I thought it might be cool to do a marathon review so you have some useful information when deciding whether to do a marathon or not. Since Chicago is the freshest in my mind, I provide it here first. I’ll go back and do one for Toronto, Madison and maybe even New York.
The most important things you’ll want to know about any marathon are the course, the organization, the expo, the goodie bag, the cost, and whether they are nice to jogglers or not.
Chicago Marathon: Overall Rating – 5 Beanbags out of 5
If you want to “experience” the marathon then Chicago is the place to go. There is no lottery you have to win and no special time for qualifying. You sign up, you can run. The crowds are great, aide stations well-stocked, and the organization is excellent. A perfect marathon for the first timer. And with wave starting, it’s also a great marathon for anyone to set a PR. For
The course takes you on a tour of the most famous Chicago neighborhoods from downtown, through Lincoln Park, to Wrigleyville, back through downtown. It takes you through China town, Little Italy, Greektown, through the southside and finishes up back where you started in Grant Park. No big hills to worry about. Crowds cheer along the whole course. And there are aide stations at nearly every mile. Add to that great running weather in all but 1 of the last 10 years, and you have one of the most enjoyable marathons to run anywhere.
Expo: (organization, goodie bag, booths)
The process of picking up your packet is easy. Hundreds of workers make it so your wait in lines is minimal. And the expo is held at McCormick place (one of the largest expo centers in the country). It has rows and rows of vendors with lots of free samples to try and great information to find. The only complaint is that if you go on the Saturday before the marathon, it gets pretty crowded. But the enormousness of this expo is a great build-up for the marathon. The goodie bag is average as is the shirt they give away. Other marathons have much cooler stuff so this is one area that Chicago could improve.
Other: (Cost, transportation, ease of registering)
For spectators, Chicago is a great marathon to watch. Using the train system you can see people at many points along the way. In the first couple of miles, at the half-way point, and at the twentysomething mile is simple. Although, you probably won’t see your runner finish unless you skip all other points and go directly to there at the start. Don’t do this. Your runner would rather see you out on the course.