So I put away my headphones and ran/walked and chatted with Max from mile 8.5 until about mile 25 when they started pulling non-entrants off the course.
From my apartment heading south we passed through Lincoln Park and Old Town, probably one of the prettiest parts of the course and one of the most boisterous crowd wise. Didn't see any of my peeps but got to show Max my high school, the building where my wife lived when we met, the venerable Twin Anchor's rib joint, my daughter's high school, and the Merchandise Mart (erudite headquarters in Divergent!), and a discreet alley or two before crossing back into the Loop. A couple of zigs and zags and we were heading west on Adams past IIT-Chicago Kent law school and the half way point of the course. At this point, I was feeling great but my time was terrible which was oddly liberating. There was nothing I could do that bring me in below 5 hours so I relaxed even more if that was possible and continued to enjoy my meander through the next part of the course.
Miles 14-17 are an out and back through the west loop and the area around the United Center (the Madhouse on Madison) to kill off some miles until you are back on Halsted heading south through Greektown, to University of Illinois-Chicago and then Little Italy. Another west bound out and back and then south again to Pilsen, a thriving Mexican-American neighborhood increasingly encroached to the east by gentrification and hipsters. Somewhere along the way Max tells me about his new article, I tell him about mine, and we more or less agree that we should do the next Antitrust Marathon in Budapest in October 2016.
Once we head out of Pilsen we hit the only real industrial and empty part of the course unfortunately timed to coincide with mile 20 and when a number of folks who are really struggling. We saw people actually falling or down on the tarmac plus numerous very realistic auditions for the Walking Dead. After a bridge/hill (Chicago has no other kind) Archer Avenue takes us south east into Chinatown and the awesome dancing dragons at 22nd and Cermak (See Instagram @sweberwaller). Then south through the rest of China town and then Bridgeport the Irish neighborhood that was the powerbased of the Daleys and the old Chicago Democratic party machine. At 31st we head east across the expressway and into the main campus of IIT with an fabulous jumble of 19th through 21st century architecture. Most Bauhaus and post WWII greats taught and designed buildings here. Then east on 35th and back north on Michigan for the final slog north to the finish. A few pre-Chicago Fire stone buildings, churches and mansions along the way, but finally getting tired and a little hot. Hydration stations are starting to run out of stuff or only have a few cups available but people along the way also handing out bottles of water so no real issue.
With crowds building toward the end, I send Max on his way somewhere around 20th or 18th street, regain my pride, run the rest of the way including up the annoying bridge/hill which starts at exactly mile 26 and finish strong next to celebrity chef Graham Elliott whose name was called instead of mine despite having a much worse time (I think he started in the first wave).
The last few miles were very emotional as I thought about where I was and who I was with on my other marathons (Thanks Ted!) and whether this was really it. I felt great both physically and emotionally clearing the finisher's chute and heading out to Michigan to find Max at the entrance to the Hilton down the block. I saw the walking wounded and even did my mitzvah for the day suggesting that a finisher with ailing quads walk backwards down the stairs out of the park.
It was slow, but great fun. My GPS was showing 27.4 when I finished but I doubt I meandered that much. When the goal is finishing and not time, its a whole new experience that is very zen especially with great company and beautiful backdrop and matching weather. Also recovery is a breeze because there is not that much to recover from. Best proof was my ability to actually walk to the el, have a great lunch at The Fish Bar, walk home and then walk the dog when I got home before showering and napping after sending Max on his way home. But if my GPS was correct and you add in all the walking before and after the race I also came perilously close to my first 50K. Hmmm, food for thought for the future.
Kudos to Max who drove 3 hours to/from Indy and had the patience to head for a jog in the park at probably double his usual pace and well as accompanying me on my 18 milers earlier in DC. And hearts to L. who was orchestrating carbo loading, overnight visitors, family events, early morning rides, and domestique duty on the course along with heading off on a business trip at noon after the course cleared.
Now it's Ted's turn. Have an awesome NYC Marathon.
Final thoughts in part III later on why Chicago may be coming the mini of the 5 major marathons.