faces:
The pooches came out in costume to support me and the 39,999 other runners. I was so fatigued I could barely hold the camera straight:
E said I was looking good, but I still had about 1 more mile. The worst part is the final .2 is on a hill. So many people are shouting and cheering us on. I had to pullover to snap a photo of the finish:
This made me remember why I love marathoning, even though the heat made everything move in slow motion. E and the pooches were very proud of me, and Miss M loved licking my salty legs:
The pooches actually had their own exhausting experience serving as spectators. It is really exhausting to have the pressure of finding your runner, moving to different locations, and keeping the runners motivated. Tomorrow E is writing a post from the spectator's point of view.
 And someone was so proud of their marathon experience, they proudly wore the finisher's medal all night:

23 comments:

Two Crazy Coaches said...

I loved all the pictures! I can't imagine how hard it must be to make yourself run the whole and actually finish! Good thing you had those cute faces at the end. I look forward to E's point of view! And of course, Miss M should be proud of her medal!

mayziegal said...

A - I just want you to know how amazed I am by this. I started jogging this summer and can do 3 miles now. But the thought of a marathon makes me want to cry.

I loved all the pictures and I kind of felt like I was there right along with you. Which is a MUCH better way of doing the Chicago marathon than, you know, actually DOING it. :-)

Congratulations! You rock!

Amber

Shawnee the Shepherd said...

It is so awesome to see how the runner sees everything. We were thinking about you with it being so hot there.

badmuthafudruckers.com said...

Awesome! It's amazing how the crowd really does affect your energy level.

Congratulations on your finish!

Levi Mac said...

What an amazing run! My mom doesn't have that kind of motivation but I would watch her if she did. Nice to see your support and fans waiting for you at the finish line :)

Kate@TwentySixToLife said...

What a great accomplishment! It's really neat to see everything from your point of view. I love the shot of the guy in the Eiffel tower costume. I wonder how long he was able to keep it on given the heat. Ms. M wears that medal well :)

Muchadoaboutnothing said...

That was wild and I am tired just reading about it! Thanks for sharing and I can't wait to see A's spectator post. Miss M looks amazing in that medal.

AC said...

Congratulations!! I've never run a marathon in a city, but I biked the LA marathon a couple years ago and it sure was a fun way to see things! It looks like Chicago was out on the streets to cheer you on.

I ran my (one and only) 20 miler this weekend. It was in the upper 80's and I felt pretty miserable. I remembered your hot forecast for the marathon and kept hoping you were staying cool. Looks like you made it!

Hope you've recovered!

The Whitfields said...

Miss M is so proud of her Mom! Love their outfits while they were at the race.

houndstooth said...

Great pictures! Again, I salute you for making it all the way through! You did an excellent post about the whole experience and I loved seeing Mr. B and Miss M at the end in their costumes!

Cate said...

That looks like a amazing occasion! I could feel the excitement of the crowd through your pics! Fantastic, it spurs me on to get more exercise:)

brooke said...

I love the pictures from your point of view as a runner. Im quite impressed you had the mindset to keep snapping shots along the way!
I have bad knees and can't run, but I feel exhausted just reading about it!
Good job to you!

Benny and Lily said...

You guys are awesome! Congratulations
Benny & Lily

the booker man said...

congrats again on your finish!!
this post is really cool! i love that you took pictures while you were running even though it must have been an extra challenge you didn't necessarily want! i enjoyed seeing the marathon from your perspective. the guy in the eiffel tower costume was hilarious...at least it was a breathable costume on such a hot day...LOL.
i'm looking forward to hearing about E and the pooches' experience. :)

the booker man and asa's mama

road-dog-tales said...

Mom agrees with Mayzie's Mom - your pics are a much better way of "doing" a marathon. It's great that you had your own cheering section, too! Can't wait to see more.
The Road Dogs

Kari in WeHo said...

Congrats! That is way more than I can run! We live in the Boystown part of LA which is part of why we love West Hollywood


Kari
http://dogisgodinreverse.com/

Mr. Pip said...

I can't believe you were able to take pictures while running 26 miles!!! That's amazing!!!

Your pal, Pip

jet said...

Very impressive. Running in the heat is kind of the norm in Australia, and we're in for a long hot dry summer here. :)

Meeka said...

Amazing! Congrats on your 7th marathon.

jen said...

Congratulations on your HUGE accomplishment!
What great pictures and what a great marathon:)

Those Elgin Pugs said...

Oh A!!! We are just so proud of you!! We loved your account of the entire experience!! It was great!!

That is such a hugh accomplishment and E and Miss M and Mr. B are so proud!!!

much love,
Katy,IzZY, Josie and Anakin Man

T2 - My life with pit bulls said...

Congratulations!!

Pibble said...

Congratulations! It's one thing when your human partners are proud of you, but when your dogs are proud of you? What a feeling that must be!! :0)

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