1. I left out some important information from my weekly training recap: I saw an INDIGO BUNTING on my run on Saturday!
Somewhere around mile 10, I saw a bird flitting around in nearby wildflowers. When I saw the distinctive blue of an Indigo Bunting, I gasped, immediately stopped, and crossed the trail to try to get a picture. He was not cooperative, but I promise it was an Indigo Bunting! It was the first Indigo Bunting I’ve ever seen in the city of Chicago (and one of only a handful I’ve seen ever), so this certainly made my run.
Speaking of birds (it’s getting closer to migration season, so prepare yourselves for an increase in bird content), look who else I recently saw:
A Black-crowned Night-Heron on the Riverwalk! Incidentally, I spotted my first ever Black-crowned Night-Heron in the city (and at all) three years ago. I knew what it was right away this time, though! Of course, it’s much easier to identify birds when they’re adults.
2. OMG. YOU GUYS. THE MARATHON COURSE IS DIFFERENT THIS YEAR.
So, funny story. While doing my investigative journalism on Rock ‘n’ Roll’s mile markers, I discovered how easy it is to look up a course’s USATF certification. It occurred to me last week that since it’s so easy to look up course certifications, I could dig through the list of certified courses in Chicago, which would, of course, include the Bank of America Chicago Marathon’s course. If I did this, I would perhaps be able to find the 2018 course before the race officially announced it. And I did! I looked over it, saw that the shape of the course looked the same as I’m used to, sighed deeply with disappointment, and then noticed something new on the south end of the course: we would run past Michigan to Indiana on 35th Street! Yes, this was only a half block change, but it was a change nevertheless! I considered breaking this barely-news in this post, in fact, until the marathon beat me to the punch and announced that there were course changes in a participant email that went out on Monday. The NERVE.
I pulled up the course, and sure enough, there was the jaunt on Indiana. I backtracked across the course and paused when I saw a jog down Canalport. “I don’t remember doing that before,” I thought to myself. I continued backtracking, and found it odd that the course map specifically noted the location of Loomis. Who cares where Loomis is? And then I saw the Mile 18 marker, and that’s when I really lost it. “That’s not where mile 18 is!!” I exclaimed to my empty apartment. “The MARATHON got their own course wrong!!”
I kept looking over the course and realized a bunch of the mile markers were wrong. I couldn’t believe it! How could they mess that up?!
And then I got to the north part of the course, and realized that the marathon wasn’t wrong: I was wrong. They had changed WAY more of the course than realized! AHHHHH!!!!
I have been whining about the lack of course changes to the Chicago Marathon course for.ev.er, so to see that they altered the course thrilled me, even if it’s not quite as dramatic as I had envisioned. My ultimate dream was to run the course backwards, or have a course that still started and ended in Grant Park but otherwise was completely different, perhaps along these lines:
I will concede that I’m not sure I’d like this course, because SIX MILES on Halsted – oof. Look, I’m not saying that I can come up with a better alternate course. I’m just saying it’d be nice to have an alternate course, especially since I think the current course only does a C+ job of showing off the city. Lincoln Park and Lakeview are interesting, but are they six miles worth of interesting? You spend more time in those two neighborhoods than any other on the whole course, and I don’t think that’s the best way to showcase Chicago (though perhaps it’s the best way of showcasing the part of Chicago the city would like you to see…).
Anyway, let’s analyze the actual changes to this year’s course.
Change #1: This year, we will run past Addison all the way up to Sheridan, which we will take to Broadway. This gives us almost an extra half mile on Broadway.
Change #2: No more Hubbard/Orleans. Instead, we will run straight down Wells all the way to Wacker, run on Wacker (!) over to Franklin, and then continue down to Monroe. Why we’re still going to Monroe instead of down to Adams is beyond me, because the Sears Tower construction doesn’t disrupt street access on Adams, construction on the bridge over the river at Adams–why they altered the course in 2016 in the first place–has long since ended, and making us do the whole Monroe/Jefferson thing adds a turn to the course, but whatever. That being said, by my count the old course had 39 total turns (defining a turn as an angle equal to or less than 90 degrees) while the new course has 35 total turns, which is an overall improvement.
Change #3: We take Damen to Jackson and stay on Jackson all the way to Halsted, rather than taking Damen to Van Buren to Ogden to Jackson. I was not a fan of the stretch on Ogden, so I 100 percent support this change.
Change #4: NO!! MORE!! ASHLAND!!!!! This is the biggest and most significant change to the course in my opinion. Rather than running the full mile of Taylor from Halsted to Ashland, we will turn on Loomis and take that to 18th Street instead. This is so huge! For one thing, running on Loomis will be a wildly different experience than running on Ashland, particularly from a scenery/activity standpoint. For another thing, this means we miss two blocks worth of Taylor Street and two blocks worth of 18th Street, which I personally think is a downside rather than an enhancement, but was also unavoidable. I had a conversation with a Lifetime employee at the Illinois Half Marathon expo in April, and he told me that the city would no longer allow the Chicago Triathlon course to run alongside cars–I’m sure a result of last year’s crash. I’m also sure that this applies to the Chicago Marathon too, and since Ashland was the one part of the course that was open to traffic, I’m also also sure that’s why we’re now on Loomis. While I’m disappointed to run a little less on Taylor Street and 18th Street, I HATED that stretch on Ashland. It was the worst part of the course in my opinion–even worse than the stretch along the highway after Chinatown–and I always felt it was unsafe. I will not miss it one little bit.
Change #5: The turn on Canalport I mentioned earlier. Rather than running down Halsted all the way to Archer, we will skip Archer entirely (which is also fine with me, as that was another part of the course I disliked) and instead take Canalport to Cermak.
Change #6: The aforementioned jaunt over to Indiana, which we will take up to 31st before merging on to Michigan and continuing as normal.
I am SO excited about these changes. With the exception of the loss of a half mile total of Taylor and 18th, I think all of these changes are VAST improvements. Every part of the course I didn’t like is gone. I am going to hit all the mile markers from eight to 18 earlier than I’m used to, which I think has the possibility to be a total gamechanger. I had this course memorized forwards and backwards and could tell you where just about every mile marker was from an intersection standpoint. To hit mile 13, for example, at Franklin and Lake rather than Monroeish like I’m used to is going to be HUGE. Well done, Chicago Marathon.
3. I was downtown on Saturday and the mood struck to visit Millennium Park. Since that rarely happens, I figured I should take advantage and stroll over.
I always find it weird to be in Millennium Park. It’s a space that’s so associated with the city, but it’s also a space where I spend SO little time, and I don’t think I’m the only Chicagoan in that boat. I don’t know anyone who goes to Millennium Park to just, like, hang out (or at least not to the Bean part. I know plenty of people who go to the lawn part for concerts, movies, etc.). But you’d think that’d be the point, it being a public park and all! Though I guess that being said, it’s also not in a place that’s convenient to a lot of people (compared to other parks in neighborhoods, that is) but is convenient to the other standard tourist things to do in the city (the museums, Michigan Ave., Navy Pier), so that probably has something to do with it.
Thoughts on the changed Chicago Marathon course??