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A Chicago Marathon morning and take off

Chicago Marathon morning

Chicago Marathon morning selfie before I left

After months of training and over 700 mile spent running and hitting the pavement, it was time to run the Chicago Marathon. I woke at 4:30 a.m. and had some toast and jelly, kind snack bar, and some gatorade. Then I caught the brown line in.

I live on the end of the Brown line at Francisco, and I was the only runner on the train. That changed rather quickly as with each stop the train began to swell with runners in sweat pants, running shoes, and their marathon issued clear plastic bag (given for security reasons).

Kind snack bar

Thanks Kind snack bars for the care package and the good luck wishes

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I listened to my iPhone and tried to psyche myself up on the ride in or at least wake up. This was not your normal Sunday. No nursing a hangover and watching football today as I was running 26.2 miles. Or at least I hoped I would finish.

Chicago Lakefront Trail

My 20 mile run took place along the Chicago Lakefront

I had my doubts. I feel my training was productive, and I felt in good shape, but I had a little trouble with my longer runs. I finished my 20 mile run three weeks before, and I felt I could not run another foot. I hoped the electricity of the crowd and other runners would carry me that last 6.2 miles.

Chicago Marathon security

Security was tight but efficient

The crowds were backed up at the entrance, but despite the security, I rolled through the entrance to Grant Park rather effortlessly. As long as you had your bib on and gear in your plastic bag, you were good.

The only problem with the race was there was not enough bathrooms in Grant Park. With 40,000 runners all wanting to start the race with an empty bowel and bladder, this comes as no surprise.  I went to the bathroom as soon as I got there although I had to wait in line for about ten minutes.

Other than the bathroom issue, the rest of the race from beginning to end was amazingly smooth and well run. I grabbed some Gatorade and lubed up my legs a little so to avoid chaffing.  Vaseline and gatorade were provided for free to all runners as was gear check in.

Chicaga Marathon morning

Runners frantically head to the corrals for the start with the Willis Tower looming in the background

I then turned in my bag at the gear check. A piece of the bib tore off with your bib number, and they gave you a plastic tie to fix it to your bag, so you could turn in your gear and pick it up after the race. They also had changing stations. I wish I would have brought a complete change of clothes to change into after the race.

Chicago Marathon

Getting corralled at the Chicago Marathon

We then had to find our corral. I was in corral D. I entered the corral a little after 7 a.m. as we had to be in the corral by 7:20 a.m. I was smashed in together with thousands of other runners. We were halted just short of the straightaway as we could go no further. I kind of had to go to the bathroom again, but the lines were too long, and I did not have time.

Chicago Marathon morning

The sheep head to the start

Hardly anyone said a word. I was feeling very emotional for some reason. I was almost in tears as the DJ played Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. He also rattled off some stats like how many runners had signed up, noted that there were runners from every state, and Mexico had the highest number of foreign runners. Despite the moment, I was quite calm.

Chicago Marathon

Another selfie as I await the start

The DJ counted down the time to the start. Ten minutes to start. . .  Five minutes to start . . . Then he introduced the elite field and at 7:20 they took off. Minutes later it was the rest of the field. I was about a half mile from the start. The timing device on the bib does not activate until the starting line is crossed.

Chicago Marathon morning

We turn the corner and the start comes into view

In slow motion we moved toward the starting line. We were smashed like sardines, but we began to decompress as we neared the start. In the distance I could already see a mass of runners in motion on the other side of the starting line. I had my iPhone and took several photos of what lay ahead.

Chicago Marathon start

Getting closer

Chicago Marathon start

Just a few more feet and we are off

Then it was my turn to pass under the starting line, and I was off.


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).

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24 Responses to A Chicago Marathon morning and take off

  1. Mera October 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Congratulations Ted! Are you in Chicago? I live in the aurora Naperville area and would love to connect with you, maybe we can meet for coffee or a drink. I’m new to blogging and have lots of questions.

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:31 am #

      Hi Mera,

      I live in the city. Would love to meet up sometime and thanks for the congrats. You can contact me anyway you feel like. Hit me up via email, facebook, or twitter.

  2. Trips By Lance October 17, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Good read. Gives good perspective on the nerves and buildup before a marathon. It’s the part of a marathon I’m not really a fan.
    Trips By Lance recently posted..Balloon Fiesta Inspiration

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:32 am #

      I enjoyed all facets of the training and the race, but the tension at the beginning was probably the least favorite. You just want to get going at this point. Let the pain begin, so it can eventually end.

  3. Renuka October 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Wow…Chicago looks fresh and spirited! I have witnessed Delhi marathon in the morning.
    Renuka recently posted..Thar Desert – A Safari To Remember

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:32 am #

      That would be cool to witness a marathon in India or any other country for that matter.

  4. Raul (@ilivetotravel) October 21, 2013 at 1:24 am #

    That thing about not enough restrooms at the start – we also have that issue at the Peachtree Road Race which is the largest 10K with over 60,000 runners in 2011. I ran it 10 yrs in a run and learned to go get in line the moment I got to the start line WHETHER I HAD TO GO or not. By the time I reached the front of the line, I usually had to go or could go. I hate the wait at the start the most though in July, at least, is not cold. The Atlanta half-marathon in November – yes, I was freezing my tail off as I waited to start… I can’t wait to read the next segment!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..My First Real Hike: to Pawnee Pass in the Rockies

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:33 am #

      Thanks Raul,

      Wow, 60,000 runners is a lot of people to run a 10K. As Tom Petty once said: “The waiting is the hardest part.”

  5. Leah October 21, 2013 at 1:39 am #

    Inspirational, Ted. I know I’ve said that before, but really, I’m so impressed by your accomplishment.
    Leah recently posted..My Top Three Airplane Aggravations

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:34 am #

      Thanks Leah,

      I appreciate it. It is hard to believe it is already over.

  6. Mary Anne October 21, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    Boom! Done! way to go. Nothing like the feeling of finishing a marathon. You are a rock star.

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:34 am #

      Thanks Mary Anne. It is still a great feeling over two weeks later.

  7. Fiona October 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    Well done for completing this amazing challenge Ted!
    Fiona recently posted..How to Travel Like an A-Lister in Dublin Airport

    • Ted Nelson October 23, 2013 at 12:35 am #

      Thanks Fiona,

      I appreciate it.

  8. lola October 22, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Lucky 13?? great great job!
    lola recently posted..Hotel Le Germain, #Montreal – by @JETSETextra @TheWrldWanderer & @loladimarco

  9. @mrsoaroundworld October 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    We followed the prep, and must have been bittersweet that the day finally came! Well done you 🙂
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..My hOtel: The Kensington Hotel, London @hotelkensington @doylecollection

    • Ted Nelson October 27, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Thanks so much for following Mrs. O!

  10. Erin at The World Wanderer October 24, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    This gave me complete anxiety! I always get nervous before a big event, and I just felt nervous for you while reading this. You look great, and I love your photos. Crazy crowded!
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..Hotel Le Germain, #Montreal – by @JETSETextra @TheWrldWanderer & @loladimarco

    • Ted Nelson October 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      Thanks Erin,

      Glad it gave you a bit of anxiety. I know I painted the correct picture.

  11. Pola (@jettingaround) October 24, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    Congrats, Ted! You’re a pro.
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo(s) of the Week: Calle la Ronda in Quito

  12. the lazy travelers November 11, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    we’re like real proud of you and everything, but we’ll be most impressed once we know how many beers you had upon completion.

    congrats, tedward!
    the lazy travelers recently posted..foodie break: felice 83

    • Ted Nelson March 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm #


      I think I had two or three and then limped home.

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