Race Recap: The Chicago Marathon 2014

Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2014  photo credit: Gregory Regalado; flicker creative commons

Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2014
photo credit: Gregory Regalado; flicker creative commons

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In this podcast episode and blog post I recap one of the world’s largest and most exciting marathons. Let me take you on a personally guided tour of this amazing race.

The 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Quick Facts

The 37th Bank of America Chicago Marathon was held on Oct 12, 2014. The race only features a marathon and entry was capped at 45,000 runners.

Chicago is one of the World Marathon Majors along with Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin and New York City. The economic impact that the marathon has on the city is amazing. We heard a report that the 2014 race was expected to bring in a quarter of a billion dollars.

In 2013 a total of $253.49 million dollars went into the economy providing the equivalent of 1,742 full-time jobs. A reported one-fourth of the people who traveled to Chicago for the marathon said that it was their first time in the city. [2]

Expo and Pre Race Happenings

The Abbot Health and Fitness Expo started on Friday and continued on Saturday. This was the largest expo I’ve ever been to. Fortunately the process of getting your race packet was simple.

We wandered around the expo and tried not to be overwhelmed with the sheer number of people there. Our goal was to find the Marathon & Beyond booth and Generation UCAN booth.

Angie and Trevor with Kelly Nykaza from Marathon & Beyond

Angie and Trevor with Kelly Nykaza from Marathon & Beyond

At the M&B booth we talked with Kelly Nykaza (a MTA listener who was connected to her job there by listening to the podcast) and Jan Seeley. Hal Higdon was also there signing books so we got a book and picture with him.

At the UCAN booth we talked with their dietician who is working on a UCAN gel and Katie, the event manager, who said they’re coming out with an energy bar soon.

After the expo we drove to the restaurant where the MTA Meet up was held. Because of Trevor’s great love of Mexican food we decided on Zapatista’s Mexican Restaurant. We had a good number of people in attendance and are so thankful for everyone who came out!

MTA Chicago Meetup

MTA Chicago Meetup

Race Morning

At the meetup we received some very good advice about not attempting to drive to the starting line on race morning. So our plan involved taking the 5 a.m. hotel shuttle to Midway Airport and getting on the Metro orange line to downtown. From there it was an easy walk to Grant Park where all the excitement would take place.

I was in corral B and had to go through Gate 1 or 2 while Trevor had to get through Gates 3+. There was security at the gate (complete with metal detector wand) and you could only take items through in the clear marathon gear bag. After getting through security there were rows of port-o-pots without lines as it was still fairly early (before 6:30 am).

I found that everything was well organized. In order to get into the corral you had to show the appropriate bib. There were 13 start corrals (I was in B and Trevor in F). The wheel chair race started at 7:20, hand-cycle athletes at 7:21, athletes with disabilities at 7:22, Wave 1 at 7:30, and Wave 2 at 8:00am.

There were runners gathered from all 50 states and over 100 countries. There was live coverage of the race provided by NBC Chicago, radio coverage, and live tracking online. As you can imagine there was a lot of excitement and energy before the race start.

Weather on race morning was ideal. The sky was clear and blue and it was upper 40’s at the start and warmed to the mid 60’s by the end of the race. Even though Chicago is known for its wind there weren’t any particularly windy sections (or they were all blocked by the crowd).

The Course

You really can’t complain about how well this marathon was organized and all the great volunteers. The course had a time limit of 6:30, there were markers at every mile and timing checkpoints at every 5k and at the finish.

Chicago is famous for its flat and fast course. Add to that the fact that it goes through 29 neighborhoods and crosses the river five times and you’ve got an exciting race. In fact, we heard that there were over 40 spectators for every runner and many of them were very enthusiastic.

Some notable neighborhoods were Greek-town, Little Italy at mile 17, Pilson Latino neighborhood at mile 19, and Chinatown near mile 21. There were performers out on the course, bands, dancing dragons and unsanctioned aid stations handing out water, beer and jello shots. Not to mention four major cheer zones.

Great volunteers at the Chicago Marathon photo credit: Gregory Regalado; Flickr Creative Commons

Great volunteers at the Chicago Marathon
photo credit: Gregory Regalado; Flickr Creative Commons

There were a total of 20 aid stations— one about every 1-2 miles complete with a medical tent, toilets, Gatorade, water, and often an announcer. Gels were found at aid stations after mile 17, and bananas from mile 20-23.5. The aid stations featured a whole block of sports drink (both sides of the road) and a block of water to make it easier to get your fluid.

The volunteers were great, although things did bottleneck some at aid stations and you really had to watch where you were going to avoid slipping and tripping on cups and banana peels!

Finish Line and Top Finishers

The finish line was located back at Grant Park. Right before you get to the finish line there’s an overpass at mile 25.5 that might as well be a mountain. In fact there are signs saying “just 800 meters” and “400 meters left” so that you don’t get discouraged.

After you top the hill and turn left the finish line is in sight and many runners will cross that wonderful place at the same time. After finishing you first come to the area where they hand out heat sheets then you keep walking for what seems like a long time and get your medal.

Then you *get* to keep walking to the gear check area and on to the post-race party and runner reunion area at Butler Field. There was live music, a massage area, photos, race merchandize and food for sale, and alphabetical signs to meet up with family and friends.

  • The male winner was Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge with a time of 2:04:11. Sammy Kitwara finished second in 2:04:28 and Dickson Chumba was third with 2:04:32. Bobby Curtis, the first American had a new personal best of 2:11:20. It was a tight men’s race.
  • Rita Jeptoo from Kenya was the first woman defending her title and clinching the World Marathon Majors series with a time of 2:24:35. She also became the first woman to win four consecutive major marathons. Mare Dibaba took second place in 2:25:37 and Florence Kiplagat was third in 2:25:57. Amy Hastings was the first American tying her personal best of 2:27:03. [4]

My Chicago Marathon

IMG_2133I was more nervous than normal going into Chicago. Although I felt good physically and was well rested going into the marathon the bottom line was that the race was not ideal for me. I could tell from the early miles when I had a side stitch that it was going to be tougher than normal.

At first it was hard to get into a running zone with the crowded start and bottlenecked aid stations. About the time my side stitch went away I started having proximal hamstring pain and left hip flexor pain. This is something I’ve dealt with occasionally in the past but it really put a hitch in my stride and it didn’t really feel better to walk or stretch.

Then around mile 20 I slipped on a banana peel. It sounds cliqued but I did the whole windmill arms thing and managed to stay upright. That bit of gymnastics sure didn’t make my hamstring feel any better. I saw a couple people fall—probably taken down by stray cups or banana peels.

There’s always a few weird things that you see during a marathon. I noticed one man who was pulled off the course by race officials as a bandit. According to the local news station a man who was trying to pick up drugs from one of the flower pots was spotted by police and tried to escape by running onto the course. [5]

I also saw a medical team running to help a person during the race. According to NBC Chicago two men needed CPR during the race. One was 29 and collapsed near mile 7 and another was 59 and went down later in the race. The race medical director said that 800 runners required medical treatment and 24 were taken to local hospitals. [6]

Usually during every race we run there’s at least one MTA fan that says “hi” along the way. Christine from NY saw me around mile 10. She later posted on our Facebook page,

Angie I met you around mile 10ish.. Congrats and good luck at Marine Corps!! Looking forward to your race re-cap.”

Addie from WI said “hi” around mile 14. She sent this message in,

“Congratulations to you both!! Angie- thanks for briefly chatting with me during mile 14/15! I couldn’t stop fangirl-ing… how funny that I JUST listened to your latest podcast while en route, and then ran into you during the race! Anyway, thanks for sending me off with a “run strong!” Keep up the great work.”

It was very exciting to cross the finish line, even though I was far from my A goal of a PR. I was happy to be in one piece for marathon #26 and finish in 3:56:25 with my C goal of a sub-4:00. I went through the finish line area, got my gear check bag and something to eat and went and camped out near the letter S in the runner reunion area waiting for Trevor to finish.

Post Race Walkabout

After Trevor finished in 4:16 we walked back to the orange line CTA station and took it back to Midway Airport before boarding a shuttle back to our hotel. It seemed like a long ride and I was getting thirsty and tired.

After showering at the hotel we headed out for some deep dish pizza at Giordano’s. The restaurant was packed with people and it took around an hour to get our pizza. When you’ve just run a marathon this feels like an eternity.

The next day we walked all around downtown Chicago near Millennium Park and Willis Tower. I would guess that we got in nearly 3 miles which felt good post-race. We went to the top of Willis Tower just as the fog was rolling in. Unfortunately this blocked our view of the city. We had lunch at a German Place (Berghoff’s) and stopped at the famous Garrett’s Popcorn to get some for ourselves and our kids. Life is good.

Angie at the Cloud Gate

Angie at the Cloud Gate

Angie and Trev on the Sky Deck of Willis Tower Visibility zero :(

Angie and Trev on the Sky Deck of Willis Tower
Visibility zero 🙁

Then we started the long drive home.


Chicago Marathon photos: Gregory Regalado, Flickr Creative Commons License

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Marathon_Majors
2) http://www.marathonguide.com/pressreleases/index.cfm?file=ChicagoMarathon_140821
3) https://www.worldmarathonmajors.com/
5) http://wgntv.com/2014/10/14/man-running-from-police-joins-chicago-marathon/
6) http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/2-Chicago-Marathon-Runners-Require-CPR-278955141.html

Quick Tip: Preserving the Life of Your Garmin

This episode’s quick tip comes from Clive from the U.K. Thanks for the tip Clive!

Hi, discovered you recently and am slowly working through Podcasts and listened to one today (in the car) about Angie having good service from Garmin. Also heard in one Podcast that Trevor uses the Garmin Forerunner 305 which I also wear. You and your listeners may be interested in the following. I am on my second forerunner, the first packing up on the morning before the Belfast Ireland Marathon. After much research and time spent on forums I discovered that when you take your Garmin off your sweaty body and place it in that little download cradle, an anode/cathode sort of thing happens and the little terminals on the watch corrode on the inside of the watch. Needless to say, with my latest Forerunner I wipe over the little connectors with a dry cloth before placing it in the cradle.
Thoroughly enjoying your podcasts from the other side of the pond (I am in Wales)!! Clive

4 Responses to Race Recap: The Chicago Marathon 2014

  1. Paul McDonald October 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm #

    As soon as I saw the bananas being handed out and, inevitably, thousands of the skins and half eaten bananas on the ground, I knew that it was a disaster waiting to happen. Banana skins are slippery as anyone who has watched a cartoon knows. But the half eaten bananas are even more so.

    People don’t need bananas to complete a marathon. And they sure don’t need to have to run over them.

    Only a complete idiot would have thought bananas were a good idea in this event. I suspect that if you asked the 45,000 runners, around 44,900 would have thought it was ludicrous. They might as well have handed out bars of soap.

    I sympathise with you. As I say, I was worried about it at the time and was dodging the banana graveyard myself (and muttering darkly about it to myself as I went).

    • Angie Spencer October 27, 2014 at 6:29 am #

      You made me laugh Paul 🙂 My banana incident was worth it just to read this well written condemnation of their dangers while running. I’m glad you were more vigilant and coordinated to navigate the banana apocalypse. I will be forever more aware of how dangerous these little beasts can be on a marathon course.

  2. Ann Anderson October 26, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    When I ran Grand Rapids marathon they had bananas at mile 20 but it was half a banana on a popsicle stick and they told you just grab the banana and they held the stick so no popsicle sticks hit the floor.

    • Angie Spencer October 27, 2014 at 6:31 am #

      This seems like a much better idea Ann! Did they peel the bananas in advance as well? It was the peels that tripped me up in Chicago.

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