Chicago Marathon 2018 – Race Week

RACE WEEK: Monday October 1 – Saturday October 6, 2016

After the experience at Grandmas Marathon last year, I decided to arrive in Chicago with plenty of time before race day to settle in and get over jet lag. I had hoped that Hammer would travel with me, since he was on holidays but he decided not to come as he had visited the US only 2 months earlier on a work trip. So it was just me, reluctantly on my own. Although I was meeting up in Chicago with a few other runners I knew from Sydney.

Monday was spent pretty much in transit all day. I left home at 5am and arrived at my hotel at the Chicago Lake Shore in the early evening hours. The transport from Chicago airport worked beautifully; I took the Loop Train from the airport to downtown and then a local bus to my hotel in Hyde Park, on the south-side of Chicago. I felt remarkably good despite the 27 hours of travel time, door-to-door. My concerns about staying on the south side of town had vanished. On first appearances, it felt like a safe neighbourhood.

I was excited to be up at sunrise on Tuesday. The Lake shore was only a short walk away from the hotel. It was a dull, grey morning without the sun making an appearance. I was somewhat deflated as the grey gloom was a bit depressing and not very good light for photography. I know it was only the first day and I have been to Chicago before but for some reason I was questioning my decision to come to run in Chicago. Training through the cold Sydney winter, I wanted to be somewhere warm and bright, with endless blue skies and wide open spaces.

I walked around the neighbourhood, posted some parcels and got a local bus to downtown. The trains rattled overhead in few city blocks, which added to my rather gloomy state of mind today. I still find the above ground train lines to be such a contrast to the stunning architecture throughout the city. Millennium Park was as busy as I remembered; it is hard to believe it was ever anything else but a beautiful park. By late afternoon I was back at the hotel and it looked like the sun was going to make an appearance finally– at sunset. I raced around to the Lake and spent a couple of hours walking along the shore watching the sun setting behind me. It was glorious, the gloom hanging over me had lifted and all was well with my world. Tomorrow promised to be a warm sunny day.

Wednesday was Frank Lloyd Wright day. I’m not sure when I developed an awareness and an admiration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Today I was in for a treat, I joined a tour organized by the Chicago Architecture Center. It was a glorious hot sunny day with cloudless blue sky, a great day to be outdoors.

I spent most of the day on the tour, visiting FLW’s home and studio in Oak Oak and a tour of some of the buildings he had designed in the neighbourhood. It was great to have an informed guide take us around. It was so interesting – to see firsthand the principles of his design and evolution in his work. I learned so much, not just about FLW but other great Chicago architects.

By late afternoon I was back in the city, and as the weather was so beautiful, I joined another Chicago Architecture Center tour – a river cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady. On my previous visit to Chicago I did a self-guided walking tour of the city and saw some of Chicago’s architectural history. This time it was a different perspective, with a riverside view of the more recent and modern buildings. Wednesday was a full touristy day and any thoughts of running a marathon were pushed out of my mind.

By Thursday, thoughts about the race started looming. I pushed these thoughts aside for a little bit longer and gave myself another touristy day before letting race day thoughts and nerves approach. I discovered that I was staying within walking distance of another Frank Lloyd Wright house – Robie House and the University of Chicago. It was a lovely tree-lined street walk to Robie House and a walk around the University campus was a nice way to finish the FLW pilgrimage. In the afternoon I visited the Chicago Architecture Center where a great model of the city was on display as well as a history of modern skyscrapers. On the way back to my hotel I passed the magnificent Bloomingdales building. Chicago is such an interesting city, the more I see the more I realise there is still to see.

For some reason I was having a lot of trouble getting over jet lag and a restless night followed. It was good that I found a TV channel showing my all-time favourite movie – Fargo. I wasn’t too stressed about the disrupted sleep. It was still 2 days before the marathon.

Friday morning dawned grey and overcast. I took a walk by the lake before changing hotels. The view of the city views in the distance were shrouded in heavy fog. For the race weekend I stayed at Chicago South Loop Hotel which was about five kilometers (2.5miles) from the race precinct at Millennium Park, and only a short walk to the Marathon Expo at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

I met up with some friends from Sydney at the Expo after a long wait to go through the security screen. Even though it was tedious to wait in line for 45 or so minutes to get inside, I really appreciated how seriously the race organizers took the security measures and also how hard they worked to make the lines move faster and seamlessly. I loved the expo and now that I had my race bib it was real and countdown was on. Race weather was a hot topic of discussion.

On my way back to the hotel I stopped a small food market and the owner and few locals were glued to the TV watching the verdict in a very controversial criminal trial of a Chicago policemen – Jason Van Dyke accused of murdering a black youth – Laquan McDonald. I really should have paid more attention to local news. They said to me that if the verdict does not come out as guilty, the race on Sunday will most likely not go ahead. Once I read up on the case, I realized that I would not be too upset if protesters shut down the race in the name of justice. A guilty verdict had averted race day protests.

By Saturday there was nothing to do today but eat, stretch, meditate and watch TV.