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How to Make the Most of the Chicago Marathon

running-advice-bugIf you’re looking for my article on tips about the Chicago Marathon tha ran in US News Health, here it is:

Some of the lead runners at the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

Some of the lead runners at the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

Runners know the Chicago Marathon as one of the greatest marathons in the world. With about 40,000 participants, it’s one of the largest races and its flat course can make for fast times.

As someone who has run the Chicago Marathon a number of times and prepared more than 500 runners for the race – including a group of 150 that I will be coaching this Sunday – I know there are a few things that set seasoned Chicago Marathon veterans apart from those who haven’t run the race. Here are some tips to give you the inside track:

1. Arrive early.

Getting into the starting area in Grant Park has always taken some time. You’ll be navigating throngs of people, covering a lot of ground and dealing with many closed streets that can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Since the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, race officials have significantly heightened security at the start area. You’ll now need to undergo a security screening in order to get into Grant Park, so give yourself an extra half hour on top of the time it takes you to get to the park.

2. Follow gear check instructions carefully.

Listen to race organizers about the types of bags you can use for gear check, and make sure you only bring what will fit in your bag. Most races, including the Chicago Marathon, provide clear plastic bags for gear check to make security screening quicker. This means that they may not allow you to bring your own backpack or another opaque bag.

3. Ensure you’re in the correct start corral.

Start corrals are assigned according to your estimated finishing time, with the fastest runners starting first. The Chicago Marathon is strict on ensuring that people only go into their assigned corrals. If you feel you need to change your corral assignment, contact the race organizers ahead of time or ask an official at the Race Expo. No changes will be allowed on race morning in Grant Park.

4. Keep your pace steady during turns.

The first few miles of the Chicago Marathon course include many right and left turns. The crowd will tend to slow down as it approaches these corners and then speed back up after them. This changing speed can be quite fatiguing, making the first few miles feel like an interval workout. Focus on keeping an even pace, and move to the outside if that’s not possible.

5. Carry your own energy products.

Aid stations at the Chicago Marathon provide water and fluids every one to two miles. As with most marathons, energy gels are only offered at one aid station along the course. Bananas are available at two stations. Since you’ll want to replace about 100 calories per hour, you’ll need to carry some of your own energy foods or gels to supplement what the aid stations provide.

6. Expect a few boring miles late in the game.

While Chicago is a beautiful city and the course is mostly packed with spectators, the late miles will feel pretty sparse by comparison. Frankly, the course from mile 20 to 23 is not that interesting and there will be fewer folks out cheering. But take heart: Just after mile 23, you’ll take a left turn back onto Michigan Avenue, where you’ll feel you’re on the home stretch.

7. Have a plan for getting home.

Before you can start celebrating your achievement, you’ll need to get yourself out of Grant Park and back where you belong. The traffic is typically jammed near the park and taxis are hard to come by. Have a bit of cash to jump on a city bus, or walk over to the trains on State Street if you’re having trouble finding a ride home.

Chicago puts on a first-class marathon. If you follow some of these simple tips, your experience may go a little bit more smoothly on race day. Have fun and be safe out there, runners!

Coach Joe English, Portland, Oregon USA
Running-Advice.com and RUN Time

Originally published by US News.com at: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/10/07/how-to-make-the-most-of-the-chicago-marathon

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