All athletes love race numbers. We admire low ones (he’s #1!), covet meaningful ones (your number is my birthday!), and avoid others like the bubonic plague (sadistic race directors issue 13s and 666s).
I relish packet pickup just as much as (ok, maybe a wee bit more than) the next athlete. But after the pure perfection that was my Boston number (24777), I had pretty low expectations for my second date with marathon distance, which is, gulp, 96 hours from now.
Lo and behold, as it turns out I love my Chicago bib number. It is 18800–check out that perfect pair of Crazy Eights. How appropriate, since this race is seeming like a pretty crazy endeavor. Regardless, Boston to Chicago Flight 451 beckons. (Hmmm….paper burns after 451…I guess muscles will, too.)
Here are some fun facts about the 2011 Chicago Marathon for ya’ll to enjoy whilst I burn:
– File under “Hard to Fathom” Both the field and the crowds will be bigger than Boston. Yep, 45,000 runners and 1.7 million spectators will take over Chicago’s streets. Boston had 500,000 rubberneckers and 26,875 entrants. Holy Windy City!
– I’m in for some entertainment. Apparently I’ll pass costumed male cheerleaders at Mile 8; an Elvis lookalike crooning Jailhouse Rock at Mile 10; mariachi bands at Mile 20; Chinatown dancers in dragon costumes at Mile 21 and VanderCook College of Music’s band lining both sides of the street at Mile 24. Hurrah! That should get me through 26.2. Maybe.
– Lots to see. The course passes right by the tallest building in America, the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower–ugh) and Comiskey Park (now called US Cellular Field–double ugh). We’ll also run past the Chicago Theater with its mini version of the Arc de Triomphe; the BP Bridge designed by famed architect Frank Gehry and statues of Joe DiMaggio (Mile 17), Michael Jordan (Mile 14) and don’t forget Goethe (Mile 6).
– Chicago’s 34th marathon, my second-ever. This is the 34th running of the Chicago Marathon. No race was held in 1987 due to lack of sponsorship.
– My goals. Survival would be nice; a sub-3:45 finish would be even better. I’ll run with the Nike Pace Team that’s geared towards a 3:45 finish, so hopefully it’ll happen for me. I need to run a 3:45 to join the legions of “BQ”-ers (that’s Boston Qualifiers), and I’d very much like to accomplish that in this lifetime. We’ll see.
– The course. Chicagoans like to tinker with their course; the route has changed many times over the years. This year will be the fourth in a row that the course has stayed stable. One constant throughout the marathon’s history: Chicago has always been known and loved by runners for being “flat and fast”.
– CJ-friendly start time. According to the event schedule the wheelchairs will roll at 7:20 a.m. and the runners will start shuffling ten minutes later. Which means even I should be off the course before it hits the predicted daytime high of 75. Hurrah!
– Perfect for single moms. Chicago is not a point-to-point marathon like Boston; instead we will start and finish on Columbus Drive in Grant Park. This is supremely excellent news for any and all single mothers who happen to be lugging two Bostonian kids to the race sans assistance; I am not sure what I’d do to reconnect with Emma and Lida were I writhing in pain solo in the Chicago equivalent of Copley Square and had to get back to the Prairie State’s version of Hopkinton. Even better: the start and finish lines are a mere .4 mile walk from our hotel. I would love to be able to say I planned it this way but I’d be lying!
– Stop fretting. In the event you are now worrying about the safety of my girls, stop: they have $75 tickets to a plush, secured tent in Grant Park where there will be food, shelter, DJs and Jumbotron TVs showing all the action.
– Big bucks on the line. Some people actually do this running thing for a living; the prize purse is $500,000. In the event there’s any question, the amount coming to me post-finish will be $0.00.
– What’s in it for Chicago? Apparently, $12 million in hard-cold cash. That’s the estimated economic impact of throwing this little soiree for sweat lovers.
– Elite field. I’ll be running with (or, rather, far far far behind) some mighty fleet feet. Whilst I aim for survival, defending women’s champ Russian Liliya Shobukova will aim for an unprecedented third consecutive win on Sunday. Ryan Hall will show, as will Kenya’s Moses Mosop–both of whom ran sub-2:05 marathons in the spring. Duly noted that if they ran the course twice and I ran it just once we could finish side by side! 🙂
– File under “Who’d Have Thunk”. If I stayed in Chicago another week, I could take on the World’s Largest Corn Maze Run. Yep, it’s on October 16 and promises a full 5K of popping good fun.
Well, that’s all for now, folks. I’ll fill you in once I’m back in Beantown!
– #18800 aka cj