The morning of Sunday, October 8th, 2023, was sunny, crisp, and cold, near-perfect conditions for several Striders who had descended on Grant Park to take on the Chicago Marathon. For some, it was their first-ever marathon, and for others, it was a chance for redemption, a personal record, or even just one more medal to add to the display racks. Here’s what the Striders had to say about their experiences running in the Windy City! Congratulations everyone!!
“The Chicago Marathon was such an amazing journey. Prepping for it varies, depending on a person’s ability and schedule. I raised money for the Chicago Park Foundation, which is a great cause. The whole atmosphere of doing a Major really is out of this world. Flying into Chicago was a breeze, and getting to the expo was easy. Seeing everyone there around me and running with over 48,500 other people is truly emotional and gave me motivation to keep on going. The start of the race is where the 26.2-mile journey begins, and everyone there had the grit to do it. My wave started at 8:00 AM, but it took me 10 minutes to get across the start line. The atmosphere in the crowds carried me every step of the way. The miles flew by very quickly as I passed through 29 towns, and running the route was very eye-opening, because we got to see what makes up this great city. Once I hit mile 13, I felt I was doing well, and later at mile 25, I knew I was going to get a personal best. Within the last mile of the race, I probably passed 600 people. That's how amazing the field was, and how strong everyone was. After making that last turn, the race was in the books and the finish line was in sight: 0.2 miles to go. The afterparty was amazing and I'm very grateful that I got the opportunity to run this race, so much so that I might do Chicago again next year. Shaving 26 minutes off my previous marathon is a lot and I'm so glad that I had the training and motivation to push forward and not stop. All those things helped me finish in 3:56:28. I am very happy with that and I wear my medal with pride. My next goal is to finish under 3:30 or close to it. Chicago didn’t let me down and I am very impressed with and so proud of the other MVSers that did the race with me.” –Eli Abbott
“The energy of the crowd was wonderful. People lined the streets and were out for the duration of the event, even for a back-of-the-pack runner like myself. The weather was textbook perfect with slightly cloudy skies and temps in the 40's to start and 50's to end. Couldn't have asked for a better day. Highly recommend this marathon to anyone considering Chicago. Also, the "Skyline Hospitality Tent" is a must-do, it made the morning so much easier logistically.” –Ed Burke
“The Chicago Marathon is done. It was my 2nd time running this amazing race. The weather was great, it was a cold but clear fall day, perfect for running. I was in wave 2 corral F; my wave started 8:00 AM sharp. It was a journey to run through this amazing city’s various neighborhoods with 50,000 other runners. There is always something I can learn from a marathon: this time, about carb loading. I had loaded too much and a little late the day before, I felt stuffed on Sunday morning. I was hoping it would get better while I was running, but it got worse instead. The first half was fine, but my stomach began feel heavy after mile 15. Because I was so full and not able to take in water, my body started to dehydrate. This struggle got a little better after mile 22. I was able to pick up a little pace for the last few miles and managed to finish. Overall, the experience was still exciting and full of enjoyment and enthusiasm. It was special that my older son was able to catch me on the course multiple times. That was an encouragement for me to push through the physical discomfort. No matter what, it is 26.2 miles of running, and there are always some struggles and discomforts here and there, but the memory of the fun of racing keeps us pushing forward.” –Lanshan Cao
“My journey to the Chicago Marathon began in October 2021 when I ran the Boston Marathon with the hope of beating 3 hours but ran 3:00:16 instead. Because of this, I registered to run Boston again in April 2022, even though I did not initially intend to run a marathon that spring, and I beat 3 hours! I also finished the New York City Marathon in November 2022, and my combined performances from these 2 marathons were good enough to get me into the 2023 Age Group World Championships at the Chicago Marathon! Essentially, running the Chicago Marathon in 2023 was a happy accident that resulted from an earlier mistake. Chicago does not feel as much like a big city as it does a collection of small and charming villages, each with its own distinct identity. The marathon course goes through 29 of these neighborhoods and each one considers the marathon to be a big deal. Whether I was in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, or the West Loop, locals would say "Hey, the course goes right by us!" Even in the northern bit of Lakeview, the turnaround at Sheridan Road, the furthest point of the marathon course from Grant Park, there were loads of people cheering on the sidelines! With the way the course is laid out, I would not be surprised if some particularly passionate fans managed to cheer in multiple locations! Of course, running in the Age Group World Championships was an amazing experience! It's an honor just to get invited to something like this, plus we had our own heated VIP tent both before and after the race, and I got to spend time with some fantastic athletes from around the world! Because I had some difficulty during this training cycle, I decided to pay more attention to my heart rate than to my distance splits. Playing it safe when the soreness and fatigue set in still got me below 2:58 and a new PR. I consider that a success!” –Bryan Carnahan
“Chicago was my fifth marathon, and my fifth Abbott World Major Star. I’d just run the Berlin Marathon two weeks before, earning my fourth Star. I knew it was a tall order to run a second marathon in so short a time afterwards, but I was going to give it all I had nonetheless. I knew I needed to be careful: see what I could do, without seeing what I could overdo. Having not fully recovered after Berlin, my body was fighting the whole way, especially after the halfway point. At around Mile 15.5, I decided I couldn't push myself any harder and I began to Galloway-Method the rest of the race. The thought of giving up crossed my mind several times during the second half because I was so sore, but I said to myself, "NO. You've gone too far to quit now. You're here, and you have to finish this. Giving up is NOT an option." And so, I willed myself to keep going. When I saw the signs that said, "1 Mile To Go," I started to get my last push of adrenaline. I was grateful when the finish line came into view after climbing the Roosevelt Overpass with 200m remaining. It hadn’t been easy, but I pushed myself over the finish line in 5:01:50. If I ever run Chicago again (which I’m sure I will someday), I’ll try to take in my surroundings more, hope for similar sunny-yet-cool weather, and make sure I’m ready and haven’t run another marathon two weeks prior. Like Berlin, I ran Chicago in honor of our friend Makarand…I hope I, and all of us who ran Chicago, made him proud, and I hope he is smiling.” –Julia Hardy
“My first ever Marathon: the 45th Bank of America Chicago Marathon. In February 2021, I never wanted to run more than 5K. But then, Silvino Ferreira invited me to join him and his “MVS Pod Squad,” which met every Sunday, and increased my distance beyond every week. In September 2021, I ran my first ever half-marathon, and then ran three more before March 2023, thanks to the Pod Squad and their encouragement. My friends Amanda and Shane Smith convinced me in May 2023 that I “can” and “will” run a marathon, and my friend Makarand Joshi said that the Chicago Marathon was his first marathon, and encouraged me to go ahead and run it, telling me I had the capability. My brother-in-law, Bharat Thyagarajan, and I raised funds for Autism Speaks as Team “26Before52” to get a bib for the Chicago Marathon. With exactly 16 weeks until the marathon, I found a running coach, Carmela Taveras, who worked with me through my training plan. About 3 weeks into it, I lost my dear friend Makarand under tragic circumstances, and I dedicated my first marathon to him with the blessings and permission of his wife and my friend Shilpa. Every training run for the rest of the cycle, I thought about Mak, and made sure to do everything in my power to make him proud of me. On the day of the marathon, the weather in Chicago couldn’t have been more perfect: sunny, cool, and no wind chill. I was in Corral K, with a start time of 8:35 AM, and I embarked on my 26.2 miles with my brother-in-law in tandem. For the first half, I took it slow and controlled. Everything was going as planned, and I felt strong. They say you hit a wall at mile 18; for me it was more than that! Both my quads cramped at the same time. It kept getting worse, I had to slow down, and I was in tears, but I kept going. What did I do wrong? Why did I not get quad cramps during my training? These questions almost made me want to quit, but I don’t quit. I never have, and I never will! The cramps stopped at mile 25.5, and I ran the last 0.7 miles like I was running a 5K. Crossing the finish line was exhilarating and so satisfying. I finished in 5:05, which was about 20 minutes slower than what I thought I was capable of, but I finished, and the feeling of finishing my first-ever marathon, with my family cheering me in Chicago, my friends tracking me on the app, and Makarand watching me from above, was something that I will never forget. The experience and memory of the race will remain with me forever. Did I say that I will never run another marathon? We will see!” –Sushil Motwani
“I DID IT! Chicago was an amazing time. Weirdly enough, my nerves weren’t as bad as I thought. The closer I got to the day, the more excited I got to cross that start line. Running the Chicago 5k the day before really helped with some of the jitters. The weather was perfect besides getting a little warmer towards the end. Standing in the crowd at the start line with thousands of other runners really does give you such an adrenaline rush. I was lucky enough to run the whole course with my amazing friend Mikaela. It’s her fault I even signed up for a marathon, haha (thanks Mik!); we ran, we talked, we danced, we stopped for pictures with our friends and family and just enjoyed the whole thing. I soaked it all in, all the spectators rooting for you, giving you candy, tissues, Vaseline, beers, shots and more. I’ve never seen anything like it. The hilarious signs, from “you run better than our government” to “don’t trust your farts”, had me laughing the whole way. I was nervous about the hill at mile 26 that some people mentioned but I honestly didn’t feel it. Like Maura said, “Chicago had bumps,” and I’ll take bumps over hills any day. Crossing that finish line felt very empowering and crossing it with my friend made it more special. I will definitely be running Chicago again and looking for that PR!” –Yaira Nunez
“Chicago was perfect weather to run; I was glad for warm clothes in gear check bag. The excitement built in walking the mile to the starting line with each intersection bringing hundreds more runners into the parade until there were thousands at the check-in gate. Though I was told the marathon course was almost all flat (except that mountain at end), I never experienced this and it was challenging. I ran well, except I just did not have the legs at the end. In walking about the city beforehand, which reminds me so much of Boston with the river running through it next to the ocean, I noticed that most Marathon jackets worn were from the B.A.A. races. The spectators are able to watch from multiple locations, but to get there, some do cross in front of the runners. I enjoyed catching up with some of the MVS runners and met many members of the Boston Buddies. Okay, on to Tokyo for my 5th. I just did the math and realized training starts in a few weeks.” –Andrew Szendey
“Chicago: my redemption marathon! I had run Chicago in 2017 as my first marathon and made every single rookie mistake; plus, it was HOT. But I finished it and wanted to see how I could improve. Chicago 2023 was marathon #15. This time I was participating as part of the Abbott Age Group Championship, something I had only dreamed of doing. That in itself was amazing: being with the best of the best before and after the race and having a Wave 1 start. I also had a more rigorous training cycle and had learned a lot about fueling during training and the race. The weather stars aligned, and I had a great race, finishing almost exactly 38 minutes faster than my first Chicago.” –Maura Szendey
Congratulations also to Tom Dolan, Sal Ferreira, Laurie LaVallee, Mikaela Reynolds, Judy Graham-Garcia, Sandra Wood Lehane and Claudia Soo Hoo!