Races, Reviews

Chicago Marathon: What to do race weekend

What should I do before and after the Chicago Marathon?

Chicago is a great city, with so much to offer!  As you may know, I was born and raised in Chicago.  I love going back to my hometown to run the Chicago Marathon.  With so much to do, how do you decide?

Before the Chicago Marathon

  1. Expo first!  This is a large marathon and everyone will be going to the expo to pick up their race bibs.  Get there as early as possible.  Packet pickup is pretty painless, but be prepared to wait in a VERY long line if you want to purchase anything from the Nike booth.
  2. Stay off your feet.  It’s tempting to enjoy the walkability of Chicago, but you’ll need fresh legs for the 26.2 miles ahead of you.  Riding the “L” is a great way to check out the city, without walking.  I recommend hopping on the Brown Line from downtown, and heading to Kimball (the end of the line).  From there, you can hop on a train going the opposite direction and go back to your original stop.
    Chicago Brown Line Station

    You won’t get lost, and it’s only $2.50.  You’ll experience “real Chicago” and get out of the downtown area.  You don’t even have to get off the train; just enjoy the treelined streets.  Another great pre-race option is do a riverboat tour.  You’ll see the iconic buildings that line the Chicago River, and listen to some interesting back stories.

    Chicago Riverboat Tour
  3. Where to carbo load? Every Italian restaurant will be crazy busy.  You need to make a reservation if you want to go the traditional route.  Last year, we had good luck booking a table for four at Maggiano’s.  If you want to go off the beaten path, and like to carbo load with rice and noodles, head to Chinatown.  It’s a quick train ride from downtown (take the Red Line south to the Chinatown stop).  I haven’t been to Chinatown for a long time, so I don’t have a specific restaurant to recommend.  Thank God for Yelp!

    Chicago Chinatown at night

After the Chicago Marathon

  1. Walk it off!  There is so much to do in Chicago, now is when you get to enjoy all the city has to offer.  If you like museums, you will love any of Chicago’s museum options.  The museum campus, which is where The Museum of Science and Industry, The Field Museum, The Aquarium, and The Planetarium are was originally built for the World’s Fair.  These buildings themselves are amazing to see, let alone all of the awesomeness that awaits you inside.  If you like art, The Art Institute is a must!  I try to visit an art museum whenever I travel to a new city and the Art Institute is still my favorite.

    Chicago’s Field Museum
  2. Leave downtown.  Yes, Chicago can be a dangerous city, but you shouldn’t be afraid to explore our great neighborhoods.  Like any major city, travel with your wits about you and you’ll be fine.  As a rule of thumb, neighborhoods that line the lake front are pretty safe.  If you can only visit one neighborhood, head to Wrigleyville.  Even if the Cubs aren’t playing, there is plenty to do with local bars and restaurants lining the streets.  It’s also a tourist-friendly neighborhood.

    Wrigley Field

I hope this little list helped you plan your marathon weekend.  Chicago is a great city and the Chicago Marathon is one of my favorites.  You are going to have a blast!

To check out my mile-by-mile race recap, click HERE

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