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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Jesse's guide to spectating at the 2008 Chicago Marathon

On the request of a few friends who are looking at coming down to cheer on the runners at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12, I've put together this quick guide taken from my personal experience spectating at the event last year.

By no means is this an expert guide, but a collection of tips. You can visit the official Chicago Marathon website for an official Spectator Guide here.

Ok, now that I have that out of the way. Here we go...

First, take a minute to download the PDF of the marathon course. I'll be using this as a guide.

Got it? Ok...

I will have my cell phone on me all day. Email me for the phone #.

My bib #
Coming soon... what I'll wear...

Tip of the day: Make sure your runner see's you. Be sure to bring the most obnoxious balloon or sign you can find and stand out!

Runner Tracking: The Chicago Marathon has a runner tracking service that will send text and/or email messages to your phone in real time as the runners cross certain parts of the course- 6 miles, halfway (13.1 miles), 18 miles, and finish. The service is free and is available here. This is a nice way of knowing where runners are during the race.

Getting there:
I recommend taking public transportation if possible unless you plan on getting there before 6:30 a.m. There will be LOTS of people downtown. I recommend taking the earliest train out if possible. The start time for the marathon is 8 a.m. CDT

Several Metra train lines will be running on a special schedule the day of the event to make sure you see your runners off. Visit this link for information.

Travel light: Forget bringing chairs. I did this last year and had to abandon it. A blanket will do if you want to hang around in Grant Park and enjoy the festivities. Dress comfortably and for the weather. You'll probably be doing a lot of walking.

The Start: The start line is on Columbus drive in Grant Park between Jackson and Monroe. Trying to see a runner off here is next to impossible. It's kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack (think 45,000 registered runners). Walking through the crowds here is also difficult. I recommend finding a spot between miles 1 and 3 on State st., Jackson, or Lasalle st. (see map).

The Start- where I'll be:
If you'd like to try and find me, look for the Pace signs. These signs are lined up along the start line labeled with the finish times. I will be near the 4:00 hour pace group (9 minutes per mile) in the "Open Corral". I like the left side (west side of street). Unless I know where you are, don't count on me looking for you. I may be too busy getting warmed up or puking my nervous guts out :-)

Staying "close to home": If you don't want to stray too far from Grant Park and the train station, the following mile markers are in the downtown area: Start, 2-3, 13, 14, 16, 26, and Finish. Mile markers 17 and up are south of downtown. Use the official Spectator Guide for information on getting to these areas should you want to venture that way.

The Half-Way point: Mile 13 is the half-way point near the intersections of Franklin and Adams, just east of the river (see map). This is a popular spot, so you'll have to hunt around for a good view. Watch your Runner Tracker as I approach this point. You should see me here close to 2 hours after the start around 10 a.m. (god willing!) I like the left side of the street. WAVE AND SCREAM LOUD!

Miles 16 and up: After mile 17, the course goes into the southern 'burbs of the city and will be hard to get to if you walk. See the official Spectator Guide for EL and bus information on how to get to these spots. For me, this will be a lonely journey, and I'll be gone for another two hours until the finish. It's a nice time to get some breakfast or stick around to watch the rest of the field.

Most of the McDonald's restaurants in the area will have Runner Update Centers where marathon staff will provide updates on where the runners are on the course. Your Runner Tracker works too.

Mile 18 to 20: Find me here between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. or 3 1/2 hours after the start. This is the furthest I've run in training. Anything after mile 20 is in the hands of the man upstairs! Prayers are welcome :-)

The Finish: Unless you park yourself at the finish line early and stay there all day, forget about trying to get a good view. There are paid seats here and the crowds get really big. The best view will be on Roosevelt, which is the street just before the turn to the finish. It is the highest hill on the course, and your SCREAMS will give the runners encouragement!! Get there early (at least an hour before noon) as only the north side of the street is accessible- don't worry, there is lots of room. SCREAM LOUD!!!

When it's over: If you head over to where the runners exit the corrals, be prepared for lots of people. If you cannot find me, the Runners Reunite area is located in Grant Park's Butler Field, just northeast of the finish on Columbus Dr. and Jackson Blvd. There will be alphabetically posted signs. Go to the M's and wait here. Otherwise, find the CARA tent (Chicago Area Runners Association). I will go there to get my gear first. Ask around if you can't find it. Call my cell as a last resort, or go to Buckingham Fountain.

Even if you don't go to see anyone in particular, the entire area is full of energy, and the inspiration you will get from seeing the runners finish 26.2 miles will be with you for days to come.

And perhaps... even inspire you to run next year :-)

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Blogger Lindsay said...

I don't know if you saw my post yesterday but I am thinking about going in this year. I've never had the opportunity before and have seen anything this gargantuan either!

So thanks for posting this list, I will be printing it out and studying up!! I have your number so I will keep in touch with you. Would you rather receive phone calls, text messages or nothing for encouragement during the race?

I've also got your name and several others in that tracking service! Whoo-doggies, I'm excited, how 'bout you!? That was a rhetorical question. hehe

2:00 PM

Blogger Jesse said...

It truly is a grand event! Of course, I'll take any kinds of encouragement! If I was to pick one, TXT would be best :)

3:50 PM


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