2015 Chicago Marathon Race Recap Part 2

November 20, 2015

Welcome to the 2015 Chicago Marathon Race Recap Part 2….yes the part with the actual race! Catching up? 2015 Chicago Marathon Race Recap Part 1

Beep! Beep! Beep! My alarm was set for 4:30AM so I would have time to eat, drink water, use the potty (multiple times), and change before I would meet Kristina at her hotel.  I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drank two bottles of water – the forecast was calling for 70-80F so I wanted to stay hydrated before the race. I went to the restroom a million at least four times before I left my hotel – I wanted to avoid going to the bathroom early on the marathon (flashback to NYC Marathon when I needed to go right after Mile 1 and had to run 7 miles before I found a restroom.. that was not a fun feeling).  

How was I feeling that morning? On the nervous-excited spectrum, I was more nervous than excited.  I had run NYC less than a year ago, so I knew what running 26.2 miles would feel like (hurt factor), the last 4-6 weeks of training was not ideal, and I was not looking forward to the warm weather  Cliff noticed I was a bit more nervous compared to last year and reassured me I would be fine.   The morning went by quickly and soon I would Own Chicago!

Image: Nike

I got an Uber around 6:00AM and it took less than 10 minutes to arrive at the Congress Plaza Hotel, where Kristina was staying.  The hotel was buzzing with excitement with loads of runners entering and leaving the hotel.  I went into the lobby area and texted my blogging buddy!  We quickly found each other and it was nice to meet the face behind the blog.  Kristina suggested we use the hotel bathroom before heading outside – there was a line, but it moved quickly.  We took a few pictures inside and walked across the street to Grant Park around 6:30AM.  Note: While the hotel is very close to the start/finish, Kristina did mention the accommodations are dated.  Just something to think about when hotel shopping. 

The Chicago Marathon is broken up into two waves: Wave 1 (Corrals A-E) start at 7:30AM and Wave 2 (Corrals F-K) at 8:00AM.  The participant guide had instructions on where to enter and how to get to bag check (I did not check anything). 

Image: Chicago Marathon

I was assigned Corral J (I forgot what I entered as my estimated finishing time), but I decided earlier in the week I would start in Corral K in case I wanted to run with the 5:25 pace group.  Ahhh Gate #5!!

Walking over the bridge – the view was spectacular! Okay getting a little more excited.

There was a security checkpoint prior to entering the park (participants only) .  It wasn’t too long and the line was moving.

Another view of the skyline – amazing.  You would never guess there were porta potties lining the park (I purposely zoomed so they would not be in this picture haha).  Even though we just went to the bathroom I asked Kristina if we could go again… just in case.  The area was rather empty  (Wave 1 was still 45 minutes away) – I had plenty to choose from. 

All smiles! It was nice having a friend to chat with before the race.  It was cool, but not particular chilly… I could feel the temps rising as we approached the start.  I purchased my $10 throwaway from Wal-Mart.

We entered our Corral and chatted some more before parting ways.  I went up to the 5:25 pacers to chat with them real quick.  Initially the 5:25 pace groups had a run and a run/walk option.  I thought it would be a good plan to start with the 5:25 run group and if my quad started to hurt I could transition to the 5:25 run/walk group.  Turns out the 5:25 run/walk pacer injured himself so there was only a 5:25 run option.  Hmmm what to do what to do – in the end I decided to run my own race and figure out from there. 

Race Goals (“A” least probable and “C” most probable)

My Chicago race goals were identical to New York.  I PR’d in NY, but I knew I was capable of running a faster marathon. 

  • A – Finish less than 5:30 (~12:34/mile)
  • B – Finish between 5:30-5:59 (~12:35-13:42/mile)
  • C – Finish the 26.2 miles!

My long runs fell in the 12:00-12:30 min/mile range, a shoe in to break my marathon PR of 6:01:05, right? I thought even with the rising temps and my gimpy leg, a 13:00-13:30 min/mile pace would still give me a PR..hmmmm.

I ate a Honey Stinger and sipped on my Nuun while I waited.  Music was playing as we moved towards the start. Getting closer!

Feet – are you ready to run 26.2 miles?


The Chicago Marathon is an out and back course that begins and ends in Grant Park.  It takes runners through 29 neighborhoods and it is flat flat flat.  There are a few inclines in the beginning and I wouldn’t even call them hills.  There is only one hill…aka Mount Roosevelt….which is right before the finish.

Image: Nike

According to my results I started the race at 8:33AM.  I read there were a few tunnels/overpasses in the first few miles, so I took the advice of Running Fiesta and planned on starting my Garmin at Mile 1.  It was funny to hear all the watches beeping when we went under the tunnel a quarter mile in.  Want to hear something not funny? I had to go to the bathroom! What?!  Less than a mile in I was desperately looking for a place to go, it was not looking good…there were spectators and police everywhere! I saw a Starbucks….no….they were closed! Ok…ready for my mini-embarrassing story?

Image: Erick on the Radio

Why is there a picture of the NBC Tower? While I was thinking, “why is this happening, again?” I spotted a long/tall planter along the side of the building about 20 feet from the road.  There was a nook behind the rectangular planter where I could discreetly go to the bathroom (no one could see me from the road).  I can’t believe I went to the bathroom there… and glad I did….no question I was hydrated.

Mile 1 – The Loop

I reached Mile 1 and guess what I forgot to do…..start my Garmin.  At this point the course wasn’t crowded per se, but there was still a fair share of weaving -typical of a large race.  I was behind a couple who suddenly started to walk (no warning sign and they weren’t walking earlier), I ran around them and almost tripped.  Luckily I caught my footing and made it around them. I liked seeing the Chicago Theater again and it was nice running under the shadows of the tall buildings. 

Chicago also marks the course with the Blue Line.  If you run along this line for its entirety, it will be 26.2 miles exactly! I remember Sue from This Mama Runs for Cupcakes also had this in Paris.  I wish every marathon did this. 

Mile 3 – Leaving the Loop

I finally turned on my Garmin! I forgot to turn it on at Mile 2 as well.  We ran over a few baby bridges when we entered/left the Loop.  I wish I took a picture of this, but they laid out carpets to cover the grates.  I looked at the race clock when I passed the 5K mark and estimated I got there in 39 minutes – which was around 12:30 min/mile – perfect! According to the results I hit the 5K at 39:14.

Mile 3.5 – River North

Once we crossed the river I knew I would see my mom, Beverley and Cliff real soon – the plan was to see the around Mile 3.5.  I turned airplane mode off and Cliff messaged he was on the right side (we used Google Chat). 

My mom took this shot of me.

I gave them a quick hello and tossed them my arm sleeves. I was feeling good! Cliff was prepared with water.

Mile 4 – Near North

Another neighborhood! This is where the 5:25 group passed me.  That’s okay Jennifer, just keep them in sight. 

Mile 5Lincoln Park / Botanical Gardens

I caught up with the 5:25 group and stuck with them for Miles 5-6.  This was one of my favorite parts of the course.  We passed by the Lincoln Park Zoo and the  Botanical Gardens.  I ate my first set of Honey Stinger chews and took a salt stick an hour into the race.  I hit the 10K mark at 1:18:57 and my quad was starting to act up.  I took out my iPod shuffle and plugged in (I was hoping to save it for Mile 14 and beyond) to distract myself from my quad and the heat (it was nearly 65F) as we started to make our way back towards the Loop.

Mile 9 – Park West

Park West is part of the Lincoln Park neighborhood.  There were loads of spectators and I remember passing a few restaurants thinking…ohhh I would so have brunch there.  I was jamming along when I heard, “Jenny!”  I turned to my right and it was Brittney…such a nice surprise!  She had tweeted me the night before, but I had to uninstall Twitter on my phone because I was running out of space.  Luckily, I keep my music volume pretty low so I was able to hear her.

I hit the 15K mark at 2:00:01.  I was excited to head back downtown – I would see my runtourage again.  I took another salt stick and ate some more chews. 

Mile 11.5 – Leaving Old Town

I knew I would see Cliff, Beverley and my mom around Mile 11 so I checked my phone and Cliff said they would be on my right side.  Score! The blue line was on the right side of the road.  Forcing a smile for the camera. 

This time I stopped for some water and a little chit chat.  I was getting a little tired of the Nuun.  Spectating wise Miles 3.5 and 11.5 were basically parallel to each other. While I ran around Chicago, my runtourage enjoyed a nice breakfast at Yolk.  The next time I would see them would be Mile 16.5, giving them about an hour (it ended up being more) to take the L there. 

12.4 – Leaving the Loop

I reached the 20K mark at 2:43:34 (from the actual results).  I saw the running clock so I knew it was around 2:43…I groaned a little bit because I know when I run a 2:45 half marathon my pace is around 12:35, which meant I was not hitting my target pace.  The pinching in my quad was becoming more frequent and I was sweating bullets.  Even though there were 20 aid stations (almost one every 1-1.5 mile after the first 5K) I was so glad I brought my handheld. 

I was feeling a bit down, when I heard “Jenny!!” I turned to my right and saw a girl hop on to her bike.  Since I was on the left my vision was not the greatest.  After the marathon I realized, it was Lauren from Lauren Runs, thank you so much for cheering! My half split was 2:53:06, about a minute slower than New York.  After the half I started to slowly fall apart:

  • The quad was hurting
  • The Garmin was already running low…which boggled my mind since I turned it on at Mile 3
  • The Shuffle was running low…this too…really?!
  • Did I mention…hot hot hot?

15 – West Side

After the the halfway mark I decided to use a 2:1 run/walk interval to give the quad some rest.  I liked this portion of the course because we went through Greektown – of course I started thinking of gyros and baklava! The highlight of Miles 20K-25K? Wet sponges! Beautiful blue sponges! They felt glorious.  Around Mile 15 I heard “Jen!!” It was my friend Anne, her husband Joel and their daughter Lila.  I met Anne through my cousin Stephanie and hadn’t seen her since 2011! Thanks so much for cheering me on.  It was so nice meeting Lila – I love that she is holding the sign 🙂 I took another salt stick at 3:00:00 running time and I passed the 25K mark at 3:28:21. 

16.5 – West Loop

After seeing Anne, Joel and Lila I knew I was about 15-20 minutes from seeing my runtourage.  I kept on hearing the low battery signal on the Garmin…it was deja vu… last year my Garmin died close to Mile 20.  Since I was using intervals I really wanted a watch.  I messaged Cliff if he could check with my mom or sister if they were wearing a watch with a second hand, but sadly their watches did not have one.   I even considered buying a watch off a spectator, I had $40 cash in my pocket.  I probably looked like a creeper staring at everyone’s wrists for an inexpensive looking watch.  No luck + it got old real quick.   I saw my cheer crew at Mile 16.5 and Cliff gave me some pretzels to eat. 

17 – Heading Towards University Village

At this point I was feeling a bit defeated, but I knew I would see the Oiselle Cowbell Corner right after Mile 17.  Prior to the marathon some of the leads took down our corral information and estimated finish time so they could track us that morning.  I was so happy to see them! They were there early on to cheer teammates who would later BQ and also there to cheer on the back of the pack runners like myself.  My DC teammate Caitlin ran towards me and gave me a big hug.  She asked if I needed anything and I asked, pretzels?  I was craving salt, the Nuun and chews were becoming to sweet for me. 

Image: Beth

Shortly after passing them my Garmin died.   I started using the stopwatch function on my phone, but it was a pain to carry a phone in one hand and my handheld in the other.  So I started counting my intervals myself.  Counting 2 minutes and 1 minute in my head was a bit long, so I started using a 30 second run/walk.  That is why this recap does not have mile splits. 

 18 – University Village/Medical Center

I knew I was slowing down with the 30 second run/walk interval.  The 5:45 pace group passed me before Mile 18.  In hindsight I should have tried to stay with them.  They were using a 4:1 run/walk interval, but I thought my quad would not like that.  I reached the 30K mark at 4:14:51 and took another round of salt/chews.  We also got another blue sponge! Thank you Chicago Marathon race organizers. 

19 – Pilsen

Several people told me that the first half of the Chicago course was much better than the second half the course. True, the first half had the iconic Chicago landmarks and the nice neighborhoods, but I loved running through Pilsen.   A predominately Mexican/Latino neighborhood – it was vibrant, festive and filled with music.  So many people from the community came out to spectate and there were food carts selling tamales and other goodies! I wish I had a picture to post here.  I thought I took a few photos here, but realized I ran out of space once I entered Chinatown.  At Aid Station 15 (Mile 20.2) there were bananas.  By the time I arrived there were none left…have no fear banana lovers….there were some at Aid Stations 16, 17, and 18. 

21.5 – Chinatown

Running through Chicago Chinatown was another highlight of the course.  It was spectator friendly and they even had a dancing dragon and drums on the course.  I took out my phone and messaged Cliff to see where they were (this time to my left).  I wish I waited a little longer ….what could have been an awesome photo with the Chinatown gate behind me… was Jennifer looking down and texting.  For those running next year keep in mind for a nice photo opt!  My 35K time was 5:03:31.
At the rate I was going, I knew I was not going to PR. 

Pictures from my crew.  I stopped for a minute to stretch and talk with everyone.  I took a sip of Cliff’s strawberry bubble tea and it tasted amazing, it was liquid gold.  I asked him to pick me up a Diet Coke for the finish line, if he could find one. I gave Cliff my handheld and he handed me a Smuckers peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I took off.  I ate half of it before tossing it out. 

Mile 24 – South Commons

Miles 21-24 were pretty uneventful and not very scenic.  The sun was in my face and there were a couple times when I chose to run in the shade vs. following the blue line.  We ran passed the Own Chicago sign, which was awesome.  I had no idea they were going to place it on the course.  I crossed the 40K mark at 5:50:31

Mile 25 – Prairie District

One mile to go! I knew it was a straightaway before making a right onto Roosevelt, the “HILL”, and then a left onto Columbus Drive for the finish.  I was excited to see the end in sight (I know long straightaways drive some people nuts…because it looks so close yet it is so far). 

Finally the right turn onto Roosevelt!  Know I understood why everyone referred to this portion as Mount Roosevelt – an “easy” hill with fresh legs, a “big” hill on tired legs.  I really really wanted to run up the entire way, but I couldn’t get the body to listen. 

Back to the flat lands for the finish! I can’t believe I was here 6 hours ago.  I completed Marathon #3 in 6:10:33 or 14:08 min/mile

Disappointed – yes.  Hurting – yes.  Hot – yes. I turned on the phone as I made my way to Mile 27 – the Finisher’s Village….I know very clever haha.  The beeps/pings/notifications began to appear.  I read the congratulatory text messages from Cliff, Laurel, Rachel and Kathryn. I told them how I did/how I felt and they reminded me what an accomplishment it was to finish another marathon.  TRUTH!

After we received our medals I took some water and a banana – I loved that the volunteers peeled them for us! I skipped over the Powerade, heat sheets and beer. 

There were also bags and bags of ice to take.  I took one and held it against my left quad.  I went into a medical tent to see if they had any tape, but it was pretty full so I ditched that idea.  Given the heat, I imagine there were loads of runners with dehydration or exhaustion. By the time I finished it was close to 78F. 

I made my way across the field and saw Cliff in the distance. I felt a lump form in the back of my throat.  The disappointment was coming back again and I was on the verge of tears.  I took a deep breath and told myself to “Get it together, Jennifer”.  Waterworks averted! Cliff gave me a hug and I told him I was not going to run MCM (we all know I changed my mind).  I think my sister said something that made me laugh, I forgot what. 

We skipped the Bean for post marathon pics and took some in the park.  Thanks Cliff for spectating another marathon!

I love this pic! This was after I pulled my sister and mom close to me and said “I’m getting you guys sweaty.”

The medal! What do you think? I thought the Bean resembled Moby Dick haha.

Although I was disappointed with my race, I LOVED the city of Chicago and would love to run this marathon again.  How does it compare to New York? I would say it’s pretty much a tie.  Chicago gets the edge for its flat course, but New York gets the edge for its spectators (Chicago spectators are great, but Brooklyn was just amazing).  There is something special about New York that I cannot describe – the energy in the air and the finish in Central Park.  If I had to choose one to run tomorrow, it would be Chicago – I want a redemption run (hopefully better weather + injury free).

I hope you enjoyed this recap.  Congrats to everyone who ran Chicago – it was tough for all of us out there. Thanks to everyone for their support and kind words. You guys are great! I will write a followup post with some  lessons learned, a by the numbers analysis, and what’s next for me. 

Of course I cannot leave you without my post marathon food.  Cliff and I went to Pippin’s Tavern (close to our hotel) where we shared some sliders. 

And I tried my first Chicago hot dog. 

Have you run Chicago before? How does this compare to your other marathons?

Is Chicago on your bucket list?


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    1. Congrats on the finish! You did an amazing job documenting the race, I felt like I was right there with you! Bubble tea during the marathon, how awesome is that! Congrats again. I don’t really have any marathon on my bucket list at the present…perhaps I’ll change my mind but right now my list is more around cycling and triathlon. I may consider a 13.1 in 2016, though!
      Kelli recently posted…Rock the WMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Kelli! Look forward following you along in 2016. I’ll be adding 2 (for sure) maybe 3 sprint tris to my schedule next year. 2017 will be very tri focused.

    1. This was a great recap! It’s like I was there!

      I’ve only run one marathon, but I think it really taught me that my training paces are NOT an indicator of how a full will go. With a half or shorter, you kind of know what to expect with everything and can keep everything on track…but a full is such a different animal! Great job hanging in there with an achy quad!!
      Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…Some Small ThingsMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        You are so right! Even a “bad” day in which there is a 30 second difference, that is already a 13 minute swing! Thanks so much for your support, Ali!

    1. you did great! and as always, your recap was perfect and made me feel like i was there with you every step of the way. but i definitely think you should come back for a redemption race! maybe one year the lottery will be in our favor and we’ll get to run the same year.
      brittney @ corral b recently posted…friday five: healthy holiday tipsMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you SO MUCH for cheering that day! It was so nice to see you. I agree, hopefully we can run together one day. Maybe you’ll get in for 2016? 🙂

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks Sharon! So excited that a marathon is on your list next year 🙂 Loving your Utah pics, hope you had a great Christmas!

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you, Coco! Next year’s marathon I’ll make sure to (a) Wear my Timex and capture splits manually or (b) Have some carry a backup watch 😉

    1. CONGRATS!!!! I’ve been looking forward to reading this recap and hearing all of the details. I wish I would have gotten to see Chinatown, it looks like it was a fun neighborhood to run through.

      In Lincoln Park my body was definitely hurting but I did manage to think there were lots of cute places I’d like to eat brunch at too! Next year! 😀
      Kristina recently posted…On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with PinterestMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        You got this! Thanks for being a wonderful (virtual) training partner. Enjoy the rest of your time in NY 🙂

    1. Way to go pushing through when you clearly had some issues not to mention the less than ideal race day temperature. Running a marathon with 70 degree plus temps is so tough and makes it very hard to earn a PR. You were so lucky to have such wonderful crowd support and the photos are really nice. My favorite is the one post race with your big happy smile! Congrats Jenny!
      Pam recently posted…New York City Marathon, why it was not a one and doneMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you, Pam! I was sure lucky to have all the support (including the surprises) that day – was very comforting to see familiar faces. Hope you had a nice Christmas!

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks for sticking around for this recap 🙂 Hope you get to run it one day… 😉

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Nathasha! Glad you agree that the bean looked like Moby Dick! I’m sure next year’s will be fantastic haha.

    1. Congrats on your race, Jenny! Sounds like a tough day to race with the warmer temps but you did great pushing through and finishing even when the middle miles were tough. Loved seeing all your race pics!

      So far I’ve only spectated Chicago. One of these days I will run it!
      Sun recently posted…Southern Broccoli CasseroleMy Profile

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        Thank you, Sun! I can’t imagine what its like up in IL/WI now – COLD! I saw snow pics 🙂 What a contrast! Hope you had a nice Christmas.

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