Chicago Recap! (Marathon & more)

Our weekend started dark and early last Friday morning for the ~10 hour drive to Chicago. It went smoothly and went by pretty quickly, at least until we hit grid lock traffic heading into the city during rush hour. Ugh.

We checked into our [budget] hotel just steps from Grant Park and realized that we had enough time to hit the expo, so we decided to do that and free up our Saturday morning. We planned to take public transit, but the concierge was kind enough to inform us that there was a free shuttle available from the [not-so-budget] hotel just around the corner. Win!


It wasn’t crowded at all and we picked up our packets easily, then moseyed around the vendor booths for a while. Nothing much jumped out at us except I had to have this puppy print Bondi Band – I was missing our pup like crazy so this way he could be there with me (sort of) , and it even matched my race day outfit. 🙂

bondi-225x300After dumping our goodies back at the hotel, we wandered into a pizza & pasta place for dinner. I resisted the urge to order the deep dish (saving that for post-race!) and enjoy a yummy pasta dish instead.

dinner-300x225After dinner we all turned in early after the long day, ready to rise and shine to start our day with a run Saturday morning. The temperature had dropped significantly so we bundled up before taking to the streets for a little exploration, including a sneak peak at the start/finish area set-up for the following day.


breakfast-300x300We had a delicious breakfast to re-fuel, and spent the rest of the morning doing some more sight-seeing. It was a chilly day and quite the change from our 90+ degree days in Boston. We had to laugh because the friends we were travelling with have a history of bringing cold weather to their destination races – they ran a rare cold Chicago in 2009, and came to Florida with us for the sub-freezing Goofy Challenge in 2010. Nope, they didn’t come to Boston this year. 😉 If anybody wants to hire them to bring cold weather to a race, let me know!

City1-300x300After a light lunch and a short break at the hotel, I headed back to the expo in the afternoon to meet up with Marcia and her gang. We only had a chance to chat briefly, but it was great to meet these lovely ladies: Michel, Jill, Marcia, Me. [Thanks Marcia for the photo!)]

blog-300x223It was a painful shuttle ride back to the hotel thanks to traffic, road closures due to marathon set-up, the Miami-Notre Dame game and a driver who had no clue where she was going. In the end, the passengers demanded that she let us off the bus in the middle of the street because we had been within walking distance of our destination for no less than half an hour and continued to drive in circles around it.

We had a quiet dinner and an early night at the hotel to get ourselves organized for the next morning.

Race Day!

We got up early, bundled up and walked down the street to a cafe to grab breakfast. We were back at the hotel room in plenty of time to get ready and have a few quiet minutes before heading to the starting area, just a few minutes away.

socks-225x300photo-22At this point, we were very grateful for the cold weather. We were determined to wear the costumes regardless, but it would have been highly uncomfortable on a hotter day. As it turned out, we were quite comfortable and also had a nice outer layer to keep us warm in the morning while everyone else was bundled in throw-aways.

Official3-300x197Patti (blue “m”) was seeded in corral C while I was assigned B, however I planned to drop back so that we could start together. Unfortunately we learned from the volunteers and officials on-site that runners were not being allowed to move back. I’ve never heard of this restriction before, but apparently it was a new regulation to help control the masses. It worked out okay for us since I was able to go to the back of B while Patti went to the front of C (although we had completely different entrances to the corrals), but I felt sorry for a husband and wife who wanted to run together and were seeded several corrals apart. I hope they were able to re-connect somehow.

Official1-227x300We were already enjoying all kinds of smiles and comments on our outfits, and felt pretty relaxed and excited (only slightly nervous, since neither of us was feeling particularly prepared for a marathon) as we waited to start. Before long, we were off and crossed that mats about 3 minutes after the gun. Let the fun begin!

IMG_0002-300x225The following several miles are a blur of excitement as we began to pound our way through the streets. It was still pretty congested and we stayed to the right in order to keep out of the way of faster runners, since we were running considerably slower than our seeding.

Official6-277x300We could not believe the amount of attention we were getting in our costumes. It was a frenzy of smiling, waving and saying ‘thank you!’ as spectators caught sight of us and cheered like crazy. Within the first few miles, we actually started wondering if it might get exhausting as the morning wore on, but we were having entirely too much fun!

5K: 28:24

The miles were literally flying by as people continued to notice and shout out “Look at the M&Ms!”; “I love M&Ms!”; “Which one is peanut?”; etc. The volunteers and even police officers seemed to be getting a real kick out of it and we soaked it all up. No word of a lie – my face was hurting from smiling and laughing so much!

Official4-226x300Our plan was to walk through the aid stations and we were sticking to it, and also stopped for a quick potty break before 10K.

10K: 58:49 (diff. 30:25)

I somehow dropped 2/3 of the gels I had packed in the early miles. I had taken one but knew I needed to grab a couple at the mile 17 aid station. Patti offered me some of hers but I didn’t want to dip into her supply and thought I would be okay. Meanwhile, I took advantage of oranges being handed out by spectators a couple of times and made sure to drink Gatorade at every station to keep the calories flowing. I was also taking a salt tablet every hour or so.

15K: 1:27:10 (diff. 28:21)

At some point before the half way mark, I heard my name from the crowd and it was George! He happened to be in town and made it out to the race to see us run by. Thanks for the photo, G!

untitled3-227x30020K: 1:56:10 (diff. 29:00)

The half seemed to sneak up on us and we were surprised to see that we were just over 2 hours, which was quite a bit quicker than we had expected. We were having a blast and still feeling great.

Untitled1-220x300The crowds were just insane all along and they were truly carrying us through this race. There wasn’t even an opportunity to feel tired or so since we were so distracted by our adoring fans. 😉

Half: 2:02:25

The nature of the route made it easy for people to get around to various locations, so we started recognizing stand-out spectators with their unique signs or outfits, and many were recognizing us too. “There are the M&Ms again!”; “The M&Ms are still together!”; “Are you melting yet?”

Official7-261x300I also spotted Marcia who was cheering with her Mr. Pumpkin on a stick at the Lupus Charity tent. It was great to see another familiar face among the sea of strangers.

25K: 2:24:57 (diff. from 20K 28:47)

I had started to feel low on energy and needed a boost. I worried that I was going to bonk before I could get some solid calories into me and started counting down to the gel station. Thankfully, it appeared right on schedule and I grabbed 3 Clif Shots. I took one immediately and another just 20 minutes later, and started feeling better almost immediately. Placebo effect? Perhaps somewhat.

30K: 2:53:50 (diff. 28:53)

Another potty break was needed before 35K. We were down to single-digit kilometres and could not believe (a) how fast the time and distance were going by, and (b) how good we felt.

35K: 3:24:32 (diff. 30:42)

Official8-248x300The sun was out and it was warming up, relatively speaking. I had removed my arm sleeves and tied them around my belt and ended up tossing the gloves that had been going on and off all morning depending on the wind. We were still feeling pretty comfortable in the costumes (except needing to tug it away from our necks occasionally). We really could not have asked for a better day.

40K: 3:43:03 (diff. 29:31)
I started feeling it in the last couple of miles but Patti along with the crowds kept me going. It had been a very flat marathon, but the climb towards the finish with about 800 metres to go felt impossible. I knew we just had to make it up and turn the corner, and we’d be at the finish line.
(I know the above photo was taken near the end, not only from my expression, but because Nike was handing out the sweat bands on my wrist after the mile 25 marker.)
Official9-219x300I heard the announcer call out my name as well as “and she’s dressed as an M&M!” as we crossed the line.

Official2-218x300Chip Time: 4:06:29
Overall: 13146/37355
Gender: 3743/16730
Age Group*: 876/3653

*Last race in 25-29!

We slowly made our way through the line to collect our blankets, medals, water, beer, food, etc. The finish area was necessarily massive and made for a bit of a long hike to get back to the hotel. The city was packed with other runners hobbling along, wearing their medals and wrapped in the blankets. We were pretty warm in our Ms. 🙂


We honestly had the best time ever running this race and I am so glad we decided to have fun with it. I highly recommend racing in costume (especially at a huge event like this) some time if you’re looking for a change of pace and a lot of attention. I loved everything about the Chicago Marathon and I would do it again in a heart beat. The course and support were more than I could have asked for and the logistics went very smoothly for a race of this size. [although I understand they ran out of medals for the 6h+ finishers]

Untitled3-300x225We put our feet up for a little while followed by a lot of walking and eating. We checked out a few more sights and enjoyed the much anticipated Giordano’s Pizza and Garrett’s Popcorn.


All too soon it was time to pack up and prepare for the long car ride home the next morning. FYI, a long car ride the day after running a marathon combined with access to popcorn is a very dangerous combination…


36 thoughts on “Chicago Recap! (Marathon & more)

  1. It IS such a fun race and I do need to hire your cool friend! Other than the ridiculous traffic I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It was awesome seeing you and Patty! Yay for pizza and popcorn! I had both that weekend as well and I didn’t even run. Yikes.

  2. Glad you had so much fun in Chicago!!! Awesome job!! I’m still a little sad I missed you, but with a race that big its bound to happen. Believe it or not, I have been in the Chicago suburbs for 3 years now and I still have not had Garrett’s. I better try some before I leave 🙂

  3. Congrats!!! Doing a marathon for “fun” (um AND in costume…) is still sort of a foreign concept to me (and I assume most people? haha), but clearly you made the best of the experience!! I’ve only ever heard great things about this race, and you’ve confirmed the rumors. 😉

  4. Congrats again, you guys did great. Looks like so much fun. Love the pics. I was watching the live feed and thought I’d catch a glimpse of you crossing the line, but didn’t see you. Well done…

  5. Congrats Marlene! I ran Chicago as well this weekend, and it was A-MAZ-ING! It was my second marathon, and so much fun. They organize a great race down there, don’t they? And that beer at the finish line… that made me so happy.

  6. The things people do for a beer! Glad to see the weather conditions didn’t make you melt………. LOL, M&M humor….

  7. You girls looked great. I’m so glad the weather was kind to you because when you’re a bit sweaty the colours do run a little (despite what they used to say in the ad).

  8. Great job and great recap! Love the costumes! And please keep your friends away from the Niagara International Marathon next weekend. My first full and I hate the cold. Oh and keep them away from Goofy in January 😉

  9. So very fun to see you, wish we had more time together. Next time lunch or dinner so we can blab about blog people – hehe. Seriously though, you are such an incredible person and would really love hanging out longer. One day! Congratulations on another grand marathon checked off…M&Ms or not, you rock!! 🙂

  10. Congratulations! Well done on a super nice run! I would love to visit Chicago on day. Looks like you had a really great time. Doing 04:06 in costume rocks!

  11. you better not steal my m&m endorsement that is surely coming any day now!

    i like all the comments you were getting. ‘are you melting’ haha. no, duh. m&m’s melt in your mouth.

    i think next time you need to stuff these oufits with batting so that you are more m&m-shaped.

  12. Awesome race, report, costumes! I finished watching Spirit of the Marathon about four weeks before my first marathon, closed the laptop and told my husband, “I’m running Chicago one day.” I totally understand. Did Mark run?

  13. I always hear such great things about the Chicago marathon and I am sure one day I will hopefully run it! I really wish I could have been there to see you and run this year, but it really would have been so crazy especially with my running buddy getting married this week! Congrats on a great race! Glad you had such a good time and you still ran very well for not really training as much!

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