This was the 2nd time flying to the US this year, after Boston in April. The flight from Penang including transfers was a monster 30 hours.
I travel very frequently with work so I often leave the family for a week trip to Tokyo or a few days in Asia. But when i am leaving the family for personal reasons (like Marathon etc) it is very emotional. Hitomi and the boys see me off at the airport – a few tears are shed. So after saying goodbye to the family (which is never easy) I set off to Chicago.
All my US trips (Boston, Chicago and New York) were all booked via Emirates. They are a fantastic airline (food & service) and after the 1 hour leg to Kuala Lumpur It was then the longer trip to Dubai. I had a few hours in Dubai airport to stretch my legs and then it was waiting at the gate for the final leg to Chicago. Based on what the passengers were wearing, it was easy to spot the other marathoners at the gate.
The last leg to Chicago was a long 14.5 hours….!
Arriving at Ohare Airport around 15:30 in the afternoon and navigating the immigration queues took some time. The bags were already on the carousel when I reached baggage.
Then Onto the blue line down to the loop. I was now in downtown Chicago – this is when you noticed all the Marathon signs and flags. There was certainly a buzz about the place.
For the first 2 nights I stayed at the Silversmith Hotel – it is a fantastic hotel. Very large room and many artistic touches of an vintage era. Staff were first class and asked excitedly about the Marathon – I was knackered after 30 hours of traveling but at the same time I was buzzing from their staff’s excitement.
Next day I left early to make my way down to the Hilton Chicago to catch the shuttle bus to the expo. I had a few arm sleeves and calf sleeves branded by Sean of Inseanity to market, so I took them with me. The expo was well organised and there were many different retailers selling their running related goods. Collected my bib and shirt etc. Had to queue twice as needed to collect a separate running bib for Saturdays Advocate Healthcare International 5km run too.
The Marathon shirt was awesome design that matched the layout of the medal. Tried it on and fit was good. No exchange needed.
Next step was to go and meet the TeamRMHC maestro Katie at the TeamRMHC stand. With over 1000 runners joining the team, this little lady does an absolute wonderful job organising a very demanding bunch of “athletes”. (Ed note – athletes in the loosest possible sense).
The TeamRMHC collectively raised over $1.4million for the charity which is amazing.
I was able to sell a few more of the RMHC sleeves too as I walked around as an advert wearing these red and white hoops on my arms…!!!
Next step was Oofos to buy a pair of “Chicago Marathon” branded recovery thongs. For me these are essential – nothing better post Marathon to put your tired and aching feet into the Oofos and immediately feel the benefit of what can only be described as walking on clouds. I strongly recommend oofos for all marathon runners – they are a must-have item post race.
Spent a few hours navigating the expo and chatting with other excited, anxious,nervous runners. At this point, if you didn’t realise it before….. it was REAL…!
- 5km run – rain and storm, delayed start, run and medal
Early to bed on Friday night although I will be honest I found it incredibly difficult to sleep with the after effects of the travel. My body clock was all over the place. Up early Saturday morning and ready for the Advocate Healthcare International 5km “shake out” run.
Looking out the window I could see that it was raining heavily with flashes of lightning as a storm passed over. The start was only a short walk from the hotel but the rain was heavy. I was offered an umbrella by the hotel staff but knew I couldn’t run with it so declined.
After the walk, trying to keep out of the rain as much as possible (impossible task) I reached the start area and could see many runners huddled under any shelter they could find. The tannoy (which was challenging to hear with the buzz from the runners) was confirming that the run was in danger of being cancelled due to the dangerous conditions and the RED WARNING at that time. Instead it was decided to delay the start and see if it improves as forecasted.
Eventually the rain subsided and the race got underway.
They released runners in small groups for safety.
I was able to complete the 5km in a modest 31minutes. It was a little slippery underfoot due to the very wet conditions.
This race though did highlight the challenge of GPS in the city. Strava mapping of my run was all over the place. It looked more like my youngest son’s attempts at drawing a pretty pattern on the map. ?
The medal and goodie bag was in hand and off I walked back to the hotel. With a mornings work well done.
- Hotel – 2 – Hilton location service
After a shower and brief time to relax (due to the delayed start of the run) I had to check out of Silversmith and make the short journey to the Hilton Chicago. This was the Chicago Marathon “Home” with many of the elite athletes staying here too – including Mo Farah. Hilton allowed me to check into my room immediately (even though check in was not until 15:00) – thank you @hilton.
The room was nice but not as large as the one I had at Silversmith.
I did like the “Chicago Marathon” room key though which was a nice momento from them.
I sorted out my race kit first – shirt, shorts, undershort compression, socks and arm and leg sleeves. Lubrication and blister “prevention” plasters. I was ready……
I was now tired so I decided to nap.
- Pasta party – meeting team – Katie – coach – team gray –
Saturday evening was the TeamRMHC Pasta Party at Union Station. The tables were laid out and there were many runners there by the time I arrived (and I was early). Taking a seat near the food (priorities first) and away from the stage area. I was able to join other runners and chat about their experiences (most had run Chicago before). The food and drink were good and there was plenty available for all the guests.
Then there were a few speeches Katie of course, Coach Brendan (with some last minute advice), runners who openly talked about their connection to the RMhC charity. I had tears in my eyes as a runner described how indebted she is to the charity and how they assisted her family when her son spent over 140 days in hospital. To hear a fellow runner explain why she is running for this cause was so inspiring. She explained in detail how the charity provided the accommodation at the Ronald McDonald home near the hospital where her son was treated – really achieving the tagline of “keeping the family together”.
As a charity runner, I normally select a “child related” charity to raise funds for, but I have no specific “personal connection” to any charity. Therefore, to hear first hand the story behind her families plight whilst their son was facing extreme difficulties in hospital really pulled on the heart strings. The speech was very inspirational and really demonstrates the wonderful job that these charities do.
It was a very enjoyable evening.
We all left for our early nights in prep for the race day.
- Race day –
Another night with not the best sleep, but positive as it is RACE DAY…!
Had two bananas and drank water, prepared my feet and body with lubrication and proceeded to dress ready. I made the short 2 minute walk across the road to the RMHC tent
- Tent – team – selling – facilities
This was our home for the next couple of hours before the race – it was a massive tent in Grant Park. There was a DJ playing music, a private bag drop area, a massage area, a stretching zone, copious amounts of food and drinks for breakfast. Many port-a-loo’s and loads of seating (although as this was being used for 1000 runners and later their guests this would never be enough).
Runners began to arrive. I was able to sell the last few sleeves that we had left. This made some extra funds for the RMHC charity which was great. It was a party atmosphere which was a first for me before a marathon. You were able to keep warm and dry and also stock up on food and drinks before the race starts.
The charity team of Katie and her colleagues did an awesome job making everyone feel special and most very welcome.
There was a team photo in the grounds of the teamRMHC area.
- Start – walk – toilets – wait
As race time approached we were led in groups down to the secure area and our corrals. I decided to have a last minute toilet break before entering the corrals. There were long queues but they were moving so it did not take that long. It was lightly raining at this point.
Waiting in the corral with fellow runners is always an anxious time. I have run 16 marathons (15 of which have been majors) but still have a tinge of nervousness before the start. I do have a routine to relax and breathe – trying to calm the excitement too.
We heard the first wave start and the cheer of a crowd in the distance. At least Mo Farah and the elites were away.
We started in wave 2 which was 08:00 start. But actually did not cross the start line until 08:22…. we were off……
- Race – start – support -weather – humidity – wind
Leaving the park and beginning the run is always a difficult time as you want to get into your rhythm and relax the breathing etc. It is hard to access your speed with your watch as running in a city the GPS can be interrupted. So you “guess” a little and try not to go off too fast.
In the first mile we actually run past the Ronald McDonald House – Chicago. It was great to see the support at the windows..!
The first 5km had many crowds and also you had the bridges as well. Chicago as a marathon is generally flat (apart from the bridges across the rivers).
I felt good and as this was only 3 weeks after Berlin I was reluctant to push too much too early. I was also mindful that in just 4 short weeks I would be heading back to the US to run in New York too.
The 5km was fairly uneventful – the light rain was on/off but due to high humidity levels it was never possible to have dry clothes. My shirt remained wet through the combination of rain and sweat for the whole race. Very different to Berlin where the shirt had salt stains due to the drier conditions.
The shirt from Inseanity was holding up well and I felt good.
5km – 00:32:35 – on track.
We entered a park type area alongside Lake Michigan which opened up the exposure to the wind at times. The crowds were more interspersed here but still vocal. Some of the signs that they hold are very witty, some are crazy and some you just do not understand. There were a few bands and singers with other entertainment.
The water stations were very well signed and marshalled. With paper cups which is certainly safer than the plastic used in Berlin.
I think with the head wind here it was a little slower too.
10km – 01:06:20 – again on track to beat my desired time but a little slower.
In between 10-15km you turn and then you have the wind more at your back. I was able to speed up a little here to race pace. The runners were still fairly grouped together and any point that narrowed you could feel the tightness more. Generally though the roads are sufficiently wide to not have to break your stride.
15km – 01:38:09 back on track.
During the next split we still had the wind at our backs. I felt a little chilly due to the wet kit and gusty wind but would not say it was much of a distraction. The constant cheering from the crowds always gave you something to think about.
Compared to Berlin the Chicagoans were definitely loader and constant with their cheering. It was similar to Boston in April (although in boston the weather was atrocious which would have limited the support somewhat).
20km – 02:11:30 faster than Berlin…!
HALF – 02:19:09
It was around the half way stage that maybe the lack of sleep, the lack of recovery from Berlin, having the elongated taper of pre Berlin to pre Chicago, these factors contributed to a more lethargic feeling. I was very confident of finishing but I felt the tiredness beginning to build.
25km – 02:48:33 – this was a 37:03 5km split (which is a full 5 minutes slower than normal). I needed a second wind.
I was still very confident of finishing – nothing was going to stop me…! But mentally I think at this point I began to question the idea of running two marathons in 3 weeks….!
30Km – 3:28:49…. slowing…..
Run / walk breaks were now common each mile. The water breaks were used to walk and then running again shortly thereafter. The crowds were doing their best to motivate me, hearing your name being cheered from a stranger is quite motivational. The will of the crowd to push you through the tougher times was unquestionable. I enjoyed the journey through China Town and was able to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
35km – 04:11:53
At this point I knew that my target would not be reached today. I was confident of beating my time from Berlin (which after just three weeks was a small achievement I suppose). Mentally this made the running harder for sure and was probably the only time I can remember when I did have some negative questions being raised in my mind.
By the time I reached 40km I knew that Berlin time was going to be beaten. So I relaxed a little and decided to take a while to record a GoPro video. QUite emotional time for me. I always think of those that support me and the charity. I think about my family and boys at home. Always thank my mum as I know that she is up there watching and supporting me.
I knew I would finish, I knew I would beat Berlin and I was knackered so this walking video break was an easy way to finish.
The finish line was in sight and I then started to make more of an effort for the last 200m.
a few minutes faster than Berlin (05:17:42) and nearly 30minutes faster than Boston.
- Finish – last 5km – finish line – medal – bag – beer
Collecting the medal was awesome. It looks fabulous and very different from the round traditional medals that we have.
I hear that Mo Farah had won in 02:05:11 which was great to hear.
After the medal was a BEER…. unusual but most welcome…!
Actually that was my first Beer for a long time. The goody bag had some easy food and water etc and we also received the heat wrap.
As there was no bag to collect I started to head towards the teamRMHC tent. Unfortunately I had to discard the beer as the security would not let me take it out of the secure area….
- Tent – bag collection – burger drinks – hotel
When we reached the tent there was a red carpet to walk down – a great way to welcome back all the runners. The tent was busier than the early hours as many guests of the runners were also there too. The queue to collect the bag was a while but the food and drinks were flowing. I was able to relax and change into something more comfortable. Place my feet into my Chicago Marathon Oofos …. ah…. that initial feeling is a memory.
Was able to enjoy the charity hospitality and welcome back runners for a couple of hours. Made some great friends as part of the teamRMHC and it will certainly go down as one of the highlights of the runRICKYrun project. I must have enjoyed it as I have already registered to go back in October 2019 and run Chicago again with teamRMHC…!
- Leave and arrive home – Flight – time.
Back at the Hilton I was able to shower and relax further. Went locally for dinner as I wanted to sleep.
The next day was actually 35 hours of traveling home – not ideal after running a marathon maybe.
Hitomi and the boys met me at Penang Airport and that was a very welcome sight. Miss them all lots whilst away and the cuddles were most welcome on my aching muscles.
Overall the trip was awesome – shame you cannot do the event without the travel though.
TeamRMHC are amazing and if anyone ever has the desire to run for a team of very supportive people in a wonderful city with awesome support – look no further than joining Katie and her team at RMHC in Chicago…!
On Sunday 13th October 2019….. I will be back running in Chicago – will you join me?