Last Sunday, Dudley and I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was truly one of the most amazing things I've ever done. For those of you with a short attention span, here's the end result: a disappointing 4:41. For the details: read on.
We arrived in Chicago Saturday morning. We took the first flight out of Nashville (6:00 am), so we had to get up at 3:30 am. This was really stupid looking back on it, but it seemed like a good idea when I booked the flight back in May. Anyway, we arrived in Chicago around 7:30 am, caught the train and were at the hotel around 9:00 am. It was immediately obvious that Chicago LOOOOVES their marathon. I mean, duh - it's the Chicago Marathon, but it's still a huge city and lots of BIG things go on in a huge city. But Chicago was all about the marathon this weekend.
My ticket for the L.
Free pocket-sized spectator guides were everywhere.
Since we were too early for the hotel check in, we dropped off our bags with the bellman and caught the shuttle to the expo. Funny story about the expo - I hadn't really paid that much attention to the logistics of race weekend before we got there. I mean, I knew when the race was, and what time it started, but I figured everything else could be sorted out once we got there. One of the nice things about a running race is that there aren't a ton of details. It's not like a triathlon that has a crazy amount of gear and transition areas to set up. For a running race, even a large one, you generally just check in, show up and run. Easy, peasy. So, Dudley and I were in the hotel lobby and were looking up the location of the expo. I had assumed that the expo was somewhere downtown near the race hotels because that's what is standard. Surely, the expo would be within walking distance from the hotel, right? Umm- no. It was 12 minutes away - BY CAR. Oops. Fortunately, while we were debating on whether to take a cab or the train down there, one of the hotel employees pointed out a free shuttle that was literally outside of our hotel that would take us down to the expo. Maybe I should have read the participant's guide, huh?
WELCOME TO THE CHICAGO MARATHON!
Holy Mother of Expos. This thing was HUGE and, honestly, a little overwhelming. Looking back, we probably should have eaten something before we went down there because we were both starving and you needed your energy to check out this expo.
Obligatory photo in front of a giant sign.
The first thing you do when you get to the expo, other than take 900 photos with giant signs, is check in. That's how the expo is set up. They had these check in kiosks that reminded me of airport security. There you had your participant's e-mail scanned and your ID checked. My check in person legitimately looked at me too. It wasn't just a "I trust who you are and this is a formality" kind of thing. She was making SURE I was the person on the ID and that it matched the participant e-mail information.
After I was approved, I was sent further back in the building where another row of check in people were waiting. Not that I could go to any of them...No, I had to go to one specific person that check in person #1 told me to go to. Why? Because check in person #2 already had my participant packet ready for me when I got to her. I didn't even have to tell her my name. I just walked up and she said "Kristine?" and gave me my packet (after checking my ID again, of course). These Chicago Marathon people don't mess around.
Then Dudley and I went on the quest to find the t-shirt and goodie bag pickup. All we were told was that it was on the other side of the wall. Little did we know what chaos was behind the wall. Just look at this madness:
Just a random shot of the expo floor.
Goose Island Beer brought their BUS.
The Brooks display.
I don't even know what this thing is.
Because Nike was the official clothing sponsor, they had a huge presence at the expo. They had a separate section for the official Chicago merchandise and it was surrounded by signs like the one below.
But on one of the walls, they had giant letters that spelt out #ownchicago. People could write good luck (or whatever) on them. This must be a thing for Nike at large races because they did a similar thing at the Nike Women's Half I did in DC a few years ago.
There was a line to write on the letters.
Seriously big letters.
And again, I have no idea what this is, but I think it's Nike's.
And y'all - this was a minor part of the expo. I'm not even scratching the surface with this. All of the major running retailers were there, as well as representatives from major races world-wide. Even retailers that you don't really think of as being running oriented, such as The North Face, were there with special Chicago Marathon merchandise. It was insane. As I stated, the expo was kind of overwhelming and, due to how hungry we were, also kind of annoying. There were just so many people and vendors and lights and noise... We were there for probably two hours and we didn't even see all of the expo. (And for the record - we were very good. We only bought some Swiftwick socks. Because we love them and want to support our Nashville retailers.)
Though we knew we missed a good part of the expo, we caught the shuttle back to the hotel because we HAD to eat something other than free vendor samples. Though when we pulled up to the hotel, I was REALLY glad we went to the expo first thing rather than waiting until after we ate. The line for the shuttle back to the expo was about a half a block long. Apparently, Dudley and I had hit the expo at the right time. It had to have been crazy crowded later in the day.
After getting some food, Dudley and I were finally able to check into our hotel and relax for a bit. I was a little bummed because it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY in Chicago, and we couldn't take advantage of it because we needed to get off of our feet for the rest of the day. But, I guess there are worse things in life than to hang out and watch Texas beat Oklahoma!! Hook 'em!
Next up: Race day!