Marathon Madness: The Essentials in Traveling for the Chicago Marathon

May 27, 2012

This is a guest post by Maire.

When you’ve set your eyes on running a marathon, you may as well go big or go home. The Chicago Marathon is the second biggest marathon in the United States, behind the New York Marathon. Although this means you’ll get to participate in a high-energy event, traveling to a destination marathon also presents some logistical considerations. From packing all the right stuff to eating well before the race and booking a room in one of the crowded Chicago hotels, you’ll need to consider many factors to plan for a successful trip for the marathon.

Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon Registration

The Chicago Marathon happens every October, with the 2012 race set for October 7. However, you’ll have to register well in advance of that date, as registration closes when the participant cap is reached. Therefore, ensure that you have a confirmed registration before you plan any travel accommodations for the weekend. Since the marathon’s start in 1977, it has exhibited a steady growth that makes it one of the most popular marathons in the world today.

Travel and Accommodations

When you’re traveling by plane, plan to arrive early on the day before the marathon, or potentially even two days before. You wouldn’t want your flight to be delayed, putting you into Chicago late the day before the marathon. Chicago has two huge airports, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a flight into the city. Many organizations specialize in marathon travel and can offer assistance with booking your trip to Chicago.

You’ll want to book a hotel well in advance of the marathon because they fill up quickly. The Hilton Chicago is the official hotel for the marathon, and its location right next to Grant Park makes it an ideal choice. The only other hotel that is located less than a mile from both the start and finish lines is the Westin Chicago River North. If you’re looking for something close to the start line, other options are Palmer House, Hotel Burnham, Hotel Monaco, Embassy Suites Chicago and Sheraton Chicago. Because of the location of the finish line, you’ll have to walk back out of the park past the start line to get to most hotels.

Packing for the Marathon

If you’re flying to Chicago, you’ll want to make sure all of your essentials are with you in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost in transit. Put your running shoes, socks and clothing in the bag. Expect a low around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a high around 65. Unless you have someone traveling with you, bring a cheap long-sleeved shirt and pair of sweatpants to wear in the morning to keep warm and throw away before the race. Other items to pack include a race belt and the race tools you’ve been training with such as your watch, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Eating in Chicago

As a runner, you know how important it is to properly fuel your body before heading out for 26.2 miles of feet on pavement. Loading up on carbohydrates the night before the race gives you the energy you need, and one of the best places to get them is the Hilton Chicago Pasta Dinner Buffet the evening before the race. Some other good Italian restaurants include Scoozi and Maggiano’s.

On race day, good breakfast options include a bagel with peanut butter, cereal with milk or a piece of fruit and an energy bar. Make sure to drink at least 16 oz. of fluids in the morning, but avoid caffeine and don’t drink more than 8 oz. in the hour before the race begins. The race organizers provide Gatorade at many stations along the race course and bananas and energy gel in the later miles.

Enjoying Your Trip

In the midst of all of the logistics for traveling for the Chicago Marathon, make sure you give yourself room to enjoy the trip. The route goes through some of the most famous areas of the city, and there’s lots of fun stuff to do in the afternoon and evening following the race!

Good luck!

photo by: leduardo

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