Forget about a day off school. Forget about Columbus Day sales. When October rolls around in Chicagoland it means that the Chicago Marathon is near. Don’t be fooled – I don’t even like driving 26.2 miles so you won’t find me running the streets of Chicago racking up those miles. What you will find me doing, when family and friends make the marathon a personal goal to check off their bucket list, is turning into a professional spectator. My goal: to cheer my runners on at the 2-mile, 8-mile, 13.5-mile, 17-mile, 22-mile, and 26-mile marks. This is how you do it.
Marathon Extremes: Be Prepared
You really have no idea what to expect for a marathon. Try and be prepared, but less isn’t more sometimes. I usually have a backpack full of necessities – water, snack,
For my sister’s first marathon, I was in a parka, scarf and had stocked up on hand warmers. Great race, but I was freezing and it was miserable. The next one, the 30th anniversary, I had to shop for maternity shorts IN OCTOBER because the weather was hitting record highs. This was the year they stopped the marathon – nothing good can come of 40,000 people running in 89-degree weather. My mom and sister had made it past the halfway mark, and then word got out they had shut the marathon down. The heat and humidity were brutal – believe the temperature was a record 89 degrees. Thankfully, as we walked
Marathon Tracking: Find your runner
Even with all of the technology that surrounds our runners; GPS tracking and checkpoint notifications – nothing beats a notepad and a pencil. The most important part of preparing to watch your runner is knowing their pace. This will help you ballpark their arrival time at each location before the race to give you an idea if you can really make it to each location. Of course, use your technology – the more information you have the better!
So far, all the marathons I have cheered on my runners they have had a higher pace, which gives me more time to travel from location to location. Is your runner a 9 min mile runner? This might make your job a bit more difficult – you might have to skip a stop or two. Maybe a 12 min mile runner? Gives you a bit more time – certainly can catch them if you don’t doddle. How about a 15 min mile runner? That’s more our speed. You’ll have more time to grab a bite to eat and cheer on the other runners. Knowing their pace is the first step to knowing how much time and when you expect your runner at each checkpoint. Find out their start time block and you’ll have a better ballpark on when to expect them around the first 2-mile spot.
The easiest way to track is you HAVE to keep time on when you see your runner. Otherwise, you do have to rely on technology to let you know if you missed them or not. I have a simple tracking system – I figure out the last spot I saw them (Mile 2), how long it took me to see them at the next spot (Mile 8) and how fast they are running (divide the time (minutes) by the distance (6 miles for this example). If they are running about a 12 min pace, multiply that by 6 because you hope to see them at Mile 14 (six miles away) and that is how long you have to get there! Want this in an easier format – just sign up for Irish Monarchy and will easily email you the PDF so you can track your own runner!
Where to Cheer: My favorite spots!
- MILE 2 State Street: Street: State Street Hang out on the outside/east side of the runners on State Street. It’s a short walk from the starting area, and you’ll pass a few coffee locations to stop
at. If you get there early you will see the wheelchair competitors plus the Elite runners before the waves of everyone else start rushing past!
- MILE 8 Uptown/Wrigleyville: Street: Broadway/Sheridan Sometimes there are small breaks where you can ‘jog’ to the other side, especially if your runner tends to hug the left side of the road. Otherwise, find a good spot and cheer on those runners!
- MILE 14 Union Station: Street: Monroe I prefer to stand on Monroe and this is a bit before the 14-mile marker on Adams/Desplaines. They moved the halfway point from years past, so if you want you can jog a bit up to try and see it, but it is a bit crowded. Stay south of the runners, makes it easier to get to the next area. There are even a few light posts you can stand on if you are vertically challenged, and it lets you capture some great photos.
- MILE 17 Greektown: Jackson & Halsted Personally this is my favorite spot, mainly because I grab lunch at Mr. Greek Gyros. Girl needs to eat watching all these people run. Just a warning, it is a tight squeeze along this route for spectators so the further south you head on Halsted the better.
- MILE 21 Chinatown: Cermak & Wentworth This area has so much energy, and after running
twenty-one+ miles with almost five to go the runners need it. Keep cheering them on – they are almost to their goal!
- MILE 26 Michigan Ave: Roosevelt & Michigan Ave They are SO close, and then they get to run slightly uphill on Roosevelt towards the finish line. Seems pretty poor planning but that medal is worth it, right? Grab a cuppa coffee when you get off the Red Line if you think you have some time before your runner makes it to the final stretch!
How to Get There! To the L!
This really is the most important part, getting from location to location. Your feet are part of the plan, so I hope you are wearing comfortable shoes. The second part is public transportation. The Blue Line and Red Line are going to be your friend so I hope you have your Ventra Card or App loaded and ready to go. Expect crowds. Expect to stand. Expect everyone to have the marathon excitement at every location. If you’re more of a visual learner, print this L Map and take it with you. Here is how to from location to location:
- MILE 2 State Street: Street: State Street Here you use your feet, just walk west from the starting line towards State Street. Just follow the crowd because most are going to the same spot you are!
- MILE 8 Uptown/Wrigleyville: Street: Broadway/Sheridan While waiting for your runner, look for the L entrances. After you cheer them on at mile 2, head to the State St entrance and grab the Red Line north. Take this to the Sheridan stop. Walk four blocks east to Broadway.
- MILE 14 Union Station: Street: Monroe After cheering at mile 8, return back to the same L Sheridan stop. Hop back on the
Red lineheading south BUT YOU NEED TO TRANSFER TO THE BROWN LINE. You can do this at Belmont or Fullerton. Once on the Brown line, you will take this to the Quincy stop. Get off, walk a block north to Adams then head west over the river. Once over the river you can head a block north to Monroe and cheer on the runners. This location is roughly the 13.75 milearea.
- MILE 17 Greektown: Jackson & Halsted Now you get to walk again. Your pace depends on your runner and if you want lunch. Head south to Jackson and then head west (right) towards Halsted. If you have time, grab lunch.
- MILE 21 Chinatown: Cermak & Wentworth After you finish lunch and cheer on your runner (in that order, you don’t have time to reverse it). While on Halsted, keep your eyes peeled for the Blue Line entrance. You’ll take that Jackson. HERE YOU NEED TO TRANSFER TO THE REDLINE. Jump off at Jackson on to the Red Line south and off at the Cermak/Chinatown stop. You can’t miss the runners – they are right there. If your runner is picking up speed, be warned you might be cutting it close.
- MILE 26 Michigan Ave: Roosevelt & Michigan Ave Jump back on the Red Line and take this north to the Roosevelt stop. Once you hop off just head east to Michigan Ave. If I remember correctly, there is a Starbucks close, you might need it if it’s cold or you’re running out of steam.
You’re almost done for the day! Ok, your runner had it a bit harder, but give yourself a pat on the back for all the work you did! Being a spectator is not an easy task! Once your runner has crossed the finish line, grabbed their medal and after race beverages, your day is complete! Now you just need to make it home. Rest well, you’ve earned it!