It’s been a week today since I completed my running bucket list item of running the Chicago Marathon.
Kevin and I drove from St. Louis to Chicago last Friday. It was a beautiful day for a drive. It was relaxed and carefree until we got into that busy city!
Not only was one of the greatest marathons going on but the President also decided to visit. And then, the Cubs had the nerve to win their pennant! The city was busy, beautiful and electric.
We checked into the Hyatt Regency Chicago for a 3 night stay and our room was on the 29th floor. It was comfortable, in the heart of everything, had a beautiful view and expensive!!
We met up later with my friend and fellow Chicago Marathon, Tammy (VeganRunnerNerd) and her family.
We had a couple of drinks and started off to the Abbott Center to the runner’s expo to pick up our packets. We were told it was a 2 mile walk but it ended up about 4 or so!
Kevin, David and Kayla were going to run the International Chicago 5k that Saturday morning so we had to pick up their packets as well as ours.
I could have spent a long time and a lot of $$ on a normal day at that expo but we needed to get back to our hotel and get some dinner and rest up!
After the expo, we caught the shuttle back to our hotel and had dinner in a restaurant in the Hyatt and we were off to bed for an early morning watching Kevin, David and Kayla run the 5k.
The next morning, we walked to Daley Plaza to watch them run. And the Picasso sculpture in the center is the model for the Chicago Marathon medal!
Due to tight security for the weekend, it was hard for us to find a place to watch them. We finally did find a place and watched them bring it home in Chicago’s first International 5k on Marathon weekend. They did it and we were proud of them. Tammy and I were also a bit envious of the cool knit cap that they got for their finish.
After their run, we explored the city a bit and I finally got to see the Giant Bean!
Chicago is a beautiful city. You hear so much of the ugly things about the crime, murder etc. that people maybe forget how magnificent it is. I totally fell in love with it.
After we went back to the room for everyone to shower up and change, we went to eat dinner at a Vegan restaurant call “Native Foods.” Kevin and Tammy are Vegan so we wanted to go to a place for them. But I will admit, I loved the food also. I also got to meet one of Tammy’s friends “Heather” who I can now call my friend. Hey, all us Marathoners are friends!
I had a Southwestern Vegan burger and it was incredible! I will definitely go back the next time we go to Chicago. And we will. We are already talking about “when.”
After lunch, we went to Field Museum. It was great and so big that you need a vacation just to see it. I’d love to visit again when I have more time. And I met T-Rex (Sue)!
We were supposed to be resting on Saturday but who can do that in Chicago on a beautiful day?
We made use of Uber cabs to take us back to our hotel. Kevin and I grabbed sandwiches in the hotel market and went to our room for a hot shower, leg rolling and rest.
I laid out my running gear (and after long deliberating, I went with the yellow Asics Nimbus shoes) and relaxed on the bed until lights out. “For Jimmy” on my shirt was for my brother Jimmy who died last year. He is never far from my mind no matter what I do and especially running this marathon. I deferred it last year because he was in the last days of his earthly life. When he found out that I canceled, he was upset that I did it because of him. So I had to do it “For Jimmy.”
Honestly, I barely slept. So many things were running through my mind. I think I fell asleep about 3:00am and I was awake before the alarm went off at 4:45am. So I knew Sunday was going to be a long day! I went to the 24-hour market in the hotel and grabbed a spinach and egg croissant, coffee and a banana.
We met up with Tammy and family in the lobby and headed off toward the Congress Hotel where Tammy’s charity was hosting a breakfast and kick off celebration.
Due to security, our family couldn’t go with us so we kissed them goodbye and headed to our corral.
It was both exciting and nerve wrecking waiting for our turn to start. The crowds were 44,000 strong and electric.
After about an hour of waiting, we started running.
The crowds, volunteers and spectators were incredible the entire way, even for us slower runners in corral K. The course was flat and the city looked beautiful as we ran through 29 neighborhoods. Each neighbor brought something different for our experience. I had read so many stories about the spectators in each neighborhood but there was nothing like experiencing it. One thing that brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face was dozens and dozens of the spectators yelling “Do This For Jimmy!!” that was on my shirt. I know he would have laughed at people calling his name so much. I felt he was with me.
I felt good for the first half of the course. My speed and enthusiasm was nice. At mile 14 and 16, our families were there cheering us on. We grabbed hugs and kept running.
So then came mile 17 or 18. I’m not sure if it was because I was walking so much the couple of days leading up to the marathon or whatever but at first my right hamstring started feeling tight and then started pulling slightly. Then the left hip started hurting. And then, left foot cramps. As a runner, you understand that one thing going wrong causes a chain reaction and that’s what happened. It really got bad at about mile 22 or so. Had it not been for Tammy, I wonder if I would have finished. I’m sure I would have because I had a similar thing happen in my first marathon but she was encouraging and helped me muster up the stamina and drive to finish.
All of the neighborhoods were great such as Boys town, Little Italy, Greek town, Chinatown, Old Town but 18 street or the Pilsen neighborhood was my favorite of all the neighborhoods. It was the Mexican district of Chicago. My next trip to Chicago, I will make sure to go there and eat and drink and have a good time.
Near mile 26, the city of the Chicago played a “fuck you” game with us and put a hill there! After crawling up that hill, I turned to the left and saw that finish line.
Tammy and I charged toward that bitch! I felt so good running down that hill knowing I would be a Chicago marathoner that I had forgotten the hurting hip and cramping foot. I had forgotten how hard it was to get there. I felt immortal for a short while. But a few minutes later, I could barely walk!
We crossed together and I’m not sure about Tammy, but I burst into tears! The tears were so thick in my eyes, that I could barely see. I went toward the person with the medal and he placed it around my neck. He then said “let me give you a hug!” He gave me the biggest hug and told “You Own Chicago, now”!
Another volunteer handed me a bottle of water. Another wrapped the warming blanket around me.
I hobbled out of the runner’s village and found Kevin waiting for me near the exit. I could barely walk to him but I fell into him crying. We went to the Congress Hotel where Tammy’s charity hosts gave us food, beer and a massage!
To the volunteers, police, firemen, kids, senior citizens, regular citizens, drunk college kids, Elvis, drag queens, dancing dragons, mariachis, hello kitties, Mario brothers, Yoshi and anyone who gave me water, high fives, let me hit the power up button….thank you, thank you very much!!
After the massage, we went back to our hotel to shower and grab a few minutes of rest.
I have never hurt so good in my life!
Now Kevin had researched the best Chicago pizza in the city and he decided he wanted “Lou Malnati’s” and while I haven’t had all pizza in Chicago, this was incredible. I would go back to Chicago just for that! We took an Uber cab there. It was an hour wait to get in so it knew it was good. We went next door to grab a beer while we waited. It was also funny to see all the people hobbling in with their medals around their neck. Everyone earned that pizza!
Afterwards, we told Tammy, David and Kayla good night and goodbye until next time we see each other.
I lay there in that comfortable bed looking out the window at the city of Chicago. I was euphoric and felt accomplished.
I am so happy that I got to share this experience with Kevin, Tammy, David and Kayla.
I could write forever about this 3-day experience…. but I’ll spare you!