Chicago Marathon Day

I woke up excited to run!! I’ve never tapered properly until this race and I really missed running…a lot.
Temps were perfect for race day!
I bring my banana bread with me for destination races. It’s tried and true, and I enjoyed it in bed with a cappuccino.

Here’s the rest of my race prep. THANK YOU Fleet Feet for the throw away gloves!


Use code: JENCHOOSESJOY (all caps) at Cocogo.com to save 10% off your order!

Don’t forget the all important Body Glide!
We bought passes for the hospitality tent. A little pricey but so worth it. We stayed a block away from the tent.
It was a nice warm place to sit down and drink some water before the race. I didn’t get to enjoy their yummy breakfast spread.
But it gave my husband a nice spot to hang out with TVs to watch the race.
The crowds were crazy walking to my corral but I found my 3:50 pacers and we started at 7:36.
It felt like we were running in slow motion. In hindsight I was probably a little too conservative, but I desperately wanted to have a negative split and finish strong.
As promised, the course was flat and the spectators were incredible.
I started my garmin and changed the screen to the clock view. It’s the first time I’ve run by feel. I trusted the pacers for the first half and picked up my pace around the mile 13. I didn’t look at my watch until mile 25.

8:40, 8:26, 8:57, 8:28, 8:37, 8:35, 8:30, 8:58, 8:51, 8:50, 8:20, 8:31, 8:11, 8:30, 8:27, 8:25, 8:20, 8:23, 8:11, 8:21, 8:20, 8:08, 8:03, 8:08, 7:52, 7:42

Gu 15 mins before race, 1 hr, 2hr, 20 mile marker.
This was the most fun I’ve ever had running a road marathon!  Can you tell? :)

1st Half: 8:45

2nd Half: 8:15
After meeting up at the hospitality tent after the race, I came back to the room, took an ice bath and shower and I ate pretzels in bed. Guess I needed salt.
After some rest we had celebratory bubbles!
And dinner at Osteria Via Stato
Gnocchi and butternut squash ravioli
And brought a slice of fudgy chocolate cake back at the room!

***I’m adding this information almost a year later.  I thought it might be helpful for those reading this race recap…

A Play-by-Play Chicago Marathon Course Strategy: Break it up into smaller, more digestible check points, like so:

[1] Start line to Mile Four: The Loop
It starts in Grant Park, which is an iconic park and the gem of Chicago. The first few miles are run through the loop on State Street (that great street) and LaSalle Drive, which is the financial district and the urban center of the city. You’ll see some great architecture. It’s a great time to focus on dialing in your pace and get settled.

[2] Miles 5 to 10: Lincoln Park and Lakeview
By the time you make your way through the start and the loop, you’ll have gone through two aid stations on the course, so you’ll have a sense of what the set up is and what to expect for the next 18 aid stations.

Use those first few stations to learn the system and dial in your fueling strategy. For example, if you feel more comfortable taking water with your left hand versus your right, you can give yourself time to set yourself up on that side of the street at the next station.
You should be settling in and have an idea of where your pace is. It sets the tone for the rest of the marathon. With a fourth of the race down, you’ll enter Lincoln Park and run past the zoo. You can use all the feedback you’ve gotten so far to make adjustments on your pace and strategy for the race.

As you move north to Addison, you’ll be able to see Wrigley Field, the farthest northern part of the course. One of the little tricks that I’ve told everyone over the years is, if you look back, you can see the Willis Tower (110 stories and the tallest building in the western hemisphere). It’s the axis of the course, and you can see it at the northern, western, and southern parts of the course so you always know where the finish line is. You can get a visual of how far you’ve come and how far you need to go. Some people don’t like that, but I’ve heard many say they really like having it as a visual guide.

There’s a lot of energy, excitement, and dancing as you run through this part of the course, which is hosted by the Front Runners and the Lakeview community. Make sure you continue to conserve your energy and avoid the temptation to jump on the curbs and join in the fun.
One of my favorite parts of the course is during miles nine and 10 as you make your way south on Sedgwick and Clark Street. It’s a straight shot, and it’s calming and very scenic with a lot of beautiful brownstones.

[3] Miles 11 to 17: Old Town, River North, West Loop, Greek Town, and Little Italy
The second half of the course is faster. If you look at our lead athletes, they’ve always run faster on the second half of the course because there aren’t as many turns and there are more straight-aways. As you run through Old Town, Greek Town, and the West Loop, you’ll experience some great landmarks and neighborhoods with incredible crowd support.

At the halfway point, you’ll cross back over the river, which will be lined with people ten-deep. It’s quite emotional, and it is the gateway to the second part of the marathon. You’ll head west for miles 13 to 15, then east, south, and west again, making your way through Little Italy. There’s plenty to see and hear, and it’s a big energy boost at that point in the race.

[4] Mile 18 to 26.2: The Wall and the Finish Line:
You’ll head right through the heart of the Pilson, the city’s second largest Hispanic neighborhood and home to mariachi bands and dancers. As you make your way to the infamous 20-mile mark (The Wall), your mind’s going to try and trick you to try to get you to slow down. This is a great time to keep your mind engaged. Pick a point on the horizon and run to it. Break it down to counteract the negative thoughts that can slip into your head and start counting down the miles, thinking of familiar routes you’ve trained on. I think of a five-mile run I’ve done hundreds of times, and all I have to do is replicate it in the final miles of the race. Feed yourself with those positive nuggets.

Just past the 23-mile marker, you make the turn onto Michigan Avenue. From here it’s a straight shot to Grant Park and the finish line. Look for the Willis Tower–it will get closer and closer at you make your way. The streets will be lined with cheering volunteers from De LaSalle High School, the Park Forest Running Club, and many other groups.

You’ll know you’re getting very close to the finish when the volume of the crowd intensifies. This is also the point at which you’ll make a quick right turn, then a left, and you’ll see the finish line ahead.


Did you race this weekend? I’d love to hear about it!!
Have you run the Chicago Marathon?
How do you celebrate after a race?


Join the Conversation

  • http://armywife0613.wordpress.com armywife0613

    Great job Jenn!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!!! We need to get together soon to catch up:)

      • http://armywife0613.wordpress.com armywife0613

        I agree!

  • http://gottarunnow.blogspot.com Tina@GottaRunNow

    Congrats on your PR! That’s a great finish time and proof that negative splits are the way to go!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!!!

  • Colby Shannon

    Awesome race!!!!!! Also, loveee your blog and you’re truly an inspiration during my running journey. I’m seriously thinking of signing up for a marathon, currently running 8-13 a day w speed/tempo few days a week and long run on weekend but looking for a more structured training plan. Was wondering if you could share yours. Also, trying to figure out how to fuel for long runs pre and during. This last weekend I did 18 w oatmeal and almond butter before and was ok but didn’t do anything during and thinking might have run faster if I did. Thanks in advance for your time!

    Best Wishes, Colby


    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thanks so much! Here’s a post from a few months ago that shows my weekly workouts. http://jenchoosesjoy.com/2014/08/04/weekly-workout-schedule/ It definitely sounds like you’re ready for a marathon! I work with Mark Hadley at Maximum Performance Running for my training plans. You give him your goals, schedule, paces, etc…and he creates a training plan. I’m happy to share any of mine if you have questions. For fuel during a run, I carry a handheld with an electrolyte drink for runs over 10 miles. I like Cocogo and Nuun. I make sure to eat a Gu at the 1 hour mark and then every 45 minutes after that. Sorry if I’m rambling. Let me know how I can help:)

  • Myriam

    Congrats on the race! I think i was running next to you, with the Corral C 3:50 pacers! I thought I recognized you but was not sure. You did great!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you! I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet. How was your race?

  • http://fitnessmeetsfrosting.com fitnessmeetsfrosting

    Congratulations on your amazing PR!!! You ROCK!!! So amazing and inspirational!!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you so much for your kind words!!!

  • http://notyourmamasmarathon.blogspot.com Kelli

    What an awesome race! You were 3 minutes faster than my current PR. Congratulations!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thanks you very much!!!

  • http://www.marontherun.com Mar on the Run!

    congratulations!!!! awesome job :)

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!!!!

  • http://travisandmarilynkeys.blogspot.com Marilyn

    First of all – CONGRATULATIONS! What an awesome race and so awesome to have such a strong second half of the race!

    Is your champagne photo from the Trump Tower hotel? We had drinks there when we were in Chicago and loved the view over the river!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you so much!! Yes…it was at the Trump! I love their terrace bar.

  • http://www.runningnreading.com Running ‘N’ Reading

    Jen, you did AWESOME! I’m so glad you had fun and enjoyed yourself; you stuck to your plan and it worked beautifully! I can just imagine you having fun with that fudgy cake, miss…you are too cute! Congratulations on a great run and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you; have already looked to see how long it would take for us to drive to Chicago next year. 😉 Thanks for all of your encouragement!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thanks so much for all of your kind words and encouragement!!!

  • Carrie

    Congratulations on a PR! As others have commented it is a great inspiration to see how well-laid plans and dedicated pursuit really pay-off. Thanks for sharing!
    I am interested to hear how recovery goes. Given all your hard training and great fitness (negative split and all :) I am guessing recovery will go smoothly- keep us posted…

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thanks so much!! I’m about to head for an easy walk/jog to see how my legs are feeling:)

  • http://www.runjenny.tumblr.com Jennifer


    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!!!

  • http://politicalgeographyprof.wordpress.com politicalgeographyprof

    Wow. Your time is very impressive. I am not sure how old you are, but I assume that was just a few minutes from a BQ! So awesome! You never said what your goal time was (maybe that is not how you roll:) but you did mention that this is the first time you have “properly” tapered and carbo-loaded. I am wondering – was it worth it? How significant was this PR? I mean, was it a minute off your previous PR or like 10 minutes?! Lol. Did you train differently? I rarely taper properly – I go insane from the inactivity. My fastest marathon was achieved by NOT tapering. My fastest half-marathon happened just two weeks after a previous half-marathon PR. I am not really convinced that tapering works for everyone.

    However, to answer your question about “how long to wait to run after a race” I would say that I am (ironically) a big fan of reserve tapering. I follow the planned taper in reverse after the race for 1 week. And then go back to normal training.

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!!! I didn’t really have a set goal. I had never run a sub 4, but it’s been years since I last ran a road marathon. I usually hop on the trails for longer races. In all honesty, I hated the taper/carb loading week. However, I felt awesome during the race. Around mile 23ish, I could tell that my legs were heavy, but overall I still felt great. I never hit “the wall” and I think it’s because I followed the taper rules. I won’t do it for every race, but I definitely will taper for goal races in the future. It sounds like you still run great without a taper!

  • http://eathostrunstyle.blogspot.com Sun

    Congrats on your race! Sounds like you ran smart to finish strong :)

    I love racing in Chicago because of all the fun places to eat after the race. Hope you enjoyed your stay!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!!! I think I gained an extra 5lbs from all of the good food! Chicago was a blast and I can’t wait to visit again!

  • http://leerunsdistances.wordpress.com FLRunnerBoy

    Congrats on an amazing finishing time and inspiring 26.2!!!! :)

  • http://2chixrun26.com susan @2chixrun26

    Congrats on an amazing race! I know you’re not big into “numbers”, but your finish time is awesome:) Hope the recovery is going well!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you so much!!! I just did my first post-race run and felt great…woo hoo!!!

  • Colby Shannon

    I think I asked you before but can’t remember…sorry! Who do you use for your training plans?

    Best Wishes, Colby


    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      No worries:) I work with Mark Hadley at mprunning.com and love him!

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