Sunday, October 9, 2016

Chicago Marathon Weekend: Perspective from the Sidelines

You know how I have that tagline at the top of my blog? The one that says "because sitting on the sidelines is no fun"? After this past weekend, I may need to issue a retraction. Because this weekend, being on the sidelines was a blast!

Last spring, I made the difficult (for me) decision not to enter the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. With Big Sur ahead of me at the time and my struggles with plantar fasciitis, I didn't want to get a spot and have to give it up due to injury. I thought it would be a good idea to take some time off and let my foot calm down.

Marcia and I made plans to spectate the marathon and the experience didn't disappoint. I may have to be a sideline sitter more often!




Of course, if you've been following me on Instagram this weekend, you know that I had a little extra fun thrown in at the last minute. On Wednesday afternoon, I received an email invitation from UCAN to attend a Facebook Live chat on Friday with Meb Keflezighi. At first, I thought there was no way I could go--I had patients scheduled all afternoon. But my partners came to the rescue and cleared the latter portion of my schedule for me. There was also the issue of Friday afternoon traffic, which is on a good day horrendous in Chicago. With the Cubs' first playoff game that night and President Obama arriving in town, it was the perfect storm. I had 2 hours to get to the meetup and I was worried that it wouldn't be enough. Keep in mind that I only had to go 17 miles to get there. That's life in the big city, right?

Thanks to an app called Waze, I took a very creative scenic route through the city to get to my destination and arrived right on time. Once there, I was stunned to see that there were only 5 of us--Holly, Marcia, Sherry, and Sharon-- in the room, along with Meb and his crew, elite athlete Sarah Crouch, and the UCAN team. We all thought it was going to be a big gathering.

Meb, Holly, Sharon, Marcia, Sarah, me, Sherri
The Facebook Live chat was done interview style, and towards the end each of us were able to ask Meb and Sarah a question. After the taping was complete, we posed for pictures and got to talk one on one with them. Both Meb and Sarah could not have been nicer or more down to earth. I couldn't believe that we were able to be a part of this.
Meb
Fun facts: I asked Meb what was next for him. While he didn't give specifics here's what he shared:
He has run 24 marathons.
He would like to run 2 more, for a total of 26, in honor of the distance.
He will turn 42 next year, and the marathon distance is 42km. 
Clearly, he is a numbers guy!

Sarah Crouch
Fun fact: Sarah's peak mileage is 160 miles/week!
Sarah's base mileage is about 110 miles/week.
Once she's retired from competitive running, she would like to be a writer.
She writes a blog, Sarah's Running Shorts.
She's really good friends with Tina Muir.
Her goals for the marathon were sub 2:30, 1st American woman.

After the meet and greet, Holly, Sherry, Sharon, and I walked over to the expo. It was closing time, so we didn't get to do any shopping. Holly and I got some dinner and got to know each other better--yep, I knew I'd like her! She has the cutest southern accent too! I can't wait to see her again in December.


Sunday morning, I got up before the sun to get ready to catch the train downtown. Marcia was already onboard and I sprinted to get to the car where she was sitting. We talked spectating strategy. I had already loaded my tracker full of all the runners I wanted to follow. We disembarked and walked a few short blocks to our location at mile 13. There weren't a lot of people spectating yet and we were able to find Erica easily. As soon as we got there, the police escort came through with the elite men! Talk about timing! I had goosebumps seeing them go by. Since this was my first time spectating, I had no idea how exciting it was to be right there where the action was! With the timing clock nearby, we were able to see the group's split time of 1:05-ish! I commented to Marcia that even though they were flying, it didn't look like they were running that fast!

Elite Men
About 5 minute after that group passed by, the elite women came down the hill. For some odd reason, a lot of the runners were staying on the side of the street across from us.

Elite women
Our girl, Sarah Crouch, wasn't in the pack and we were worried something happened to her! But a few minutes later, she came along, running with her husband. He must have been her pacer because he didn't finish the marathon. Who doesn't love that? Even though she didn't meet her 2 goals: sub 2:30 and 1st American woman, she finished strong at 2:33 and 2d American woman, 9th overall woman. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does in the future!


The next runner we started to watch for was Pete B. He's a super speedy local runner, blogger, and all around nice guy. Even though he's 48, he's running times rivaling top runners in their 20s! This year has been epic for him and we were excited to see him try to reach his goal of sub-3. He was came by at about 1:2x and was looking strong when we saw him. That's Erica's arm in the picture--we were all really excited to see him!


Unfortunately, he did not make his goal. In fact, that seemed to be the theme for almost everyone we were tracking. First half of the race-boom; second half--not so much. I haven't really talked with anyone to find out what was different on the second half of the course. Marcia and I did some speculating: the second half of the course is not shaded and in spite of the cool temperatures, the sun was strong. It's also pretty boring. Even though the course is lined with spectators, the second half has less spectators than the first half. Who knows what happened? I'm looking forward to reading everyone's recaps to find out.

We didn't see everyone we wanted to see, but we saw Laura from Fit Running Mama, Sara from Cheesy Running Mom, my high school friend Judy, (who BQ'd--again!) neighbor and Chicago Blackhawks ice crew member Jackie, Sherry from Happy Running Mom, Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC,  Zenaida, and our linkup host Holly from HoHoRuns. We knew she'd be our last runner because she was seeded into the J corral (next to last). She looked great when we saw her, but the bandages on her knees told a different story. I'm sure she'll have a lot more to share, but she told us she fell early in the race. She's not a quitter, though and finished strong! Such an inspiration! All our runners did great, and spoiler alert, they all came in under 5 hours.

Holly, bandages and all! How cute is she?
Here's some of my observations from spectating at mile 13:
-If you want to be inspired, spectate a marathon. We saw so much enthusiasm and joy as the runners ran by. We also saw people who were clearly struggling but just kept moving forward
-There was a guy juggling--and he was in the A corral group. As if running fast wasn't enough for him!
-The costumed runners were fun to see! Lots of superheros passed by. My favorite was Robin, who was quite excited when I shouted out to him.
-We saw runners from many different countries. We knew this because they wear the name of their countries proudly on their shirts. There was an elderly Indian man wearing his turban.
-Runners come in all shapes and sizes. Never judge a runner by their size. 
-A lot of people bandit the Chicago Marathon. We saw multiple bibless runners.
-There were a few runners who clearly jumped the course--there were a few very slow runners that came through early on in the race.
-There were also runners who clearly lined up in the wrong corral--we saw a woman wearing a J bib who came through (slowly) with the As and Bs.
-The biggest crowds line the course as the middle of the packers come through. But the crowds much thinner early in the race as well as towards the time when the BOTPers come through. Being a middle of the packer, I had no idea that happened.
-Some spectators come just for their runner and leave. They expect to stand in front of those who have been lining the street. 
-One woman was next to me on her phone, trying to find a friend. She complained about me ringing my cowbell, that she couldn't hear the person on the phone. I told her we were at a race.

Did I miss running the Chicago Marathon today? I won't lie, as much fun as I had spectating, I did have a little longing to be out there on the course. The conditions were perfect. It was a little anticlimatic leaving after everyone ran by. Will I do Chicago again? It's such a great marathon. I just might have to, depending on how I feel next year.

I love my sport. 

Great job everyone!

Did you run Chicago? How did you do? Was there a mysterious force at work on the second half that made everyone slow down? Have you spectated a marathon before? Any takeaway lessons or observations?

I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, as well as Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness and Food link up! Be sure to congratulate Holly on pushing through to the finish!












110 comments :

  1. Every time I spectate I am afraid I will have FOMO... but when when I'm there I freaking LOVE IT and am so inspired by all the runners. I'm glad you had an awesome weekend! SO FREAKING COOL you got to meet Meb! In all the interviews I have seen of him, he seemed down to earth.

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  2. Oh i'm sad you didn't get to see Lacey run through. She had an awesome race!
    I agree with you that spectating at large races like that is great. It is such an exhilarating feeling. I even shed a few tears as I watched from my couch! Kudos to all the runners! -M

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    1. We looked for Lacey! We missed quite a few runners we hoped to catch. They go by so fast!

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  3. I have not spectated an entire marathon, but have stuck around after finishing the half (or relay)...Boo to the peeps who vacate the premises after they finish instead of cheering for others (#rantover). I LOVE love LOVE seeing the BOTPers come through...they need just as much support (if not MORE) than the faster runners...and they appreciate all the cheering and do not take any high-5's for granted. Wish I could have been there (with my loud cow bell) with you ;-)

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    1. I wish you could have been there too! It was so much fun!

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  4. Wow, sounds like such a great experience! I have spectated parts of marathons and I volunteered at one in high school. So awesome that you got to meet Meb and Sarah!

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    1. What a weekend! I'm still absorbing it all. I love this community.

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  5. Jealous of your meetup with Meb and Sarah!

    I couldn't agree more with all your observations. I have spectated the Honolulu Marathon twice (I guess I'm on an alternating year pattern.) I've seen the elites running in the park the day before and they are so smooth to watch.

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    1. It's always fun to watch an endurance event--and you should never have expectations about the runners. You just never know who's going to show up.

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  6. I have not been a spectator at a marathon (yet) but did stand at the finish line of the final Providence Rock & Roll half marathon to see my friend Sharon finish. She is not an elite runner, starting at age 57, but was the one who convinced me to try it at 59.

    I had no idea how emotional it would be. The music, the crowds, the cheering! I cheered for every finisher, no matter how slow or late and felt joy for each of them. I missed Sharon! She had finished before I was able to get there! Speedy gal, she.

    It was joyful to read the details of your encounter with Meb and Sarah. What a unique and unforgettable experience.

    Reading all the aspects of what you witness at mile 13 made me wish I was by your side.
    Thanks for the vicarious spectating.

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    1. It was so much fun--and if I don't run next year, I'll be there to watch again!

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  7. Hi Wendy! I actually had a 1+ minute PR today (3:44:44). I think a lot of people started way too fast because the weather was great. My coach had me hold back quite a bit for the first few miles which seemed to work well. I saw/passes so many runners from corrals B,C still on Michigan when I was finishing up. One thing I've learned this year is patience is key!

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    1. I'm so sorry I didn't know you were running--I would have looked for you! Great job on your PR! Was it a BQ for you?

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    2. Nope. I had a failed attempt 2 weeks ago in Berlin. This race was a little bit of redemption. Next year, it's on!

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    3. Sorry to hear that! I wouldn't mind a BQ next year...

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    4. No promises, but if it happens, you know I'm all over it!

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  8. What a great day! I can't imagine the pressure the professional runners have over a race. We all know that so much can happen to interfere with our goals! Meb is awesome - I love his number goals!

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    1. Me too! You know I love me some numbers--he was speaking my language!

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  9. Do you follow Heather from Girl Goes Running?? She had a big PR today :)
    I was so sad Holly fell, but so impressed with how strong she finished. I am even more excited for December and I feel very grateful we will have some good hang out time :)
    Geeeesh, Sarah! I can not imagine covering that many miles so fast.

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  10. Wow. You met Meb. How cool.

    Some great observations. I have never watched a marathon. I have spectated a local half. And it was great. What a different perspective.

    I may watch NYC but not sure if I will still be in town.

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    1. It's worth it if you get a chance! I'd like to be at mile 25, just to compare.

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  11. Looks like you had such a fun weekend! Spectating is fun and it's great to see things from the other side too.

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    1. It was a lot of fun, and the runners appreciated the support!

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  12. Now you know why the blogger press box has become a tradition.:) As I see it, none of us runs a marathon in a vacuum. It's very much a team effort. The fans that came and went as we watched at 13 were no doubt following their runner around the racecourse. It's just so darn special to witness people do something they've spent months working so hard for, and digging deep, and succeeding!

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    1. So much inspiration! I enjoyed spending the day with you, too!

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  13. What an incredible experience to get to see both elite runners as well as the everyday average runners who pour everything they have into training for these races! Great recap...thanks for sharing!

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    1. Because at the end, we're all runners, right?

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  14. What an awesome experience and I loved reading every word! I have to say that I get really angry about bad runner behavior - bandits, etc. Why do people do that??? Equally frustrating? Bad spectator behavior! I do love spectating though and really should do it more often :)

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  15. INCREDIBLE that you met Meb. What a gift! I love it! I had never spectated a race before until I helped Andrew finish his first marathon and honestly, watching him do that was mind-blowing and so rewarding and so exciting for me! I'd be happy to stop racing and spectate from now on. Except... he doesn't run anymore. :P

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    1. I don't know if I'd go that far...I had a little bit of longing to be out there on the course!

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  16. I spectate Paris every year (mile 11 goes by 5 minutes from my house). I love it. Everyone has their name and country on their bib and I always shout out for the Americans and the ladies.
    So much fun that you got to see so many people you know. And the night with Meb ? So cool !

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    1. Oh how fun to have the marathon go so close to your home! Getting downtown to the Chicago Marathon is a pretty big effort. But totally worth it!

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  17. I absolutely loved seeing that picture of you and Men! What an amazing event to be a part of!!
    I think it would be very hard to be a spectator but you cheered like a boss and actually made it sound really fun. It's also cool to get the perspective of different parts of the pack since, we only have the one we're always running with! Loved this and maybe, just maybe I'll get to run Chicago someday...

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    1. Oh, I'd love that! And so would you. What a great race, and I can see why it's so popular!

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  18. This this this is exactly why I spectated the Pittsburgh Marathon every year I lived there. The tenacity the grit the digging deep and pushing through – – I'm not a runner but that spirit inspired me in so many facets of my life!!!

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    1. That's exactly right--if you are looking for inspiration, go spectate a marathon!

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  19. I know the 13 mile cheering section well--they were AMAZING to see when I was running last year! I was sad to miss the meet up with Meb and Sarah, but it is really really difficult to be in two states at once. Who would have thought?

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    1. We were surprised you weren't there! It was really last minute though, and I was grateful to be able to swing it.

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  20. The Facebook UCAN things sounds fun, and it gives me the shivers thinking of that much traffic. I get annoyed at Billings traffic. Spectating can be a lot of fun I agree, although I seem to usually prefer running, but it is so much fun to cheer on friends.

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    1. Chicago traffic is not for the faint of heart! Especially on a Friday night. And it's both ways, going in and out of the city. If I could have taken public transportation, I would have.

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  21. Spectating is so inspiring! I love that you got to chat with Meb beforehand and Sarah, and then watch them fly by. This was a good reminder that I need to spectate more often!

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    1. Meb didn't run, just Sarah! But he was everywhere, greeting runners all weekend long.

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  22. I love this! So awesome that you got to meet Holly and see so many other from the blogging community!! I enjoyed reading all of your observations while spectating. The Maine Marathon route goes right by our house (mile 16), so if I'm not running, I always spectate than regret that I'm not running!! However, it is so fun to see people and give them a boost. Thanks so much for linking up with us!!

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    1. I really enjoyed being on the sidelines this time!

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  23. So great... this entire post. I have been doing some negotiating with myself. I think that I probably should not run LA in March after doing NYC in November... my body will need a break. But if I don't run LA, then I will do some volunteering there and also would like to help run someone in from mile 20 on... I think that would be a great alternative way to experience it... will see.

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    1. That's exactly what I did this year--after Big Sur in April and Chicago last October, I decided not to do Chicago again to give my body a break. I'm feeling good now and ready to commit to something again.

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  24. What a neat treat to get to meet Meb! I love him. And I agree with you, spectating can be really fun, if you plan on doing that from the beginning (instead of being forced to because of an injury).

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    1. I wouldn't mind spectating because of injury--I've done that before and I enjoyed the experience.

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  25. I have been a spectator of the Philly Marathon a couple of times. The first time I did it it was such an amazing experience and super inspiring! As you know, it means a lot to have supporters out there while you're racing. Sorry to hear about Holly! I heard some people got PR's while others may have struggled. I hope to be able to run this race one day!

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    1. I do love having crowd support when I run--it was fun to see how the runners responded to it. Some of the runners tried to fire up the crowd as well!

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  26. Spectating is a lot of fun. I spectated Boston a couple times since the course goes right through my old hometown. I did watch Chicago on TV a little bit yesterday morning before my run. I was going to run anyway, but was inspired even more.

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  27. I've spectated at the finish of the half for our big local marathon (which was also yesterday). In the past, that is, not yesterday. It's definitely fun when you know people running it!

    A bit green at you guys with Meb & Sarah . . . very cool!

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  28. I had a lot of stuff going on with this marathon that I have never been too, nor tried to get into. Of course my friend was running there and there were so many virtual friends I'd love to have the chance to meet! I was glad I was not running in it just because of the conditions I'd had to train in but I was very disappointed I could not be there. I tried I really did, but I could not make it happen. I'm so glad yall had fun!

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    1. We really had fun! It was great to meet Holly too!

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  29. How awesome to meet Meb and Sarah!

    Sounds like you had a great time spectating, and how awesome to be able to meet and cheer on blogger friends in person!

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    1. I feel so fortunate that I was able to meet everyone!

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  30. I've been a spectator a few times in Pilsen and have had a great time!! My favorite part is watching the elite runners pass by and I agree that despite moving fast it does not look like they are.

    I was doing great for 11 miles and then my hip began to bother. Honestly, when I saw you and Marcia (great job on the smiley face cause that is how I found you) I was thinking of dropping out. I was in tears. By mile 16 I realized that I only had 10 miles left and to just get it done. Glad I did.

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    1. I'm so glad you didn't drop out! You looked great when you came through. I hope you're feeling better.

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  31. I've spectated at the NYC marathon for the last 2 years, and it's always a fun time! The jugglers always amaze me. I once saw a guy juggle-bouncing basketballs while running the marathon. Spectating is a blast, but I'm excited to be in the race this year :)

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  32. What an experience...meeting Meb and spectating such a big race! A friend of mine was running and snagged a big PB (3:31ish to 3:23!!!).

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    1. Awesome for your friend! There were a lot of PRs yesterday--the conditions were amazing.

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  33. what a fun run! Looks like you enjoyed yourself :D

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  34. What an incredible experience, first talking to Meb and then cheering on all the runners. It's a great marathon and it looks like they had a great day for it.

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  35. What a great experience- I am so jealous! I text Marcia a couple of times on Sunday- I will never run a marathon but spectating looks like tons of fun! Thanks for sharing with us!

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  36. I've gone to several marathons and halfs to cheer for friends. SO very different from running it but for those moments you cheer or run alongside your buddies it's magic.

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  37. Oh wow what an exciting time for you even though you didn't run the marathon! How awesome was it to be part of a small meet and greet with two elite marathoners! I love Meb - he's such a wonderful guy. Chicago is on my list for next year - cross my fingers I get in the lottery!

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    1. I've run Chicago 3 times and I'd love to do it again. It's just a wonderful race, in so many ways.

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  38. Wendy - it was so fun when you and Meb popped up on my screen on Instagram. I couldn't believe my eyes! Plus HoHo, Marcia and you and the rest of the gang! I just loved it! You all looked great, too! I'm sure this was one fun-filled weekend!
    It really is interesting to watch a marathon from the sidelines. Even though as an avid runner that's hard to do, right? Chicago is definitely a marathon I would love to run. Thanks for recapping it for us!

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    1. It was such a fun weekend and it was hard to come back to reality! You should consider running Chicago. It's a great event.

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  39. I would love to run Chicago one day. I spectated at the NYC Marathon last year when I got injured and it was amazing. I did wish I was running, but the next best thing was spectating!!!!

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    1. But this year's race will be that much sweeter, right?

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  40. How much fun! I went to spectate our local marathon a few years ago and I really enjoyed it too. It's so much fun to encourage other runners who have put their heart into the race. SO cool you met Meb too.

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  41. How awesome that you got to be part of such an intimate group gathering with Meb. And I agree, spectating a race is a very powerful experience. Heck, I was motivated to start running after I watched my husband complete his first marathon.

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  42. Wow!! You had an amazing weekend!! Meeting Meb!! that is way cool!! I really loved seeing all of the pictures from all of you!!

    I'm sure you made a huge difference for those runners!

    I have only spectated a Half marathon, and that was amazing ! But I have to admit that it is really hard to come up with a creative poster !

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    1. I don't know about huge difference, but I as a runner, I do love the spectators!

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  43. That must have been cool seeing the elites pass by! I think you mixed me and Sharon up during the race. I think I saw you guys but you didn't see me. I tried to get your attention while I zoomed by but I'm sure it was hard to hear. I'm so glad we got to meet on Friday! I still can't believe we got to meet Meb and Sarah in such an intimate setting! :)

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    1. Oh man! Hopefully I'm not the first person to mix you guys up...

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  44. LOVE this recap. I've spectated Chicago several times, and it always inspires me. I sadly had to watch from my computer here at work on Sunday, and I could feel the pang of sadness as I miss running/training/racing so very much. I just may put my name in the hat for next year. We shall see!

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  45. Nice job Wendy! I have only watched the marathon on tv. I have won over a hundred races mostly small, some medium and and 2 with over 1,0000 runners and this past Saturday I got a 2nd place finish at a club race in Worcester run by a CMS. The problem with the marathon is that my best event is the 400 meter on the track. Another problem is I that I actually hate to say this because it just sounds so horrible but I can't stomach a lot of runners beating me. I can't. That would actually hurt. Maybe when I get a lil older and mature.

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    1. I hate to break it to you, but winning a marathon is going to be tough. So maybe you shouldn't run one....

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  46. I can't tell you what it meant to me to see you and Marcia there. I was so shaken up and just trying to hold it together for you guys when the sight of you two was honestly moving me to tears. I so enjoyed meeting you, although I felt like we've known each other for years. (Thanks for being my cab driver too.) What an incredible weekend it was. I can't wait until we have even more time in December. Thanks for linking, Wendy.

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    1. I wouldn't have missed meeting you for the world! If only we'd known that your sister couldn't make it...I would have spent more time with you. I'm glad you made the most of your time in Chicago. And I'm so so so looking forward to December!

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  47. What a fantastic recap! I haven't run Chicago but I know tons of people that do. Maybe I should try in 2017... we'll see. :)

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    1. Don't wait too long--registration for the lottery opens November 1!

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  48. You had the weekend of any runner's dreams! How cool that you got to hang out with Meb and Sarah, meet Sharon, HoHo, and Sherry, see so many of our fellow running bloggers on the course, and spectate with Erica and Marcia. I met Meb at RnR San Antonio last year and he is the most humble, down to earth man, ever. Such an inspiration! I am bummed that I missed all of the festivities this past weekend but it looks like you all represented like a boss!!!

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    1. I missed you this year! It was so fun!

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  49. It was so great seeing you on the course and also at the Meb/Sarah meet and greet!! Yes, it was me that saw you guys and people mix us up all the time. :) Thanks for spectating and cheering all the runners on! My theory on why so many did bad on the second half of the run is our gps watches were way off in the city and sometimes saying we were running slower like 11 min miles when we were actually going faster. It was hard to gauge our paces due to that and it probably burned us out by mile 20. Least that's what I think happened to me.

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    1. Maybe so--that Garmin thing is tough on the mental game. Glad we got to meet and that I saw you on the course!

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  50. I have a hard time being on the sidelines at a race but I bet it was a blast! How cool that you got to meet and chat with Meb and Sarah Crouch. Sarah Crouch is one speedy lady and Meb is just awesome!

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    1. I thought it would be hard for me but having run this one 3 times, I found it exhilarating! It was fun to see all the athletes come through, from the elites to the BOTPers.

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  51. I've never been on the cheering side of a marathon, but it sounds like you had so much fun!

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  52. Thanks for being there - I love race spectating and it was great to see you out there!

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