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The Chicago Marathon is an amazing adventure

Bib pick-up at McCormick Place on Friday and Saturday
Bib pick-up at McCormick Place on Friday and Saturday
Photo by author Ted Nelson

The 36th annual Chicago Marathon went off without a glitch with heightened security, beautiful weather, Boston on our minds, and a course record. Dennis Kimetto of Kenya won with a time of 2:03:45 beating last year’s time of 2:04:38. Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won the female division at a time of 2:17:18.

The start of the 2013 Chicago Marathon
Photo by author Ted Nelson

The winners are a definite story of the race, but not the major one. The race is more about the individuals and for the adventure each one pursued from signing up, to the training, to getting to Chicago, and competing.

A record 40,143 runners started the race at Monroe and Columbus, and unofficially, over 39,000 runners finished: both records. Each one of these starters and finishers overcame obstacles in their adventure to run this prestigious race.

Signing up

Usually the easiest part of a race is signing up and paying your money. Every event wants to make it easy for you to send them their money. Even the sign up this year proved an adventure. Midway through the sign up process on the first day the system crashed with over 15,000 slots still left.

The marathon decided there was no way to tell who was in the middle of the sign up process when the system crashed, so they had a lottery. The author of this article actually missed the sign up and would not have been able to run if it were not for the crash.

I returned from the American Birkebeiner Cross-country Ski Marathon and decided I wanted to run the marathon. When I checked online I saw that their system had crashed and had to sign up for a lottery slot. 36,000 people signed up for the lottery for 15,000 places. I was lucky to win an entry.


Most marathon runners go through at least 3 months of training and maybe more. I started my training in late February and gradually got into shape where I could run 20 miles before toning down the last three weeks. People around the world trained for the marathon in a similar fashion.

Some had injuries to overcome and everyone sacrificed something to put the time and effort needed to get into shape. I bought shoes that did not work for me and caused calf and ankle pain. I went to Runners High 'n Tri in Arlington Heights and got set up with better shoes that helped immensely.

Getting to the race-

I am a local so getting to the race was no problem. Over 10,000 people from different countries had to travel to the United States to compete. I saw shirts from Brazil, Costa Rica, Austria, Italy, and many others. Mexico proudly was the most represented country. There were also runners from every U.S. state. Those from Alaska and Hawaii definitely had a long ways to go to get to the starting line.

Security –

Security was tight and Boston was on everyone’s mind. All runners issued a clear plastic bag to put their gear in to make getting in easier. No other runners were allowed in the starting line/finish line area. After the race I was chilling at Buckingham Fountain when another runner was miffed that her family was not there as she told them to meet her there. I informed her that non-runners could not enter this area, and she had to meet them at the runner reunite area.

Despite the little annoyances and the delays in getting in, the security did not cause a dramatic impact for runners and spectators. People of course understood the necessity and everything was done in an orderly matter.


In my mind the spectators were the big heroes. I could not believe how many people took time out from their schedule to cheer on a bunch of strangers. Many people who cheered had a loved one or friend running, but they cheered others with equal vigor. Some just came to have fun and be a part of something extraordinary. I saw a couple of signs people held up that said “Run faster random runner.” It was touching the care that people had for other runners that they did not even know. I was proud to be from Chicago on this day.

Speaking of signs, another way the spectators really helped was with a sense of humor. I saw some really great signs, and when you are running 26.2 miles, a little laugh goes a long way. Some of the best signs I saw included “This is the worst parade ever,” “Run faster, the Kenyans are drinking all the beer,” and “you are running better than the government.”

Other signs that were especially poignant were the ones that remembered Boston. “Run for Boston,” yelled many spectators. Another touching moment was waving to the people in the retirement home windows along Sheridan Road.

As a participant in this year’s race, I feel I can speak for all 40,000 plus contestants and say that you are truly amazing and your cheer was so appreciated.

The Chicago Marathon was an amazing success thanks to security that made everyone safe, beautiful weather, and inspiring spectators and runners. Can’t wait to do it again next year.

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