The excitement of Chicago Marathon weekend kicked off one week ago today. After one last visit to the chiropractor before the race, we headed to the airport for a lunch time flight to Chicago. At the airport it was clear that there were lots of other runners on our flight. Between seeing other people wearing race shirts and jackets from other races, and seeing others carrying foam rollers in their arms, you could feel the excitement of the race in the terminal at Reagan.
We arrived at Midway around 1pm, and after a short wait for my parents, who also joined us in Chicago for the weekend, we were on our way. We had planned for them to drop me off at the expo at McCormick Place on their way downtown to the hotel, and during our drive I excitedly texted my friend Kathleen, who was at the expo waiting to meet up with me.
Walking into McCormick Place, I could tell that the Chicago Marathon expo would be different than other expos that I have been to. Between the sheer number of people and all of the race decor, as well as the excitement that you could feel resonating through the air, I could tell that this was going to be an expo experience like no other, and it did not disappoint.
My first stop was packet pickup, where I received my bib and other race credentials. Just outside the entrance to the expo itself was a monitor displaying the video of the course, which was exciting to watch while holding my bib. After watching the video for a few minutes we walked into the expo.
The Chicago Marathon expo was by far the largest race expo that I have ever been to. Kathleen and I spent just under two hours wandering the expo floor, visiting numerous vendors including Asics, Brooks, Fleet Feet, North Face, Sparkly Soul, and Sweaty Bands. It was fun to be able to see all of the different brands’ Chicago merchandise, although by mid afternoon a lot of merchandise was already gone. Kathleen had arrived at the expo when it first opened that morning, and said that there was a much wider variety of Chicago specific merchandise available at the vendors when she first arrived. I wasn’t too disappointed, though I did find it interesting that after only being open for a couple of hours, and with another full day the next day, that some vendors were already starting to run out of their merchandise.
One of the booths where we spent quite a bit of time was the Ronald McDonald House Charities booth. Since I ran Chicago with Team RMHC, this was a necessary stop in order for me to check in with them and receive my access sticker to the RMHC tent. I also picked up support crew shirts for my family.
I found the expo itself to be quite organized. The participant bag and t-shirt pickup lined the far back wall of the itself. Although some might have seen it as an inconvenience to walk the entire length of the expo floor in order to get to it, by taking up an entire wall at McCormick Place allowed for there to be plenty of space in between the lines for each shirt size, and it didn’t feel crowded whatsoever. In the back corner I also picked up my official race poster.
Prior to leaving the expo we made a stop at the Nike area, which was the official merchandise for the race. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed in the merchandise options for this race, and liked the other vendors’ shirts a lot better. However, I knew that I would kick myself if I didn’t pick up at least one official item to commemorate my first marathon, and decided on a blue tank with the 40th anniversary race logo on it. I know that I will get a lot of use out of it and that it wasn’t a waste of money, or just “settling” on something to buy.
As we walked the expo floor we took advantage of all of the photo ops. It was a fun way to get excited for the race itself.
After spending just under two hours at the expo, we called it a day. Kathleen and I said our goodbyes and I headed downstairs to catch the free shuttle downtown. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, and then the twenty minute ride on a school bus, I was dropped off just behind the Niketown store on Michigan Avenue, which was right around the corner from our hotel. I met up with my family who had already checked into the hotel, headed out to dinner, and afterwards called it an early night. I was exhausted, but excited about being less than 48 hours away from running my first marathon!
QOTD: What is your favorite thing about race expos?