Chicago Marathon Weekend

The Chicago Marathon has been on my short lists of marathons that I want to run, and it remains there since I did not run in 2016.  But even though I didn’t run it, that doesn’t mean we (my wife and I) cant enjoy the event and the activities that go on with it, that being the expo. Tina had the day off from teaching after two straight nights of parent/teacher conferences, so I took a day off of work and we decided to go to the expo on Friday. 

I took the girls to get on the bus to go to school, we took Derek over to Tina’s friends house and went on to Chicago. Chicago is just less that 2 hours (depending on traffic) from Chicago, so it’s not a bad drive really. 

The expo is held at McCormick Place which is right on the lakeshore in Chicago.  It is fairly easy to get to. There is plenty of parking but it is then a little bit of a hike to the other side of the convention center where the expo was happening.  For this reason alone, I recommend hitting the expo on Friday (2 days before the race day) if you are running in the marathon.  It’s a lot of extra walking for the day before. 

We finally made it and started to take a look at all the vendors.  First we noticed all the charity team booths lined up in basically one aisle.  We made our way back and found the AfterShokz table.  Wearing my BibRave shirt, they were excited to see BibRave Pros who had tested their AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headphones.  We did end up buying 2 pairs of their Mini Trekz Titanium Headphones as Christmas gifts for the girls.  

After we made our purchase, we ran into fellow BibRave Pro Heather (follower her on Twitter @heatherRuns13_1).  When I ran in the North Shore Classic and the Volition Run, Heather ran there as well as a BibRave Pro.  She was running in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.  We started checking out the other booths and came acrossed the Runners World booth and found a couple of members of Running Royalty: Bart Yasso

And Shalane Flanagan with co author of their book Run Fast, Eat Slow, Elyse Kopecky. Great to meet one of the greatest female American marathoners of all time. 

Tina and I continued to explore the expo as Heather made her way to get in line at the Nike booth where you could have a custome shirt made with your name or anything up to 10 letters long on it.  Pretty cool idea.  We didn’t get one, but I can tell you, there was a lot of interest in them as the line was long.  40 minutes to get your order in, up to 2 hours for your shirt to be printed.  You were able to leave after placing your order to check out the rest of the expo.  

As Tina and I went on, we checked out especially the shoe company booths.  Each one had Chicago branded merchandise. Tina has decided that if she ever ran a marathon, it will be a big one so that she can buy a shirt from each company.  This pretty much means it will have to be either Chicago, Boston, or New York.  New York is next to impossible to get into, and she won’t want to raise $5000 for charity to get into Boston (not that charity is bad, but $5000 is a lot of money). So, if she does a marathon, it will probably be Chicago, but there is still a lottery to get in and about 54% get in.  If you go the charity route, the commitment as far as how much you have to raise, is much less.   

As we went on, we ran into Frank (follow Frank on Twitter @fjnardo), another BibRave Pro.  He ran the North Shore Classic as well. Frank had a battle ahead of himself on Sunday.  2 weeks before the marathon, Frank was in Colorado for a trail race.  The night before the race, a snow storm him and the race was cancelled.  Frank went out for a hike and injured his knee.  Doctors advised him not to run Chicago, but just like most runners in his situation, he was going to run. Later on we also met up with BibRave Co-founder Jessica (follow Jessica on Twitter @jnimurph).  This was the first time that I got to meet Jessica.  She would be pacing the 3:50 group on Sunday.  Frank, Jessica, Heather, and myself.

After checking out the expo, which was probably about half the size of Boston (but still a lot of great stuff to look at), Tina and I were getting hungry.  We walked about a mile to Giordano’s to get some deep dish pizza.  Can’t go to Chicago without getting some. After having a great lunch, we made a mile walk back to the car to head back home.  

We enjoyed our day Saturday, including watching the Cubs take 2-0 series lead over the Giants in the NL Division series. On Sunday, our alarms went off at 3:00 to head to Chicago to volunteer at the Mile 5, Aid Station 3 of the marathon.  This is the second year of us volunteering at this aid station, and we did so through our running club. You can check out my blog post on last years experience here.  As many marathons as I have ran in (19 at this point), it’s nice to be on the volunteer side of things from time to time.  

We arrived in Chicago at our aid station shortly after 4:00 Central time. The aid station is located right by the Lincoln Park Zoo. We checked in a little bit later, got our jackets and hats and were given direction to start mixing Gatorade.  Just think about it for a second.  We started setting up the aid station a little before 5, race starts at 7:30, we don’t see the first runners until around 8:00. It takes a little while yo set up an aid station for a large marathon such as this.  10 tables on each side of the road, cups stacked up 4 high.  There are even more table for water.

After competing the tables, the head of our running club came up to Tina and I, asking if we wanted to be “Fluid Tower Announcers.”  What is a Fluid Tower Announcer? Basically, are placed on a platform, given a bullhorn and announce to runners “Gatorade First, then Water.”  So going into the day, we planned on handing out water or Gatorade and ended up receiving a bullhorn and giving runners instructions and encouragement. I instantly got to texting some of the BibRave Pros and tweeted out where I could be found.  

  https://twitter.com/daddydidyouwin/status/785079931973894144

Correction! 

And what a view it was atop my perch. Was easily able to see the leaders approaching as well as see all the BibRave Pros coming by.  I tried to find a lot of people last year, but was no successful.  This was much easier.  I even saw Bart Yasso as he ran right under my tower.  

So for 3 hours or so, I stood on my medal tower, giving out the simple instructions of “Gatorade is first, and then water” with other words of encouragement to the runners passing by.  I would look at the shirts and singlets of those who wrote their names acrossed there chest and gave them a shout out.  The BibRave Orange was easy to spot, first came Julia (follow Julia on Twitter @jmonst), who is the Race and Brand Marketing Manager for BibRave (she rocked it by running a 3:05 marathon).  Then I saw Eric (follow Eric on Twitter @eblaz37), who luckily tweeted out a pre race photo so I knew what to look for and saw him right as he was at the base of my stand. Then came Julia, pacing the 3:50 group. I shouted at her “There is Jessica Murphy, the best pacer in the world.”  She backed it up by pacing a 3:49:36.  Doesn’t get any better than that.  Then came Frank, who was looking alright at the time, but unfortunately the knee really got to him.  However, he did push through to the end.  Gave Frank a high five as he passed.  Then came Heather who set a huge PR on the day.  

As we got to the back of the pack there just seemed to be a little bit more of a need for encouragement. Still yelling out people names, I also asked who was a first time marathoner.  Usually I got a response of a few runners and I welcomed them into a rare club.  So what if they weren’t even 20% of the way through, they trained and started the race.  That’s 90% of the battle I believe.  Even a juggler ran by. I can’t juggle at all, not sure how anyone can for 26.2 miles.  Can he take a break at aid stations? 

While some responded back with a thank you or a thumbs up, or they didn’t hear because they were wearing headphones (why do you put your name on your shirt for people to encourage you if you can’t hear them, is beyond me), but I hope that aid station No. 3 was able to make this day better for them.  And congratulations to all those who ran the Chicago Marathon this weekend.  And to all the first timers, congratulations! Welcome to an elite club!!!

Will I be back on the perch next year? I don’t know.  Sounds like I can do it again if I want, but 2017 might just be the year I decide to run the Chicago Marathon. But as far as volunteering jobs go, that was one of the coolest jobs.  
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