by Carol Stevens, Runners Roost Race Team Member
We have heard for some many years that the Chicago Marathon is one of the best races in the world. Neither Carol nor I have ever heard a bad thing about the Chicago Marathon. It was always on our list to do, but the annual registration would always fly by with me forgetting to throw our hats in for the lottery. However, last year, I set up reminders on my calendar to ensure that I didn’t miss another Chicago Marathon Lottery registration, which happened to be in October 2017. Luckily, both Carol and I got in through the lottery for the 2018 Chicago Marathon.
When I first heard that we were in the 2018 Chicago Marathon, I immediately started to work on our hotel accommodations. When I travel for races, I like to stay near the start or finish line for convenience sake. On the race web page, the organizers had the Chicago Hilton as one of the race hotels. It was across of the street from Grant Park, so it was a quick walk to the start and from the finish. It definitely was an expensive decision. However, its central position to everything made it an easy choice to spend the extra money for the Hilton on Michigan Avenue.
Along with being an upscale hotel, one of the thing about being a race hotel, we saw a lot of the elite runners in the lobby. The first athlete that we say was Tatyana McFadden. She has been one of the premiere wheelchair athletes for several years. It was extremely cool to meet her the lobby. However, I didn’t stalk any other athletes in the hotel. I figured that they could probably use privacy in the lead up the race.
Another cool convenience of the Hilton hotel was the shuttle to Chicago Marathon Expo at the McCormick Place. There were school buses every 15 to 20 minutes to and from the hotel to the expo. It was extremely nice to not have to use a taxi, an Uber, a Lyft, a bus, or a train. Once we arrived at the expo, we were immediately hit with the number of runners in the Chicago Marathon. The line just to get our identification verified and be given our location of our packet pickup desk was huge. As an introvert, being surrounded by well over 1000 anxious runners was a little overwhelming to me.
Unfortunately, the vendor area for the Expo was a lot worse. It seemed like controlled looting to us. The line to make Nike purchases alone was well over an hour. We were so out of our element with all the people and anxiety, that we only stayed a few minutes and basically ran out of the expo find a little sanity.
After all the stress at the Expo, Carol and I needed to run it out at the Chicago International 5K on Saturday, the day before the marathon. At previous marathons, we have utilized the day before 5K to chase out the jet lag from the legs. The 5K was only about a mile from the hotel, so it was easy to get up and walk to the race on Saturday. The start was at the famous Daily Plaza near the Chicago Picasso piece. It was raining, thundering, and lightning that morning at the start, so they delayed the start a half hour, so we hung out under the building. Once the weather cleared, we got in the start corral and got in a nice stress free run through the streets of Chicago. It was cool to run the streets and not have to worry about crossing streets, crazy honking cars and curbs. It was a nice, relaxing run.
After the 5K and a little napping, we attended the Chicago Marathon Pre-Race Pasta dinner with Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic Marathon Bronze medalist. The pasta dinner was right across from the hotel in Millennium Park. This was nice, because it was stress less and just a short walk. The dinner was nice and quiet. Deena gave a nice little motivation speech and Carol and I were able to get a photo with her. A part of her speech, she recommended thinking of three things that we are thankful for in our lives. She says that the marathon is a journey and during the journey the good times and the bad times come in waves. When the bad times come during the race, remember those three things and think about those things to ride out the bad waves of the marathon. I was thankful for three things in my life:
- My beautiful family, daughters (Sierra and Lauren), moms (Sigrid and Jean), brother and sister (David and Stacey).
- Runners Roost and great sponsors (Brooks, Honey Stinger, Nuun, Nathan)
- Revolution Running with our coaches and team mates
- Northrop Grumman and the Boeing Company, our employers, which provide awesome jobs so we can travel and run the world.
After 16 weeks of training for the Chicago Marathon, it was finally race morning. The Chicago Marathon is already expense with the registration fee, hotel expense, travel airfare, and eating out, but the best expenditure for us was the purchase of the Balboa Hospitability Tent. The tent was an extra $125 per person. It may have been the rain, but the tent allowed us to not have to sit outside and wait for our wave start. The tent was extremely nice. It was roomy, dry and relatively warm. There was your typical pre-race breakfast food (bagels, bananas, coffee, water, etc.) There were televisions to watch race coverage. We had our own gear check area and our own port-a-potties, whose may have been worth extra purchase to us. It was definitely a great race investment in time, money, and peace of mind.
One added benefit of the Balboa Hospitality Tent was getting meet Paula Radcliffe (Marathon World Record), Steve Jones (Marathon World Record, and Constantina Dita (Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist). These are running giants, and it was great to meet them in person on a miserable rainy morning in October 2018. It was too cool! We also got meet other runners from around the world at our table in the tent. It really didn’t take long after arriving in Chicago, but the Chicago Marathon is a truly international marathon and city. The English language really wasn’t the primary language that we heard during our visit to Chicago.
In the Balboa Hospitality Tent, there was a PA system, and when it was time to head out to your wave start, they would call out for you to head out to the start. When they called us to the start, we went and made one last pit stop before our Chicago 26.2 mile journey. Once we were in the Wave 3 Coral G, the real magnitude of the Chicago Marathon set in. We were behind the 4:10 pacers, but there seemed to be about 5000 people between us and the pacers. It was amazing.
The race itself was very well organized and supported. Even with the less than ideal weather conditions, there were spectators the entire way. No Ipods or music players necessary – you would miss out on so much of the crowd support.
After the race we enjoyed post race refreshments in the hospitality tent before walking across the street back to the hotel. After a nice warm shower, found a place to sit and have some awesome food and refreshments and enjoy the accomplishment of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. This was definitely an awesome and wonderful experience!!