I've started watching course previews online and have had some great tips from friends, you (my blogging friends!), and countless others. Here are some of them:

  • Stay within yourself for the first part of the race. There are tons of spectators and so much excitement along the course it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. 

  • Tangents are key

  • Your garmin will lose satellite between the buildings and a pretty good side bridge overpass.  Best to just rely on the time only at the mile markers. Yikes!!
  • Beware of miles 21-25. The south side has fewer spectators. Pre-named "Porath's Pasture" (see post here, fast forward to the Cow pictures)
  • If it's a hot day like 2010, there will be sponges. They weren't on both sides like the water/powerade when they have them. 
  • When you are running the bridges, watch out for these metal grates:  It's spaced wide enough for me to feel them through my shoes.  They do lay mats over these grates on a lane one side of the road (right side if I remember). 

  • The second half of the course is supposedly faster than the first.  Any veterans of the course that can confirm? It doesn’t have as many turns and you can take advantage of the straightaways.

  • You’ll cross a river at half way which will be lined deep with people. It’s known as the “gateway” to the second half of the marathon.

  • Just past mile 23, you turn on Michigan Avenue and it’s a straight shot to the finish line.

  • The one block on Roosevelt before turning to the finish on Columbus is a "hill". It's just an overpass but it's at mile 26. Good to know it's there beforehand.
  • As for getting around Chicago, it sounds like the subway will work well. Apparently there’s a 3 day pass, so maybe we’ll look into that. 

  • I've been told that Pizza Pot Pie is a place to check out - any other recommendations? Oh, gosh... I can't wait for that celebratory post-marathon meal!

Guess I usually go for a greasy cheeseburger and fries post-marathon - think this would be as satisfying? Guess I am in Chicago... and Chicago is known for their pizza... but I am a creature of habit :)

I also look through past results (2012 here). There will obviously be a larger group of women near that 2:40ish mark this year as I’m sure a lot of other women will be targeting Chicago to get their qualifier. I know two from MN already and am really excited to see them there and work with them!

Any course, travel or other tips from readers???

Nichole Porath

Nichole is a blogger, elite level runner, and coach. She ran professionally for Brooks for two years after qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. During that time she founded TNC endurance, where she coaches and motivationally speaks to organizations large and small. This blog details her rise to national-level racing, and continues to follow her as she gets back into racing after starting a family. Read on, friends!


  1. The wind can do weird things off the lake and swirl a bit among the tall buildings. The packs that form in Chicago are fantastically large, so take advantage. Let other people take the wind, especially if you're small and likely to be blown around more.

    South side of the course is distinctly lacking in trees, so while the tangents are important, be aware of shade issues if it's a warmer day. Buildings are tall enough on many of the south side streets to give shade nearer the sidewalk if you need it.

    Speed of the second half, I think, depends on the wind. Prevailing wind is a northerly, so if you are running into that from 23-26 that's not fun.

  2. Good advice via email:
    The eL is easy to use for getting around but race morning you may want a cab just to drop you off as close as you can get. It’s not uncommon for trains to get stuck and I know it’s unlikely to happen but the last thing you want is to be stuck on a train trying to get to the start. At least if a cab gets stuck in traffic you can always get out. When a train is stuck, you are stuck.

    About that post-race food. Chicago pizza is a love/hate thing. You will love it or hate it. If you are big into crust and cheese, it’s worth it and will be a satisfying post-race meal. If you like authentic pizza (think wood oven pizza) or NY style pizza, you won’t like Chicago pizza. Pizza Grinders is a good place for a pizza pot pie as opposed to Lou Malnatis classic Chicago pizza. There are AMAZING restaurants in Chicago of all kinds. I would go for the burger and got to Kuma’s Corner!!! DMK Burger bar is also good but Kuma’s is the best in the city.

  3. Great blog post! I felt like a visitor in my own city, as I saw it through your eyes. You definitely hit a lot of great places! I just signed my husband and I up for the architecture tour - can't wait!
    "Chicago IT"