Annual marathon thought-dump edition!
1. While I thought the expo felt bigger and more populated (from a brand standpoint) this year, I was #notimpressed with the offerings. I purchased one thing (see line item #3) and was honestly pretty disappointed about it, until I remembered that I had already bought three things from Nike prior to the expo, which was why I didn’t have anything I needed to buy at the expo.
2. The three things I bought from Nike (well, one was technically Nike via Fleet Feet):
I already mentioned that I got a visor at Fleet Feet two days after the 20 miler to make sure I got something. When I went to Nike the following weekend, they still had plenty of everything. I got a blue half-zip and my traditional marathon hat, both of which I like a lot.
I’m a big fan of the heathered look on anything, so obviously I love my half zip, and I like all the detail on the hat. I’m also VERY excited that both the hat and visor have mesh-y-ish material for the sweatband (by which I mean its perforated – I don’t know the best way to describe it), which I think will make them both INFINITELY more breathable than anything else in my current hat/visor collection. I insist on wearing hats or visors when I’m running in the sun, but the lack of breathability does make them a bit toasty. I’m optimistic that the design on this year’s marathon hat and visor will solve that problem.
3. I, sadly, was not able to make my annual Christmas ornament purchase from SportHooks, as they have apparently gone out of business and therefore clearly weren’t at the expo this year. I’m bummed out about it, because I’m quite proud of my SportHooks Christmas ornament collection. Instead, I bought a glass ornament from the Commemorative Merchandise booth with all of the official Bank of America Chicago Marathon non-Nike swag. I think Christmas ornaments are the best souvenir–they don’t take up much space, they’re a great way to show off your interests/experiences, and they don’t clutter up anything but your Christmas tree–so I’m glad I was able to get one for this year’s race, even if it doesn’t match the others. (You can’t really see it, but it’s on my participant shirt in the picture below, right under the Nike swoosh.)
4. The participant bag seemed light on stuff this year, though maybe I just feel that way because I didn’t buy anything but that ornament on my way out.
I’m a HUGE fan of this year’s shirt and think it’s light years better than last year’s monstrosity. I also think this is the best poster they’ve given out since the 2013 poster. (Maybe they only have good posters on years the race is run on October 13?) You can’t see it here, but the poster is a picture of view facing south on LaSalle towards the Board of Trade and ran with the “I am” theme that the marathon apparently decided to go with this year. (“I am fearless. I am strong. I am ready.” etc.). They had that all over the participant bag, too, which was new. Usually it’s just the logo. I thought it was a nice touch, though one year too late for me, because I was all about those positive statements last year.
5. I know some people were annoyed that CARA gave you a wristband to get into the VIP Experience this year, and that they put it on you at the expo (which, if you went on Friday like I did, meant you had to wear it all day Friday and Saturday.). It didn’t bother me at all. It seems to me like checking shoe tags is probably the easiest way to go about doing things, but I wasn’t irritated by the wristband.
6. Like I said on Tuesday, maybe this is just because last year’s crowds were light due to the rain, but I thought the crowds this year were some of–if not the–best I’ve ever experienced. I’ve worn my name on my shirt every Chicago Marathon other than my first one, but I felt like I was cheered on by name way more this year than any other time. I loved it. Give me all of the encouragement! I can’t even tell you how many times I heard, “Bethany! I see you!” which was weird, getting that turn of phrase from so many different people, but I was all about it.
I also, at almost every aid station, thought the medical aid station staffers were cheering for me when in fact they were yelling that they had, “Vaseline!” which, when yelled, sounds a lot more like my name than I ever realized prior to Sunday. Ha.
7. The signage game was also on. point. this year. Honestly, looking for creative signs was basically how I survived most of the race. Some of the ones I really liked:
- A little girl holding a “You’re almost there!” sign around mile 4/5, while her mom (or otherwise responsible female adult) standing next to her was holding a sign with an arrow pointing to the girl that said “She’s lying.” Ha.
- No fewer than three different, “It took the Cubs 108 years to win the World Series. Take your time.” signs. I thought it was crazy that I saw that exact phrase on three different signs?? Did they all coordinate??
- No fewer than FOUR different, “At least you’re not at work right now!” signs. Apparently this was a banner year for running the race if you hate your job.
- “The one where [name I forgot] runs a marathon,” and a “Run like Phoebe” sign, both in reference to Friends.
- “You don’t have to run tomorrow!” to which I thought, “FREAKING FINALLY,” every time I saw it.
However, my top three signs were as follows:
- #3: A life-sized cutout of the Jonas Brothers that said, “Mandie, we’re waiting for you at the finish!” I saw that around mile three and was VERY upset I didn’t see it again. I’m also upset they weren’t waiting for me at the finish, but whatever. I’ll get over it 😛
- #2: “If Hamilton could write the other 51, you can run 26.2.” Amazing. Excellent reference. 10/10.
- #1: “My sister is running the race but I’m here for Tyler C. #abcbachelorette” I mean, seriously. How do you top that?
I also saw approximately a million and a half “Touch here for power” signs–WAY more than usual–and sincerely appreciated the various signs that in one way or another referenced Truth Hurts, including one that just said “100% That Bitch.” Phenomenal.
8. Having not watched The Bachelorette for a few seasons, I didn’t have high hopes about recognizing any of the four former contestants running this year. In fact, I forgot that there even were former contestants running this year until I saw the aforementioned sign. When I found out there were Bachelorette contestants running the race, it suddenly became important to me that I beat all of them. I’m sad to report that I only beat one of them BUT I would like the record to show that Tyler and Dustin ran 4:45s, which is slower than my PR from last year, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. That will be a point of pride for me for the rest of my days, even if either of them ends up going on to run a much faster marathon in the future.
9. SPEAKING of celebrities at the Chicago Marathon! When I took out my phone during my post-Pilsen pre-Chinatown walk break, I saw a text from one of my friends running the race that they had seen none other than JERRY GERGICH FROM PARKS AND REC SPECTATING THE RACE. WHAT!!!!!!! I mean, technically they saw Jim O’Heir, the actor who played Jerry, since Jerry’s a character. But that’s not the point! I guess he was just before Whitney Young. I was obviously long past there by the time I saw the text, which is an argument for getting texts on my Fitbit if I ever there were one (because my friend was ahead of me, so I would’ve known to look if I had seen the text in time!), but MAN, how cool is that??? My friend got a selfie with him, and I am unspeakably jealous.
10. I was SO invested in how my runners from my training group would do during the race. I saw two of them after the race and gave them big hugs and lots of congratulations. I’m so freaking proud of them!
11. That being said, I don’t know that group leading is for me. Or perhaps more accurately, I don’t know that group leading in the situation I found myself in this year is for me. I really didn’t like being the only 11:30 group leader out of downtown, especially when, five weeks into it, I got half marathoners thrown into my group, too. I always prioritized the marathon distance over the half marathon distance, especially since I only had two half marathoners, which meant they ran the second half of their runs solo pretty much all season. I don’t think that’s the group training experience they expected or deserved, and I wish if CARA were going to offer half marathon training out of the same location at the same time as marathon training, that they’d get half marathon pacers to lead it instead of expecting the marathon group leaders to figure it out (especially when I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that I was going to be responsible for leading both a half and full marathon group at the same time). Being the only 11:30 group leader made me feel a lot of pressure, because there was never anyone to pick up the slack for me. And, let’s be honest, group leading downtown after I moved to the suburbs sucked. I knew that was going to happen when I signed up for it, but I didn’t expect to move so early in July. I thought I’d have to drive in for all of August and September (plus one week of October), and instead I had to drive in for all of July, August, and September (plus one week of October). It was a lot, and getting up at 4:05 every Saturday got very old VERY quickly.
I think one of the things that really got to me about group leading, though, was that I no longer had the illusion of choice when it came to my long runs. Was I going to show up every single week, even if I were only a participant and not a group leader? Almost certainly. I’ve never bailed on a long run for anything short of illness, injury, or a race the next day, so do I think I would’ve drug myself downtown every Saturday even if I weren’t group leading? Most likely. But as a participant, I made the choice to be there every week. As a group leader, I didn’t have that choice. I had to be there–especially since I was the only group leader for the 11:30s.
That being said, I did really like being in a mentor position and having free rein to offer unsolicited advice to my runners, so that aspect of group leading was nice. It was also nice to be invested in other people’s races on Sunday, not just my own, so it has its pros and cons.
12. I had my mind made up that I wanted to get finisher gear this year, and after trying to get some on Tuesday last year only to find everything remotely close to my size sold out online, I didn’t want to take any chances this year. I knew it would go on sale online on Saturday and planned to buy something as soon as that happened. I was super annoyed, then, when I checked the website that afternoon and they only had men’s finisher gear available. It wasn’t unisex, either – it was specifically labeled as men’s. I was so annoyed! I checked the website multiple times that day, and it kept only showing men’s finisher gear.
When I was unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep Saturday night, I decided to check the website one more time, and lo! The number of women’s items had gone up from 45 to 48! I scrolled down, and sure enough, there was the finisher’s pullover, jacket, and t-shirt. I contemplated getting the pullover, but since I already have a pullover from this year’s marathon, I opted for the jacket instead. Now I just need to make a point of, you know, wearing it. I have a 2016 finisher’s jacket that I’ve only managed to wear a handful of times because the weather never feels right for it, but maybe this one will be different. I can hope 😛
13. I was really surprised by how friendly everyone on the course seemed to be on Sunday. I’ve never experienced overt rudeness from other runners during the Chicago Marathon (or covert rudeness, for that matter), but I both elbowed and was elbowed by several people during the race. Every single time I was elbowed, the elbower apologized, and every time I elbowed someone and apologized, they didn’t seem bothered in the least. Amazing!
14. I love this.