Cindy and I left Theo with his grandparents and headed for the Baltimore Washington International (BWI) airport. We were both excited to visit Chicago. I had never been and Cindy had only been to Chicago once.
We arrived at Midway airport Friday night around 7:30 p.m., quickly checked in to the hotel, and then walked to the first of two restaurants Ed Kelly (I ran the Grand Canyon rim to rim with Ed) recommended, Shaw’s Restaurant. Shaw’s has a great vibe and we felt right at home as we ordered drinks at the bar before we were seated. As I looked around I was in awe of how many attractive people were there. I would soon learn from walking around the city, Chicago has a lot of good looking stylish people. The meal at Shaw’s was great. Cindy ordered the lobster bisque. I ordered the seafood gumbo; it was not quite as good as Cindy’s bisque. For an entre we shared an 8 oz. fillet with scallops and shrimp, and Alaskan halibut with potatoes au gratin. The place was hopin’, the food was good, and we were off to a great start.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my Starbucks. I was stoked to see our hotel had one in the lobby. We took full advantage of it.
I can’t tell you how giddy I was. First thing in the morning runners were swarming the hotel lobby, I had never been around such a large group of runners the day before a race, and this was my eighth marathon. It was time to head off to the marathon expo and get the race packet. Nike Town was a few blocks from the hotel and they offered a shuttle to the convention center where the expo was. On the shuttle they were playing a video of the the course. Nike Town was packed with runners and they had it set up to sell, I was lucky, I only purchased one souvenir. I could have easily spent a ridiculous amount of dough there. They had a lot of fun things set up too. Cindy and I got a great picture in front of their marathon magic number set. They even had a limited addition Chicago Marathon Lunar Trainer. I came close to dropping some coin for those and then sobered up. The atmosphere is intoxicating.
We hopped on the shuttle and made our way to the expo. It was amazing, Nike, Brooks, Asics, Mizuno, Reebok, and Saucony had all set up elaborate stores. Hundreds and hundreds of runners were milling through the isles. If I was a vendor that had anything to do with running this is where I would want to be selling my stuff. I was surprised that a few vendors I wanted to get some pre-race gear from were not a part of this massive show. We met up with Katie from Charm City Run, an occasional running partner. It was great to finally meet her husband John. Cindy and I had been at the expo for over three hours so we took a few picture with Katie and John in front of some signs and headed to the shuttle lines with a lot of swag. There were so many runners lined up for the shuttle it took us at
least 40 minutes in line to get on a shuttle back to Nike Town.
We stopped at the Corner Bakery and had a couple really good sandwiches and then headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner. We went to Scoozi’s an Italian restaurant to load up on pre race carbs. I highly recommend Scoozi’s. Everything was delicious. Cindy had a gnocchi sampler, gnocchi in three different sauces. Her favorite sauce was sautéd leeks and cream. I had one of the best pieces of lasagna ever; it was roasted in a brick oven with both local pork and beef.
We made our way back to the hotel after a stop at the Levi’s store. I got all of my marathon gear together, set my alarm and relaxed until my eyes got heavy.
Did I mention how great Ed is? Ed gave us to fantastic restaurant recommendations for starters. Then Ed offered to pick me up at the hotel and get me to the starting line. It really took some stress off knowing he would be helping me make my way around a new city.
I have a new favorite pre run meal thanks to Starbucks. My last two big runs I ordered a tall coffee, dark cherry yogurt parfait, and a slice of pumpkin bread. This meal has done me right. I had a solid base for the run and plenty of energy. This is the meal I had the morning of the Chicago Marathon. I picked up an extra cup of coffee for Ed too.
Ed picked me up at the hotel and we drove to a spot closer to Grant Park. On the way we stopped to meet up with Terry, Ed’s friend and fellow runner. Terry finished the Badwater this year and Ed paced him for some of the run. Both men have completed the Marathon Des Sables a six-day, 151-mile stage race across the Sahara multiple times. I think they are considering teaming up for the GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run too. We made our way to the bag drop and got ready to enter the mass of humanity lining up for the start of the 2009 Chicago Marathon.
CRAZY! It was so packed the closest we could make it to the front was getting to the 11 minute mile pace marker. It was a crush shoulder to shoulder. Once the race started it took over 23 minutes just to cross the starting line. Now that we were in a wall of bodies trying to get up to our running pace. Mentally, I relaxed thinking that there was no need to worry about my time, this was a running event to experience. The backdrop of Chicago for a marathon is breath taking. It is a beautiful city. For me this was an emotional run. The fan support was huge; I have never seen so many people there just to cheer. Those fans were out in cold weather too. It was 30 – 40 degrees out. I actually found Cindy cheering for me at mile twelve; I ran over gave her a kiss and told her “I love you.” Then scampered on.
The race had a real international feel. I noticed people from Mexico, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and France. And that was just the runners that were wearing clothes to indicate were they were from. Their fans were out there cheering them on too.
Ed and I stayed together for the first five miles and then I lost him in the crowd. Out of this sea of runners I spot a Baltimore Marathon shirt. I paced up next to the lady wearing the Baltimore shirt and said hello. We started talking and discovered that she lives in the Baltimore City neighborhood that my office is in. Then I told her that I work for Warschawski, and she said, “then you know my husband Chuck.” “You’re kidding me, Chuck Tilden?” I responded. “Yep.” Talk about a small world with a needle in a haystack. We are currently working on a website for Chuck who is with United Way and the City of Baltimore. I motored on and found a nice easy pace, I felt strong. While it was cold it was clear. When the sun hit your face it felt great.
The last mile of the race contained the only uphill climb. It is a tough place to find a hill; I had done plenty of hills on my runs so it didn’t kill me. I had enough energy to really push at the end. It is kind of a catch twenty-two, I really enjoyed the run and had fun, but knowing how much reserves I had, I wondered if I should have pushed harder earlier in the race and secured a faster time. Well no time to second guess now. I loved this Marathon.
I went to the Nike+ tent after the race and got a free message and a pair of free Nike flops. Ed and I met up and congratulated each other on a great race. He walked with Cindy and me over to Millennium Park where he took a great picture of us in front of “The Bean.” I felt great as we left Ed and walked back to our hotel. All that was left to do was to go get a couple beers and a cheeseburger to celebrate.