What an amazing Chicago Marathon weekend! From Thursday through Monday, my days were packed with marathon preparation, cheering and celebrating. This week’s Tuesday on the Run topic asked: “If I wasn’t running…” my answer? I’d be coaching and cheering! This year, I had the honor of coaching five athletes to run Chicago. Spectating a marathon as a coach was an incredible experience. I don’t know who was more excited, me or my clients! Normally, I’d be doing a race recap, but this time it’s a 2017 Chicago Marathon weekend recap, coach edition!
When I was growing up, my Auntie Cheryl would fly in from Las Vegas to run the Chicago Marathon. My mom and I would dutifully drive her down in the morning, and wait at the START line with her (my how times have changed). In 2014, I ran the marathon for the first time because it was my first year living in Chicago and I had recently fallen in love with running. In 2015, I chose to run the Detroit Marathon, so I spectated my friends. That was a lot of fun, but there’s nothing quite like spectating a marathon as a coach. There were events all week long.
Thursday, was Carbo Load with Coach part one. We to have a pasta dinner at the Pasta Bowl in Wicker Park. The purpose was to a) start carbo-loading, b) answer some last minute concerns, and c) RELAX and enjoy each other’s company and not worry about running.
Last night was Carboload with Coach: I brought together some of the athletes I coached for the @chimarathon for a fun relaxing meal at @thepastabowl Wicker Park. It was a night to reflect back on the training cycle, build excitement and confidence for #raceday, NOT talk about running (too much 😜) and fuel up with a quality dinner. 🍝🍝🍝 I highly recommend the Pasta Bowl in Wicker Park for your pre-race meal – not only do they offer have a delicious #veganpasta dish (with vegan marinara sauce!) but the restaurant is good for groups, has a relaxed vibe and avoids the crowds of Lincoln Park. No-stress but plenty of carbs 😊 #fuelup 🍝🍝🍝 Good luck runners, can’t wait to cheer you on this Sunday 🏃🏻♀️🔥 • • • • • • #thepastabowl #runcoach #carboload #runchi #chicagomarathon #racedayready #sportsnutrition #runnersofinstagram #marathonprep #coachescorner #goodmoodfood #runpb #3run2 #marathoner #marathontraining #veganrunner #nomeatathlete #italianfoodlover #runnerfood #pastaporn #yelpchicago #fabfoodchicago #312food #chicagovegan #chicagoeats #chicagogrammers #rabbitfoodrunner
I loved that they have a vegan option on the menu, complete with vegan marinara sauce! It was also nice to be out in Wicker Park, away from the marathon craziness of Lincoln Park; they were already peppering the streets with flyers and out-of-town runners were making it feel crowded.
Friday, the November Project workout was HUGE! Dozens of NPers from other cities had flown in to either run or spectate the marathon. While the runners did yoga, the non-marathoners did a regular workout. Did some killer Pollaks at the end for hip work.
Later that day, I met my mom and my Auntie Cheryl at the expo. She had again flown in for the marathon, her first in a number of years. I was excited to see her run again! Even though I was not running the Chicago Marathon, I still spent way too much money at the expo. But I came away with new socks, new tights and some new Oofos. (Thanks mom’s credit card for the tights!)
Saturday, was Carbo Load with Coach Part Two. We met at Chicago Bagel Authority on Belmont for an easy 2.5 mile shakeout along the marathon route (miles 8-9ish). The entire run, we were trading puns, trying to decide what to call our shakeout run on Strava. I settled on “Shakeout to Erase Doubt.” Again, the point was to get in some easy miles to release jitters, and to NOT talk about running to try to relax! PLUS I discovered that CBA has VEGAN CREAM CHEESE!
Sunday was the big day, Chicago Marathon! Spectating the Chicago Marathon was incredible. I did a lot of different things to prepare.
First, I made sure to bring ALL THE SNACKS! I knew that I wouldn’t have time to break while the marathon was going on if I wanted to be able to see everyone. I stuffed my Ultimate Direction pack full of different snacks: celery and almond butter, an apple, a Thunderbird bar, Spice Trail savory granola (thanks Erica!), a Larabar, plus some extra Nuun and Huma gels in case the runners needed.
Previously, I had meetings with everyone I coached to develop a race strategy. I knew approximately when to expect them at various mile markers. It also helped that Chicago Marathon has an app through which you can see a map of the course and where runners are. You can track up to 20 runners, and between the athletes I was coaching and the friends I had running, I maxed out pretty quickly.
I also wanted to stand out among the crowd, so my clients and friends could easily spot me. I wore my bright Boston Marathon jacket, vegan trucker hat and tied a balloon to myself. That morning, I went to buy the balloon at a Walgreens near mile 4. It was slim pickings, either a Spongebob birthday balloon or a blue 50th birthday balloon. I went with Spongebob, and as I was in line, I tied it to my backpack so I could be hands-free. What I didn’t know, is that they would want to top off the balloon with helium before I left. I had to go into the back room with the guy since I had already tied it on. Whoops!
I started at mile 4 and 11, since they were just a block apart. I watched the lead pack pass, some wheelchair athletes and then the crowds of runners started coming. A slow trickle at first, and then suddenly a whole mass of people. Luckily, I have a weird knack for being able to spot people in crowds was able to get a ton of pictures of people I knew. David, Dave, Brendan, Katie, Jeremy x2, Nez, Kim, Zach, Tess, Chris, Lydia, Alex, Nancy and a slew of others. I was ringing my cowbells as loud as I could!
From there, I rode the L out to mile 17. I saw Hayley and Kyle on the train; they were heading out to Chinatown, mile 21. SpongeBob was an unfortunate casualty to the crowds of the L. A loud POP sounded as I boarded, and I felt something tickling my leg. I reached down to find the balloon string trailing behind me, but no more balloon.
I arrived at mile 17 JUST after some friends and athletes ran by. Bummer! I stayed for about 10 minutes to cheer on some other friends, and then decided to book it south on Halstead to mile 20ish. Made it in time to see Brendan, David, Dave, Katie, Jeremy x2, and a few others. Then, I ran back up north to Roosevelt and over to Michigan for my final cheering spot. I stayed at the 41k mark, roughly 25.5 miles. There, I saw clients, friends, runners I recognized from social media, and lots of out-of-town November Project runners. Every time I spotted someone I knew, I got chills. I stayed the rest of the time and saw from sub-3 hour to 6 hour marathoners go by. My favorite was seeing my aunt running by, just like old times.
That evening, after I finally got home, ate a substantial meal, showered and put my feet up, I joined November Project at Hidden Shamrock for celebrations. When I spectated the Chicago Marathon in 2015, I was left with a sad disappointment because I wanted to be out there instead of waiting to race the following weekend. Last year, I returned as a runner and had a magical race, nabbing a big PR. This year, initially I thought I would be sad not participating, but I couldn’t have been happier spectating the Chicago Marathon as a coach. I think this was my favorite Chicago Marathon weekend yet!
Did you spectate the Chicago Marathon this weekend? Have you ever spectated a race? What do you like/not like about spectating?