Chicago marathon 2014


Some people travel to go on vacation and relax, while others travel to climb mountains and run marathons. 4 years ago, I decided to get outside and run for the first time. 4 years later, I finished the Chicago marathon; my third marathon with a personal record. But before the marathon report, I present some sights of Chicago.

Willis Tower:

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Cloud Gate (The bean mirror):

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Chicago Sightseeing:

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Navy Pier:

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Marathon Day

Just when I thought it couldn’t get louder and wilder than the NYC marathon, Chicago was just as loud and wild with 40,000 runners and 1.7 million spectators. My marathon training was mediocre this year due to a Mt Rainier training conflict and a new fondness for lifting weights. Also, I gained 10+ pounds over the past 6 months (mostly muscle I hope). But I figured, I’d gladly sacrifice many hours of marathon training for one painful final marathon hour, which is inevitable anyway. Besides, I just wanted to enjoy my 26.2 mile tour of Chicago and its countless neighborhoods without the stress of time goals.

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The line-up at Grant Park was quick and organized. The security line was actually shorter than the pee lines. I literally left my hotel at 6:30 and was standing in my corral at 7:30 ready to start the race. By the way, the weather was mid-50s and no major hills on the entire course. It doesn’t get better than that. On your mark…

First half:
Surrounded by skyscrapers and crowded streets in the city center, the first 2-3 miles are a blast and great way to start. It’s not the epic Verrazano bridge beginning but it is awesome in its own way. From Grant park through Streeterville, passing the Magnificent Mile and back to The Loop (city center). There were runners from all over the world wearing their country’s colors as well as domestic runners wearing funny costumes. The crowds had all sorts of signs and costumes, live bands, loud horns and cowbells; it was one epic 26.2 block party. It was NYC all over again. The volunteers were exceptionally lively and looked like they were having the best time of all. Yep, that’s me wearing shades and a skull buff on my head throwing the “3 finger” gesture for third marathon.

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Several neighborhoods reminded me of Brooklyn and uptown Manhattan – Near North Side, Lincoln Park, Lakeview East, Park West, Old Town, River North, and Near West Side. Since I was feeling alright, I decided to high-five any hand that was sticking out of the crowd. Whether it was a huge Hulk glove, “touch here for power” poster, or a confused looking kid with his hand out, they all got my high 5. It’s the best when there is a line of hands; combo. This went on for miles, like a big whirlwind of noise and running. One of the best moments was when we returned to The Loop, where my biggest fan (the wife) was waiting for my sweaty hug in front our hotel. My wife said I looked fine after 12 miles and then told me to keep running. How tempting it was to just go right upstairs and take a nap. At the halfway point, the real race begins…

Second half:
It was just like the first half, but painful toward the end. We ran through more neighborhoods – Greek Town, Little Italy/University Village (where the Rocky theme song was blasting), Pilsen (largest Latino community), East Pilsen, Chinatown, Bridgeport, Park Boulevard, Bronzesville (adjacent to IIT college campus), South Commons, and Central Station. The crowds were so full of energy (and full of booze in some areas). Spectators were handing out all sorts of food like oranges, bananas, Kleenex, Vaseline, Twizzlers, power gels, tamales, beer, etc. The crowds were loud as hell for one mile and quiet during another mile as we ran through the neighborhoods and the roads which connect them. By mile 18 (Pilsen), my high fives ceased as my enjoyment transformed into struggle, it was only a matter of time. The fatigue and pains started kicking in. Throughout the many twists and turns of the second half of the route, the Willis tower was always in sight and served as the finish line marker; a ray of light. Also, it became 10 degrees warmer, ugh. And something I learned: wearing shades hides the exhaustion face in the photos.

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Every mile felt longer and longer. Stronger runners started passing me by, but that was fine. I knew it would be over soon. The final hour was painful indeed as I resisted the urge to walk. The water stations were like heaven tables with angels handing me water and Gatorade. I only have glimpses of images in my head during the last few miles, a kind of drunken memory of it all.

The last 2-3 miles was a straight run up Michigan Ave to the finish and I was possibly running as fast as I power walk. At mile 25, I felt like passing out regardless of the liters of water and Gatorade in my system. My body was failing quickly. It is during these last moments where you ask yourself, why am I doing this to myself? Why run a marathon? The answer becomes clear. To know what it feels like to run the Chicago marathon and to know what it feels like to finish it, to feel victorious, and to feel alive. If I stop at mile 25, I’ll never know, so I must finish. After an eternal final mile, the finish line was in sight; it’s the most beautiful sight. 4 hours and 19 minutes! 8 minutes faster than Disney, and 15 minutes faster than NYC. VICTORY!

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The path to the marathon continues. I have a score to settle with NYC. Thanks to the Chicago marathon experience, I feel prepared for the NYC marathon rematch in 2 weeks. Most importantly, the taper period starts now which means less running and more eating, excellent. For anyone who ran the NYC marathon or any one planning to run the distance, I highly recommend Chicago. You won’t regret it (until mile 20+, hehe).

12 thoughts on “Chicago marathon 2014

  1. sweatinggraceandgratitude October 21, 2014 / 11:33 pm

    Great recap! It’s so hard to not compare races to NYC once you’ve done it. Both fantastic races!

    • sephiroth796 October 22, 2014 / 11:13 am

      Once you run NYC, you never forget it.

  2. October 22, 2014 / 8:44 am

    Congratulations! Loved your recap and photos! I hope to be able to sneak a Chicago Marathon in 2015! (Tax deadlines and marathons are always against each other =) )

    • sephiroth796 October 22, 2014 / 10:05 am

      Thanks Liana. And the photos, yea I gave in and paid for them. But after the discount and $20 shutterfly gift card, I ended up paying a dollar per photo, a deal I couldn’t refuse. You could PR the hell out of Chicago!

  3. darwinontherocks October 22, 2014 / 9:53 am

    wow impressive! What kind of music do you listen during a marathon ?

    • sephiroth796 October 22, 2014 / 10:02 am

      Thanks. The long run to Skaftafell and Svartifoss and back was still the most epic this year. I rock all music; techno, dancehall reggae, hip-hop, movie theme songs, old school house, old school rock, video game remixes, trance, etc. Everything except mainstream, country, slow songs, and classical I suppose.

      • darwinontherocks October 22, 2014 / 10:29 am

        So, do you think listening to music help you to run faster and/or better, or it is just to kill time ?

        The hike to Svartifoss was pretty difficult for me, it’s was quite steep at one point. It’s also impressive you managed to run over there. I saw several people running at that time, but they didn’t look very well equipped, I was scared for their feet. some of them were running in flip flop đŸ˜€

      • sephiroth796 October 22, 2014 / 10:40 am

        I find that listening to tunes while running motivates me and I find it more enjoyable. It’s also useful when running to a rhythm to maintain a certain pace.

        And yea, after 3 miles of running on the road and entering the Skaftafell parking lot, the long uphill hike slowed me down big time. Flip-flops, oh no. I’m just glad it didn’t rain during that time, I was totally unprepared for that.

  4. Dominick S. October 22, 2014 / 7:42 pm

    Dang! That looks like fun and it looks like all the hiking miles and weight lifting paid some serious dividends…along with the training runs as well. Congrats and it looks like you had a blast and kept the right things in perspective!

    • sephiroth796 October 22, 2014 / 9:36 pm

      Dooood! Dividends in a PR form. If you are thinking of a travel marathon, do this one. It’s NYC without the Queensboro bridge and without the pilgrimage to Staten Island. Hope you’re doing that Star Wars Half at DisneyLand.

      • Dominick S. October 23, 2014 / 12:28 pm

        I have Chicago on my list but I think I want another crack at NYC next year before I pull the trigger here. I am doing LA this March, we will see how that goes. As for the Star Wars Half, I am not participating this year but know some people who are and have plans to go cheer them on, which will likely have me sold on the even for next year. Congrats again!

  5. PDX Running Chick October 30, 2014 / 9:51 am

    Congratulations! Awesome recap and as usual great pictures! Good luck this weekend! You are on quite a roll!!

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