Breaking down the Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon A breakdown of the race and a guide to tackling the course!

As October 12 approaches I find myself thinking about the marathon more and more (as if I didn’t already…).

It can be overwhelming to think about a marathon, but dissecting it into smaller parts can help minimize anxiety and allow for excitement to take over.

Convenience. I’ve run in Chicago a lot, and it truly is a convenient place to run! I am not just saying that because I can catch a 45 minute flight or 5 hour drive and be there. Most races start and end near Grant Park, which itself is a wonderful place to visit, and is surrounded by hotels (which are walking distance!). Every race I have ran I have been able to stay at a hotel that is no more than 10 minutes walking distance away from the start line. Often times I have stayed at hotels right across the street on Michigan Ave (if booked early enough). Even if you have a hotel that is 1-2 miles away it is still quite convenient to get to the race via the CTA or “L”. For just about $2.50 you can get to your destination 🙂

Crowd support. For me (and I’m sure most runners) this is a key component to running a race. The more crowd support there is the faster I run. I feed off of the positive energy from the spectators. With a marathon of roughly 45,000 participants there is going to be plenty of crowd support. The route is also created in a convenient way that allows your family to view you at multiple mile markers without having to walk much. For me, knowing my family is at a certain mile marker makes me look forward to that mile and gives me extra confidence.

The Expo: I love a good expo. I have never been to this expo so I can’t speak of it, but I can only assume it will be fantastic. Other expos I have attended in Chicago have not disappointed! I think expos are also a great place to start building your excitement. Like crowd support, I feed off of the positive energy at expos. Something about seeing thousands of other runners and nothing but running gear and apparel is so exciting!

Food: Okay, not entirely related to the marathon itself, but eating is important! One of the reasons I love Chicago so much are the endless options for food. There will be no shortage of finding carbohydrates the night before the race. I can already taste Giocco’s now (my favorite Italian restaurant). I plan on eating Giordano’s Pizza after the race, which is tied with Pizza Uno for my favorite pizzeria.

Breaking down the course: 

Miles 1-4: The first four miles are spent running around the Loop on State Street and LaSalle Drive. I love running around here because no matter how many times I am here, the scenery never gets old. It is also a very convenient place for spectators.

Miles 1-4

Miles 5-10: The next five miles takes you through Lincoln Park and Lakeview. I think this is a great part of the course because many tourists don’t venture out much besides the main downtown area so it may provide you with new scenery. Whether you’re a Cubs fan or not, you’ll pass Wrigley Field as you head north on Addison. Kelly lived in this neighborhood so I’m extra pumped to run through it again 🙂

Miles 5-10

Miles 11-17: These miles take you through Old Town (adorable area!), River North, the West Loop, Greek Town, and Little Italy. If you’re ever in the mood for Mediterranean cuisine stop at The Greek Islands in Greek Town. Amazing.  About halfway through the marathon the course takes you over the river and you’ll head to the West Loop area. From what I’ve heard it can be very emotional (in a good way!) due to the extreme crowd support here.

Miles 11-17

Miles 18-26.2: These are the miles I always struggle with. During this part of the course we will go through Pilson, the city’s second largest Hispanic community. From what I’ve read, be ready for mariachi bands and lots of music! This segment of the course brings us to mile 20, commonly known as “The Wall”. That is not a happy term for me. Commonly, there is where marathons start to mentally and physically break down. It has happened to me the past three marathons. Each marathon it has gotten better, but it’s still there. I hope the mariachi bands lift my spirits this time…

Miles 18-23

Once you get to mile 23 you you make a turn onto Michigan Avenue. From here it is a straight shot to the finish line. However, those 3.2 miles will seem hundreds of miles away. At this point my body tired, in pain, and I am mentally exhausted. The thing that keeps me going is the crowd support and knowing my family is at the end. And pizza.

Miles 24-Finish

Once I see the finish line, all negative emotions go away. The adrenaline I get from the crowd is wonderful and it allows me to sprint to the finish line. Crossing the finish line will be one of the greatest moments in your life. At this point all I want to do it eat and sit down. The finish line area will be full of post-run recovery drinks and food, along with that awesome finisher’s medal. Make sure to stop and get your official picture taken. It is a picture you’ll want forever.

Make sure you wipe your nose before the picture… I didn’t do that for my first marathon 😉

Stretch, take a minute to just think about what you accomplished, take a shower, and then EAT!

As the marathon gets closer I will do more posts on things such as how to mentally prepare the the race, pacing throughout the race, dealing with the dreaded “wall”, and recovery after the marathon.

I hope this post helps you get excited for the Chicago Marathon, or any marathon you are running this fall!

Little things like this make me excited to get out and run 🙂

Have a great Saturday!


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