Katherine’s post on spectating the Chicago marathon brought back all of my own memories of the Chicago marathon…….
Chicago is “flat and fast” and gets a lot of attention for it’s well put on and extremely popular Marathon. My own personal opinion is that its a great destination place for a first time marathoner or a marathoner with dreams of a FaSt day. It’s a marathon that you can do by literally training out your front door so in terms of training it’s “easy.”
(I mean that only in the fact you don’t have to drive to hills, or tough routes….whatever route you can get to from your front door is run-able in order to train for a flat course, so one can save themselves A LOT of travel time!)
Chicago is a fun marathon town with great restaurants, entertainment, kid friendly, activities, and very importantly, high energy from the fans! And when I say fans, I mean FANS! These people just didn’t roll out of bed and decide to go watch a marathon…..these fans meant business and plan “their fan-attack” months in advance.
I’ve done everything but a PR in Chicago and have got good stories to tell. I ran for broke one year, and broke. I was a sign holding, bell ringing, stroller pushing, excuse me sayin’ fan, along with a three year old and a one year old, one year. I ran along side Katherine last year to a smashing day, and this year……well, TBD.
So, there’s lots to do once you make up your mind on what roll to play. I usually start with signs. I have a whole “notes” page on good signs that I’ve either seen at races or have come up with. You can always do the Ubber awesome and supportive, “run ________” or you can go a little nutty and funny with something like, “worst parade EVER! ”
“Run like her father just walked in…..”
“Your perspiration is my inspiration”
“Do something funky~fun daily…..this counts!” This is a Tulley Quote
“Why do all the cute ones run away?”
“It’s only 26.2 because anything more would have been CrAzY!”
“Who runs _________?
<fill in name here>”
” ________ I think you’re winning!”
“Chafe now, Brag Forever!”
“WARNING! Awesome sense of accomplishment ahead”
“You made it to the start, you’ll make it to the finish.”
“Run Faster…..There’s a Zombie behind you!”
“Run? I thought you said RUM!”
“5 to 1 you hurl before this is over”
“I love sweaty men.”
“You are beating all of the people behind you”
“You’ve come this far…..might as well finish! ”
“Hurry home Mama, we’re hungry.”
“Pain is temporary, Posting on FB is forever.”
“You’re beating next year’s winner!”
“Marathoners do it ’til it hurts!”
“You’ve got great stamina!
Call me at _______ ”
“Your feet must hurt from kicking so much a$$”
And oh how I could go on, and on, and on, and on…….
I also suggest using lots of glitter. In case you didn’t know, or forgot, I’ve got a bit of a glitter obsession!
Now that you’ve got your sign, make sure the tires on your stroller are full. I’ve pushed Tana, and Eric’s pushed Tana, and my sister’s pushed Tana, along a lot of race routes, and to a lot of different spotting points, and everything would be foiled if you had a flat. Give the jogger a once over and plan what is going where. If you are pushing kids, tie a balloon on the stroller and one on the kid. When you need to move from place to place the balloon can get tucked in and held, but when you’re in the spotting position, it makes finding you by the runner a little easier as well.
This leads me to my suggestion of, pick specific places. Don’t go with the, “I’ll be in this area…..” Unless you’re going to be loud, large, and in charge, pick a street sign, a corner, a tall visual and do whatever you have to, to get there. I’ve never been afraid to “pull the kid card out either.” Let the people around you know, “she needs to see her Daddy!”
In today’s “big city” racing, there’s mats we runners have to go over and the beam is some how magically transmitted to my sister’s computer which in turn then is FB posted and calls are made and texts are sent out. More people are happy for you than not and genuinely want you to succeed when running a marathon, so find a person who’ll be at their desk that day to be the “land line” to the tracking station. I had a friend once running the New York marathon and low and behold, Miss Low-Tech-Me was the only person getting a signal. So, I did all the texting to her family when she crossed check points. It was fun, and appreciated…..so recruit some fans for yourself and link them together.
Now, back to where you stand on the race route. In a flat and fast and vacation destination race such as Chicago let me tell you, IT IS CROWDED. Thankfully, Eric is tall and so sometimes I can see his head rise above the others in a crowd. He can also put Montana on his shoulders, which gives us an extra advantage as well. Montana is a talented “woooooo-hoooer” and I’ve heard her before. He’s known my pace, and with my sister at the command center, they’ve known where I’m at on the course Eric is skilled at making his way through crowds to pop out, right along the road, wiggle with determination the stroller alongside them, and wait.
Both he and I have had to “train” in order to be a sign holding fan because I know for me personally, when we’ve tracked him and wanted to see him at different places along the route, we put on some miles ourselves!
When getting ready for runner chasing and spotting, I’d pump up Montana letting her know we “gotta get there” fast. There isn’t any time to doddle when you’re trying to see runners along a route. Usually you’re going to be on foot, which is most likely in Chicago, so you’ve got to know the streets, and you’ve gotta be willing to move your feet. Keep in mind that once the race has started you’re not going to be able to cross the race route so devise a plan keeping that in consideration. There may be times to cross, wwwaaayyyy up in the front, or wwwaaaayyyy in the back of a race, where the running crowd is a bit thin, but its nothing that can be “for sure” and can cost you seeing your person if you get “stuck.”
Now, not every race has to be a chase.
I have also hunkered down in one spot, patiently waiting for our runner as well. Sometimes, when there are multiple younger kids involved, its best to just get a sure fired spotting! This isn’t bad either as seeing the lead racers is a pretty cool and inspirational moment.
Regardless, when you’re packing for your day of sign holding, make sure to bring along a few extra goodies for the race Marshalls and volunteers. It’s my experience that if you make an effort to be friendly, when you need them to look the other way while you run out on the course to hug or high five your runner, they’re forgiving, and sometimes even lift up the rope to help you under.
Check the marathon “spectator map” and see if there are cheer stations that you may want to link up with. About 800 meters from the Chicago finish, on Michigan Ave. there’s a former fire station turned restaurant that has face painting and balloon tying for kids. They’re loud and you could give your runner one last “burst” as the finish is still a couple turns away, but close. It’s hard to believe its close because you can’t see it and you’ve ran 25 odd miles and quite frankly, are tired. This last sighting could make the difference between your runner having a strong finish kick, versus just finishing.
If you are hanging out in this area I have a couple other suggestions for fun and food. There’s a “build and take” pizza place right on the route that lets you use their cardboard circles to make signs if you need a last minute saying. They also give free cookies to the racers, so don’t be afraid to talk your runner into “meeting you there” at the end or going there later. It’s been fun walking back that way draped in my silver cape and medal….it’s as close of feeling as ill come to being a celebrity!
And there’s also an unbeatable food option at Panozzo’s Market, a farm forward, Italian Deli/ Market in the heart of the south loop. They are located at 1303 S. Michigan Ave. You can follow them on Twitter or Panozzos.com
For either pre or post race food nummy-ness.