2013 Chicago Marathon Weekend

Once again, I did not run the Chicago Marathon.  It wasn’t because of under-preparedness or a lack of interest, but rather a product of planning out the year very far in advance.  By the time registration opened in February, I already knew that I would be running the Leavenworth and Portland marathons the weekend before.  Given Chicago’s perfectly flat course and reliably cool weather (and high price tag), it’s not a race that I would run for fun.  But over the years, marathon weekend has taken on the same snow-globe wonder as Christmas, so I have to participate in it as much as possible.  And so on Sunday, October 13, I was once again in the middle of the Loop as a spectator, waiting for the race to start.

Breakfast of (Soon to Be) Champions

breakfast-with-laszloBut my 2013 Chicago Marathon experience did not start there.  Earlier in the week I was contacted by Laszlo, a fellow blogger and half marathoner who was coming to Chicago for his first stab at the full beast.  Given my penchant for meeting fun people during my running adventures, I agreed to breakfast with him and suggested the great pancakes-and-eggs eatery Eggsperience.  His wife and daughters were sleeping in from the long drive from East Michigan, so it was just the two of us talking about life, how running has changed it and what he should expect during the monumental challenge that awaited him on Sunday.

Stalking a Living Legend

scott-jurek-chicago-marathon-expoFull on pancakes, I made my way to the Marathon Expo, where I waited coldly, stalker-like for ultramarathoner extraordinaire Scott Jurek to arrive at the Pro-Tec Athletics booth.  I made some Costa Rican friends as I waited.  I had brought a flag, which hung loosely by my side from a drawstring, which caught more than one eye.  Among those was a Costa Rican reporter, who took a picture of me for the paper (I’ve since checked and I didn’t make it to the print edition).  By the time Scott showed up, I was closest to the table in front of a crowd of adoring fans.  He signed my copy of Eat & Run, but not until I showed him that we had met before at the Garmin Marathon.  Steph told me that Scott most likely notified security of my presence after I left.  I will admit that part of me felt like Buddy from The Incredibles, except I hope to not become his nemesis in twenty or so years …

The Tables Turn

left to right: Jime, Chris, Steph, me

left to right: Jime, Chris, Steph, me

That night, Steph and I dined with Jimena and Chris, who hosted me in Kansas for the Garmin Marathon back in April.  Jimena was a high-school classmate of mine and her husband Chris was attempting his first marathon the next morning.  They had gone out to the Garmin race to watch me run in the spring, so I was returning the favor by escorting Jime to various different spectator spots.  Chris was still vacillating between joining the 3:05 and 3:10 pace groups, and I unabashedly endorsed the faster time.  If he was confident enough to BQ on his first marathon, then it was his duty to abandon restraint and aim for glory.  There’s no shame in going as hard as you can and with the weather forecast showing perfect conditions, there were few reasons to hold back.  It’s not advice that I would have followed myself four years ago, but I wasn’t teeming with such self-assurance.

Same Pose, Different People

chicago_marathon-02After seeing the elites rocket down State Street under the iconic red Chicago Theater lights with Chris not far behind, Jime and I went to LaSalle and later Sedgwick, where I managed to get three pictures of the same person in three disguises.  First came Laszlo, who after gushing about how much fun he was having, romped down the block like a kid in a toy store.  Not far behind was Marla, equally thrilled to be running her first marathon, strutting down mile 11 with a million-dollar smile.  Behind her in the second wave of runners was Louisville’s own Glenn, who took a half second to recognize me under my cap and beard before sprouting devil horns from his hands.

“I think they all posed that way because they think you would do that,” Steph would later tell me.  Maybe.

chicago_marathon-03Regardless, it was proving to be a beautiful day for runners and spectators alike.  Last year, clouds obscured the sun and drove my body to shivers for most of the day.  This year’s morning was bright and we were too busy yelling out people’s names, nationalities or identifying features (“GO FACEPAINT!”) to ever succumb to chills.  Costa Rica was the fifth most represented country at the race and they definitely made themselves known.  “I think if you’re running the marathon and from Costa Rica, you’re obligated to wear a shirt that says so,” Otter remarked after the race.  I believe him.  I yelled every single nationality I could see and few were out there in chicago_marathon-01such large numbers as Mexico or Costa Rica.  What I did learn from this experience was how heartbreaking a marathon can be for people with foreign or exotic names.  I’m sorry, I really am, but if you have “Valtyja” or “Jørgün” handwritten on your shirt, that potential moment of irrevocable indignity where I butcher your name is enough to keep my lips sealed as you run by.  I know that by mile 11 the runner might not have it in them to turn around and give me the stink-eye for soiling their moniker, but in the time it takes me to figure out the best way to pronounce it, they’re past my shouting range.  Plus, what if I try to be smart about it and end up looking like an idiot?  It’s possible that I’ll see “Georg” and think, “Ah, this dude is German,” thereby shouting “Looking strong, Gay-Org” just to have him turn around and say in perfect apple pie American, “It’s pronounced George, dick.”  Maybe one day I’ll shed those silly concerns and just yell everything I see on everyone’s singlets.  But that time will have to wait.

The Best Spectator Sign I Have Seen in Recent Memory

I was reading a recent recap of this race and the author mentioned seeing a Harry Potter-themed sign (“Accio Finish Line!”) and some politically germane zingers (“You’re running better than the government”), which I would have loved.  But the prize for the best sign I have recently seen goes to this brilliant collage.


PRs (Post-Race Pizza Reunion)

Later that night, as volunteers and Parks employees were taking the race apart in Grant Park, Steph and I got together for dinner with a group of runners and bloggers alike.  I had warned her ahead of time.  “You know those conversations that I’ll have with Otter or Marla about running where everyone else tunes out?  That’s going to be this entire dinner, all of it.”  Appropriately cautioned, we made it to the South Loop Gino’s East, where we met up with RunFactory Jeff, Zombiephile Glenn, Brew Crew Otter, Scott and Edna (the latter of whom, while cool people, I met at that dinner, so I can’t give them any relevant nicknames).  Glenn talked about his struggles in the middle miles of the race; Jeff begrudged the Achilles pains that kept him from running under 3 hours; Otter carped about the ascetic lowlifes that complained about his Hash House Harriers Beer Station at mile 23, forcing them to shut it down.  But they also talked about the amazing crowd support, the remarkably diverse and electrifying performances in each neighborhood, and how great it felt to see familiar faces and strangers on the sidelines cheering with equal fervor.  It was a fun dinner over a few delicious pies and, believe it or not, the conversation didn’t entirely revolve about running.  War stories were exchanged, drinks happily consumed and half-promises of future races offered.

left to right: Scott, Glenn, Otter, Steph, me, Jeff, Edna

left to right: Scott, Glenn, Otter, Steph, me, Jeff, Edna

Dennis the Course Record Menace and Rita Jep-Too Fast To Catch

The last thing I did before bringing the “holiday” weekend to a close was watch the recording of the morning’s elite race.  My pre-race favorite Moses Mosop didn’t take the crown as I had predicted, finishing instead in 8th (2:11:19).  The top prize went to Kenyan Dennis Kimetto (2:03:45), who broke the course record, became the third fastest man in history and ran the fastest record-eligible marathon in the western hemisphere.  Perennial runner-up Emmanuel Mutai was just seven seconds behind him, making the 2013 Chicago Marathon the first record-eligible race ever to have two finishers under 2:04.  Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Rita Jeptoo took first and joined the elite sub-2:20 group of female marathoners with a 2:19:57 finish, redeeming herself from last year’s performance, where she lost to Atsede Baysa by less than a second.

I can’t wait until next year.

About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

17 Responses to 2013 Chicago Marathon Weekend

  1. Like you, Marathon week and all that entails is just like Christmas for me. If, for some TERRIBLE, AWFUL, UNTHINKABLE reason I wasn’t able to run the Chicago Marathon some year, I would most definitely be involved somehow, as much as possible. Look at all the smiles it brings as evident from your pictures! Great looking crew there in that bottom pic too, of course 🙂

    • Dan says:

      I keep telling myself that I’ll return NEXT year — I said that as I watched everyone finish 2012, but I chose other plans. I can’t say with 100% certainty that I’ll run 2014 (especially if they do a lottery system), but there’s a good chance. That said, my three bibs from Chicago have been in corrals D, C, and B. Maybe once I reach that “A” standard I’ll return …

  2. Ani says:

    SCOTT JUREK WAS AT THE EXPO?? And I miss him? Bummer. I did meet Bart Yasso though 🙂

  3. tootallfritz says:

    The Chicago Marathon weekend is like a holiday to us, be it Christmas or whatever other marvelous holiday one likes. LOVE it and was so happy to be part of it again!

    • Dan says:

      It’s probably the most ACTIVE holiday of the year — though it still requires lots of eating afterward. Call it an athletic Thanksgiving of sorts …

  4. Mike says:

    It may get too hot there sometimes, it does get too cold there sometimes… but for one weekend in October, I can’t imagine any better place to live than Chicago. Can’t beat your passion for this event, whether you’re between the barricades yourself or trying to negotiate your way around them. And now you’ve started your own cool tradition as the unofficial blog reporter of the Chicago Marathon.

    Even with your legs likely still shaking off the effects of 52.4 miles in the Pacific NW, it had to be tough watching from the sidelines as so many other runners experienced that same adrenaline high in your hometown. But the crazy support from raucous onlookers like you (as well as my first sub-3:30) will always be what sets Chicago apart in my mind… I’ve never felt like this silly little hobby of ours mattered more than I did on your streets last year.

    Cracks me up the way Laszlo, Marla and Glenn all went “Dan-approved” race pose when they saw you, they look like 3 consecutive frames from the same film clip. But speaking of Harry Potter, what did Voldemort do with Otter in that last picture?

    You should fire up a blog poll now to guess where your inevitable third meeting with Scott Jurek will happen… Miami? Berlin? Copper Canyon? I just hope you spike your hair and don a cape and “BS” shirt (you know, “Buddies with Scott”) for the photo-op.

    So then… you planning to run Chicago next year?

    • Mike says:

      Oh, and I’m with Otter… anyone who has a problem with the hashers and their beer stop needs to shake themselves or find another way to spend their weekends.

      • Dan says:

        I mentioned it in Jeff’s comment above, but although I keep SAYING I’ll run Chicago next year, there’s never a guarantee that I’ll commit to it. There are just too many races in mid-October and given the choice, I’d rather explore. I used to think to myself, Chicago will always be here. But the recent surge in popularity makes me think it’ll eventually be the next NYC, only slightly easier to get into. Alas …

        Thanks for reading as usual, Mike.

  5. kellybee322 says:

    I ran Sunday and this was my first full marathon and it was an incredible experience start to finish. The energy of the spectators and displays in all the neighborhoods made the miles tick by easier than I expected they could. I didn’t quite make my time goal, but I still cracked 4 hours so I’ll take it. I know this is supposed to be a “flat” course, but I’m from Florida where the biggest hill around is a bridge and our local marathon’s biggest hill is literally a speed hump, so those little rolling elevation changes after mile 20 on the Chicago course slowed me down a bit and left me groaning. No walk breaks though! I’m pretty proud of that. Was doing a happy dance about the weather though. No heat stroke!! WOOHOOOO!! 🙂
    Wish I would have had the foresight to shoot you a message and join in on the pre/post race fun!!

    • Dan says:

      There will be other races Ms. Bee! Congratulations on breaking the 4-hour barrier and on achieving your first marathon. You only get one first experience and consider yourself lucky that perfect weather and 2 million Chicago residents bore witness to your accomplishment. I will be returning the favor (in a manner of speaking) by running the Miami Marathon in three months. I’ve run the half three times but this will be my first marathon (in Miami that is, 20th marathon overall). Looking forward to it!

  6. Laszlo says:

    “romped down the block like a kid in a toy store”? Just because I was yelling and screaming how amazing this event was? 🙂

    I sure felt very happy to have to good fortune of running this Marathon. For sure a memory for a lifetime. Prior to Sunday I was reading about this event, we had a good, detailed conversation, but here is my mini-conclusion (still to put my recap together): if you think this event is great, wait until you get there and actually participate. It will be even 100 times better than you ever imagined.

    Thank you for cheering from the sidewalk and I look forward to read more about your next running adventures. And until then: “Chicago Marathon is AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING!!!” 🙂

    • Dan says:

      Glad you enjoyed yourself, Laszlo. Though I will say that you (and 40,000 others) got very lucky with the near-perfect weather. In my experience, that hasn’t always been the case. I look forward to seeing when you decide to attempt to lower your PR, be it back in Chicago next year or elsewhere in the Midwest. Best of luck buddy!

  7. hylaridenour says:

    I’m still blown away by the back-to-back marathons two weeks ago!!! Looks like a good weekend though. ; )

  8. Pingback: Church of Sunday Long Run | Dan's Marathon

And then you said ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: