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My favourite picture from Chicago marathon

Chicago Marathon — The experience

Before the marathon


In December 2016 I completely out of the blue received an email to say that I had been successful in getting entry to the 2017 Chicago marathon! Yay! I started looking at hotels and flights, which all seemed reasonable and with plenty of availability and so I started working on a plan to save up to get it all booked. There seemed so many options that I didn’t think anything would sell out and I kept checking the flights which remained at the same price. In May with enough money saved I went to book everything, flights booked and everything was fine but when I went to look at the hotels everything I had looked at previously was fully booked and other hotels were either too expensive or miles from the start. I then found an Airbnb, which is not far from the start finish and was within by budget so I booked that. Happy  everything was booked as it meant I was off to Chicago!! After looking at everything there was to do in Chicago I decided to spend a week there and planned most of my activities before I left.


Day 1 - Arrival in Chicago


I landed at O’Hara airport Terminal 5 and decided that I was going to use the train to get to China Town where my Airbnb was, according to the map I needeed to make one change and that was it, I went to the machine to get my ticket and it gave me the option to get a single or a 7 day ticket, not knowing what I would be doing over the week I got a single ticket which in hindsight was a bad move a 7 day ticket would of saved me a lot of money over the week. Following the map I travelled into the city and when I go to the station I needed to change at I was horrified to find that not only was there not a lift but also that I needed to get my giant suitcase through a turnstile! To my relief a gentleman not only lifted my case over the turnstile but carried it up the flight of stairs, luckily when I got to China Town there was a working lift and no turnstile to get through.


Day 2 - Navy Pier & Bikes, Bites & Brew Tour


I Pre-booked a tour to do bikes, bites and brews that started at 10am, due to the time difference I was awake a lot earlier and woke up hungry and so decided to get breakfast and go for a walk in the local area. Near where the tour started was Navy Pier and with time to spare I went for a walk. I was blown away by how stunning the area was, I was blessed with beautiful blue sky’s but the area had a beautiful view where you could see the lakes for miles and there was beautiful statues and a wheel like the london eye that you could go up and other funfair rides. 

The bike tour was amazing we first visited Lou Malnatis Pizzeria for a slice of the best deep dish pizza that Chicago is famous for. Our tour guide Gabe took us North of the city through Oz Park and onto our next food stop that was Swirls Cupcakes, I tried the red velvet cupcake that to this day is the best cupcake I have ever had. Next we went to Murphy’s dog that is famous for serving hot dogs Chicago style. After visiting all the food stops we then went to the Home of the Cubs Wrigley Stadium and stopped next door for a local beer. On the way back we stopped and had 2 more beers at local bars before the tour had ended. Hands down great tour that I would highly recommend.


Navy Pier

Wrigley field - One of the stops on the bike tour

Day 3 - Expo


The expo was at McCormick place that was only a couple of bus stops down from where I was staying in China Town. As expo’s go it was really good, plenty of stalls to get supplies of gels and running gear, the que to buy anything from the Nike store was longer than getting your race number or t-shirt. I probably spent more time at this expo than any other expo I've been to and they were more than happy to change my t-shirt size.


Day 4 -China Town Parade & Walking Tour


I woke this morning to a sound of festivities and laughter, I left the apartment to see what was going on to find a Chinese festival in the road outside my apartment. There was music with drums and loads of stalls and a general fun atmosphere in the air. I have never had Chinese food before for breakfast but I couldn’t resist tasting everything that was on offer. I had a walking tour booked that met just across from Trump towers at 1pm.The tour involved us getting on a water taxi and go up and the walking down the river and learning all of the history of the buildings, I was surprised how interesting I found the tour as the buildings tell a story of why Chicago is like it is.


Trump Towers which is near the start of the walking tour

Day 5 - Race Day


The start of the race was only 2 stops on the tube and so I was there nice and early. I was very impressed with the organisation and we were put in coloured areas from the start and so when you went into your colored areas that is where you left your bag, went to the toilet and got into your pen. This was the biggest race I had even done, but I was really impressed with the organisation and everything felt really calm. I went through the start line and was instantly running through a tunnel, on the other side I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people there with banners cheering all the runners on. I have never been in a race where there was so much support, the banners were hilarious “If Britney can survive 2007, you can survive this”, “I bet Beyoncé cant run a marathon” and lots, lots more. The city prides themself on all nationality and districts being represented and so each road you turned down would be a full of people supporting a different culture, with music and cheering and food, drinks, ice bags, beer on offer, it was AMAZING!!!! Once I had finished I was offered various food and water and most importantly a beer! Well earned! And through the race village I got massaged as well, happy days. In the evening a group of us headed to the Hard Rock Cafe as there was a free drink token that we were able to download from the marathon website. Expecting the place to be filled with runners we were quite surprised to find that the 9 off us were the only runners in the bar.


Day 6 - Sedgeways, Hancock Tower & American Football


In hindsight booking a sedgeway tour the day after a marathon wasn’t my best idea, by the end of the tour my legs were absolutely killing me but as it was such a fun tour I didnt really mind. The shop that we needed to meet in was near Buckingham Fountains (where the start of the marathon is) and I was surprised to see that all evidence of the marathon had completely gone. The day was beautiful and we got to see a lot of things out on the Sedgeways from the start of Route 66, the hotel that the gangsters used to stay in that is completely covered in bullet holes, the fountains and soldiers Field. After I had finished I jumped back on the subway and headed on down to the John Hancock centre, I was expecting there to be a que but I got straight into a lift and was sent through to the bar area where I got some lunch and a drink, which was really reasonably priced and very tasty too. Wherever you are seated you can see the views of the whole city, this is an absolute must do if you are going to Chicago. With some time to kill before the football started I walked towards the stadium via the Bean to take some standard tourist photos. I had never been to an American Football game before and as the Chicago Bears were at home I thought it would be rude not to go along. If you are ever thinking of going to a game in Chicago the seating choice is very, very important, it is not called the Windy City for nothing. My seat was about 5 rows from the top and I was absolutely frozen!! I stayed for the whole game but I still have no idea on the rules but it was another life experience ticked off.


Day 7 - Last day in the city


After a very long and packed day yesterday I was exhausted and had a bit of a lay in. I had a helicopter ride scheduled for the afternoon but sadly it was cancelled at the last minute due to the weather. One minute in Chicago it can be brilliant sunshine and the next the fog can come down so low that you cant see the top of the buildings. Instead I spent the helicopter money on some new clothes, souvenirs and deep dish pizza.


Overall tips for Chicago Marathon


Book your hotel nice and early as they will sell out

Buy a 7 day metro card at the airport as it will save you money.

If you want to book a helicopter tour, do it whist you are there as you can keep an eye on the weather.

Take sun glasses, sun cream and the thickest coat you own as you will need them and probably all on the same day.

Enjoy the marathon, the support is some of the best in the world.


If you would like me to book your travel then contact me on carolinelovestotravel@hotmail.com or my website carolinehargreaves.inteletravel.uk

Buckingham Fountain - Part of the Sedgeway tour

View from the John Hancock building

The Bean