Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Few Chicago Marathon Tips

Well, it's about that time. The weeks of tempo/strength/speed and long runs are over and we sit a few days out from the big day. The only thing left to do from here until Sunday is to do two or three short shakeout runs and do hourly refreshes of weather.com to get updates on Sunday's forecast.

Speaking of which, as of today, it looks like it will be 10 to 15 degrees warmer this year than last year. If the wind forecast is correct, the middle miles will be hard fought into the wind. Here's hoping the forecasted wind and heat taper off by Sunday.  That said, here a few tips that will hopefully help you to have a slightly better Chicago Marathon no matter what the weather.

Dashed Blue Line - Unfortunately last year I didn't find out about the "dashed blue line" that is painted on the Chicago Marathon course until after the race (even though it was under my feet for some of the time). If one theoretically could run the entire race right on that blue line, they would run exactly 26.2 miles. This is also known as "running the tangents". According to my GPS watch, I have run 26.5 miles in each of the last two Chicago Marathons (2013, 2014). If I had been able to shave off 0.3 miles I would have saved over two minutes of running.
See the "Blue Line" at the tip of the arrow
from 2014's race.
Motivation on Michigan Avenue - Michigan Ave. is the long, hot homestretch of the marathon. It covers approximately 2.5 of the last 2.7 miles usually in the full sun. Traversing this section seems to take forever. A way to keep distracted on this stretch is to break down the distance by looking out for each kilometer marker (41 then 40 all the way to 37) since klicks are shorter than miles. Even better, remember that at each intersection from 35th street to 12th (Roosevelt) the numbers go down one every block (I got this one from Mo). So you just have to focus on running to the next intersection to see a new (and lower) number.

Expo Parking - If you don't want to pay for parking in the McCormick place garage, you can sometimes find a free or at least cheaper street spot just west of the convention center. However, it is a bit of a hike, so if you go to the expo on Saturday, you might consider shelling over the bucks to park in the garage which might save your legs from walking too much the day before the race.

Balbo Hospitality Tent* or the CARA VIP Experience - I was gifted a pass for the Balboa tent last year, and although it is expensive ($125), it is heated, provides unlimited food and drink, has plentiful and virtually unused porta-potties, private gear check and post-race massages. All of this takes place right next to the finish line.  It's close to an upper-crust marathon experience, but if you're only running one marathon a year, it might be worth a splurge since it provides a comfortable environment prior to the race. Also, CARA sponsors a "VIP Experience" at a local hotel with many of the same amenities for a lot less ($35 pre-expo price). However, it's about a nine block walk north of the finish line and around the same distance to the start line due to the security checkpoints before the race. However, they do have a bank of VIP porta-potties closer to the start line. If you are arriving to the race from the south or are headed southbound after the race, it might not be very convenient for you.
In the Balbo hospitality tent before last year's Chicago Marathon
Well, those are my tips, hope they help even if they won't make us any cooler during the race. Anyone have any specific to Chicago Marathon tips?

* Just checked the Chicago Marathon site and it looks like tickets are no longer available for the tent for 2015. Womp.

11 comments:

  1. These are great tips! Have you heard of SpotHero? I've never used it but I've heard you can use the app to find cheap parking around the city. Might be something to look into. Another tip is to have a good mantra that you can repeat during those tough miles. And I always suggest to get as much sleep as you can on Friday because you won't sleep much the night before. Good luck, Pete! Allison and I will be out cheering on Michigan ave.

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    1. Thanks for the tips, Sara! Also, I have never heard of SpotHero, but will have to check into it. I need a mantra! I think you suggested one last year about "one foot in front of the other" or something like that! I need to get some more sleep, so I will try to go to bed early on Friday. Thanks and see you (and Allison) on Sunday! :)

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  2. I hope the weather forecast is wrong and race day turns out to be perfect for you! The CARA tent is the bomb. I feel a huge sense of relief having my fall marathon already over. Haha!

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    1. Thanks, I hope so too! I am feeling less pressure on myself for this marathon for some reason - which might be a good thing! Nevertheless, it will be nice to have some downtime like you and read about other people's upcoming fall marathons!

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  3. Ugh on the forecast. I'm glad I revised my goals...looks like a BQ is not in the cards for this heat-phobic runner. I'm just going to have fun and let my training take me to the finish, at my own pace.

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    1. Yes, I am mentally coming up with a heat-related "Plan B" for the marathon. Instead of a PR I might go for a course record (PR + 4 minutes). Yes, key is to have fun!

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  4. I like the tip about watching the numbers go down along Michigan Ave! I spend a LOT of my time running thinking about numbers - calculating times, paces, fractions of miles and minutes - so that would be extremely helpful for me.

    I second the SpotHero rec - that app is awesome! I parked at the Trump Tower last night for $9 (and for how long I was there, it should have been $28)!

    I hope the weather cooperates and that you have a great race!

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    1. I also spend lots of time with numbers in my head while running. Anything helps to distract on Michigan Ave. From 2 miles away you can see the jumbo-tron that marks the end of that stretch (12th and Michigan) and if you focus on that the whole time it seems to never get closer! I will have to really checkout SpotHero now! Thanks!!

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  5. you are going to kick boo-tay. so stoked to track you!

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    1. Thanks! So stoked to be tracked! :)

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  6. Great tips! I did not do a good job following the blue line but I did try.

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