Menu 1

Running the Chicago Marathon and falling back in love with my hometown

Running the Chicago Marathon

Chicago – city of broad shoulders

Running the Chicago Marathon led me to fall back in love with my hometown. I have lived in the city of Chicago for 7 years. I love Chicago and have always loved it, but lately I have had most of my happier moments when I travel. That is not unusual since I love to travel, but lately I have began to felt a certain blase feeling towards my hometown.

Perhaps it is the 7 year itch. Perhaps I am the lame one and Chicago is still way cool. Maybe I am getting older and Chicago only has an appeal for younger folks. Whatever the reason, I have lately eschewed going out in my hometown.


Lately I have been more social in other places and cities like Toronto

Chicago has a great vibe to it and I always enjoy going out in the city, but it is so big it is easy to feel insignificant. Chicago is a very vibrant place with a very transient population. Many people come here to look for jobs and then return to their hometown after working a couple of years or moving on to another opportunity. I have had many friends and acquaintances come and go.

Sometimes I feel that the negative aspect of Chicago far outweighs the positive. We recently were named the murder capital of the world. Our government historically has been ripe with corruption. Carl Sandburg said it best when saying that others call us brutal, wicked, and crooked.

Leinenkugel's Brewery Friendly Float

One of the few times I have been out and about in Chicago for the Leinenkugel’s Friendly Float

This Sunday I participated in the Chicago Marathon. I signed up on a whim after participating in the American Birkebeiner Cross-country Ski Marathon in Hayward, Wisconsin. It is incredible how the communities of Hayward and Cable come to life for the Birkebeiner.

American Birkebeiner Fischer Skis

At the start of the American Birkebeiner Marathon

These are two small towns in northern Wisconsin that swell to more than ten times their population when the race comes to town. The small town charm is endearing and everyone who participates leaves with good thoughts for these northwoods communities.

Chicago Marathon

Start of the Chicago Marathon

I never thought Chicago could evoke the same type of zeal towards a sporting event, but I was proved wrong during the 36th annual Chicago Marathon. I had a conversation on twitter where a local tweep who has run the marathon said that I would see the city at its best. He was not joking.

Right from the start the crowds for the marathon were big and vocal. They lined the streets in every neighborhood. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods with each having its own special flavor. The flavor for race day was encouraging, vocal, and supportive to all 40,000 plus runners. It seemed each neighborhood tried to outdo the previous one.

Running the Chicago Marathon

View of some of the crowds in the foreground with the Willis Tower in the background

People wanted to slap hands with you, give you water, encourage you, make you laugh, and do anything they could do to support you. Even an elderly group of retirees waved with big smiles from their wheelchairs out of their windows.

I loved the entertaining signs that spectators wielded including such laughers as “this is the worst parade ever,” “hurry up the Kenyans are drinking beer,” “run faster random runner,” and “you are running better than the government.” When you are running 26.2 miles, a laugh goes a long way.

Chicago Marathon

Some tired runners at the end of the Chicago Marathon

After the race was over the army of volunteers gave us blankets, food, beverages, and even beer. Every person said “congratulations” with the utmost sincerity. Walking around with the medal around my neck I had several people congratulate me and shake my hand. The volunteers on the course were also bright, cheerful, and helpful whether you needed water, Gatorade, or medical attention.

This continued on the train ride home. I had more people congratulate me on the train. As I walked home, a neighbor shouted out the window “how did you do?” I told him not as good as I wanted, but I finished. With a wave and a smile he congratulated me.

They call Chicago the city of broad shoulders. Carl Sandburg said in his beautiful ode to Chicago: “Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.”  Carl Sandburg would be proud of his city on Marathon Sunday as it showed its big heart to over 40,000 runners.


The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then enter your email in the box to get email notifications for each new entry. Daily travel photos are excluded from your email in order to not flood you with posts. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).

On the right sidebar is a donate button. If you would like to donate in order to support the site, it would be appreciated. All donations would cover travel expenses and improvements to make the site better.


22 Responses to Running the Chicago Marathon and falling back in love with my hometown

  1. Renuka October 15, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Your ode to Chicago was quite good! It does sound like a chirpy city. 🙂
    Renuka recently posted..5 Best ‘Solo Travel’ Destinations In India

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

      Thanks Renuka, Chicago is chirpy, but that does not mean it is for the birds 🙂

  2. Trips By Lance October 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    Congrats on finishing. I’d like to run that marathon, but the older I get the more I think I’m retiring from racing. I played soccer with four 7-year-olds last night and my left knee has been screaming at me since. I’ve always heard chicago is a great marathon.
    Trips By Lance recently posted..New Mexico Reflections

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      Thanks Lance,

      I think doing anything with 4 7 year olds is going to leave some marks. I am sure you could still manage.

  3. @mrsoaroundworld October 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    I love Chicago – a place I visited once and would love to go back again. Well done on the Marathon and so pleased you fell in love again 😉
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..My Flight: British Airways World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) on the new A380 – LAX to LHR

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

      Thanks Mrs. O,

      Hope you get back here again sometime.

  4. Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) October 16, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    I’ve lived here in Chicago my entire life and I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the city. I have seen plenty of changes – and I don’t agree with all of them – but still, our hometown really is a beautiful and remarkable city. On another note, yay you! Congratulations on finishing the marathon! While you were running, I, uh… wasn’t.
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Could we be the very first #GwOGuestTester Family?

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      Thanks FF,

      I am sure it natural to have these love/hate feelings in a place you have lived a long time. There are things that annoy and bother, but in the back of your mind you know you love the place or you would no longer be there. It is nice to enjoy events like this that remind you how great the city is.

  5. Leigh October 17, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    What a nice salute to Chicago. I think the energy in these sporting events is contagious. I had to laugh when you described the signs you saw.

    You’re probably still coming down from the high of completing a marathon.A heartfelt congrats. I signed up for one once but backed out a month before and did a half instead. It takes a serious commitment – physically & mentally – to finish it.
    Leigh recently posted..Hiking to the Summit of Le Mont Albert in Quebec

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      Thanks Leigh,

      I think you made a wise decision to do the half. It is more manageable than a marathon and still gives you the satisfaction of running a long distance. I ran a pretty decent half. When I died at the 16 mile mark and run/walked the rest of the way, I was wishing I would have done the same. In the end, I am proud to have done it and I want to do it again and get a better time. I guess I am hooked.

  6. the lazy travelers October 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    ive only ever heard great things about chicago, but i know sometimes your own hometown can lose some of its luster if you’ve been there long enough. a few other things i liked about this post: your description of the signs, the fact that they feed you beer after the marathon, and of course, the picture featuring me. xo, the wino
    the lazy travelers recently posted..five must-sees in thailand’s two big cities

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      I am sure the losing of the luster is common no matte where you live. Everyone probably loves and hates their city to some degree except for people who are stuck and miserable. If you have a choice to move and you don’t there must be a reason for it. I need to start all my posts with pictures of pretty women 🙂

  7. Leah October 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    The grass is always greener elsewhere, right? I feel that way about Houston. It, like Chicago, is really a cool place, but my eyes are pointed elsewhere. Being away and coming back does help me remember that I get to live in an awesome city with tons to see and do. Congrats on the marathon. What an achievement!
    Leah recently posted..Cooking Traditional Hungarian Goulash in Budapest

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

      Thanks Leah,

      It helps temper the feelings toward your city when you get to frequently leave and see awesome places. Someone once said: “without O’Hare there is only despair.”

  8. Erin at The World Wanderer October 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    Yay! First of all, I am so proud of you! Second, I’m so happy my photo made this post! 😉 Third, I love Chicago, and I’m glad you rekindled your love. 🙂
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..Get to Know Me as I Turn Three.

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      Thanks Erin,

      Nice to share photos of pretty women to offset the photos of me 🙂

  9. Mary Anne October 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    I am headed to Chicago on January. Thanks for sharing your city.

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

      I hope to meet up for a drink if I am around. I might be away the first two weeks, but unsure.

  10. Raul (@ilivetotravel) October 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    A few things.. bear with me! I don’t know that I could live in Chicago with those winters but it is a city I love visiting. I enjoy exploring its different areas. On the marathon, those signs made me laugh, especially the one about the Kenyans already drinking beer. I ran the Peachtree Road Race (10K) in my hometown for 10 yrs and had the same feeling about loving my town and my fellow residents – they also show up in large numbers to cheer the runners on, sometimes offering a beer or a Krispy Kreme doughtnut. Finally – CONGRATS!!!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..Manila Relaxation

    • Ted Nelson October 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

      Thanks so much Raul,

      I feel the opposite about the Chicago winters. Lately they have not been extreme enough. I keep thinking of moving farther north. Thanks so much for the congrats and for sharing your running experience in Atlanta. It is heartwarming to see people out cheering on random people. It makes me proud to be a human.

  11. lola October 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    oh Tedward. you know i’m proud of you. 🙂 i would like to get back to Chicago in 2014 and discover more of your great city. BUT i will not come unless you are in town to be my cocktail guide!
    lola recently posted..Connecticut Countryside Retreat – The Mayflower Grace by @GraceHotels

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:16 am #

      I would be happy to take a break from training 2014 to do just that Lola as long as we get some carbs.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge