An Open Letter to the City of Chicago

Dear City of Chicago,

Chicago Skyline from Amtrak {First glance of the Windy City from our Amtrak train window}

You held a little event this past week, the 35th Annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Obviously, you guys have been doing this deal a long time and have it down to a science.  You anticipated the crowds, the tourists, the lines and the strain on transportation.    You were ready for us on Columbus Day weekend.  But I wasn’t ready for you.

chicago marathon expochicago marathon expo start#ownchicagoChicago Marathon Expo Startchicago marathon name boardThis was my first marathon.  Not my first CHICAGO marathon, but my first time ever running 26.2 miles.  Needless to say, I was a little pukey and testy with nerves.  Just ask Husband – I’m lucky he didn’t shove me off the train 30 miles outside of Kansas City. 

From the minute I stepped foot in Union Station on Saturday, I was overwhelmed.  From the train conductors, bus drivers, police officers, store employees, hotel managers and EXPO volunteers, you all acted as if this was the FIRST Chicago Marathon.  As if having almost 2 million people take over your city wasn’t an annoyance, but a privilege.  I can’t tell you how many times a city employee – a stranger – asked “Are you running this weekend? Oh, how great!!! Where are you from? Have an amazing time, and good luck to you!”  Never mind that I’m holding up the entire line because I have NO idea how to put my transit card in the little slot. Let’s just chat all day, CTA Shirley!! 

Everything was so well organized.  I mean, put 45,000 runners in one place and it’s bound to be chaos.  The porta-potty lines were short at the start, the corrals were clearly labeled, and the PA system was loud enough for us to hear waaaaaay back in our 4:30 pace group.

chicago marathon starting line{Fellow RUNcher, Libby & I waiting to cross the start line}

chicago marathon start {Along with thousands of our closest friends}

And you locals in your ‘hoods. You amazing little drunk party animals, you. You treated me like a ROCKSTAR.  I totally get why Keith Richards won’t hang up his skinny jeans – having thousands of strangers yell your name is life changing!  And I don’t mean, “Look how cool they think I am” life changing. I mean “Look how much love they want to share” life changing.  From the abuelitas holding bowls of narajas and the *fabulous* gents in Boystown strutting their stuff, to the adorable high-fiving little league team, the Gangnam Style dancers in Korea Town, the clever signmakers, and that sweet, sweet angel at mile 8 with the glob of Vaseline – you showed so much enthusiasm for me, I would have thought I was winning (I was not. Not even close.).  You were so proud of your city and your neighborhood, and me. You were proud of ME!

Boystown chicago marathon 2012chinatown chicago marathon 2012boystown chicago marathon mexican village chicago marathon 2012Several Chicago Marathon vets told me about the spectators, to smile and wave whenever I could.  I guess I didn’t really grasp what they were telling me.  I didn’t realize there would be stretches where you were standing 5 people deep, leaning over railings for a high-five. For 26.2 miles, you made me smile and laugh. I was humbled beyond words, and sometimes to tears.  You were EVERYWHERE I looked – hanging off balconies, waving from tall office buildings, on bridges above me,  on streets below me, around every turn.  People warned me, “Miles 20-23 are rough.  It’s further out of the city, and people don’t really come that far.  It’s lonely.”  Nope, you were there.  You were there with much needed bananas & candy corn, sipping mimosas and telling me I could have one (or two) in just a few more miles. 

music free hugs chicago marathonyou can do it chicago marathon 2012if a marathon was easypain is temp chicago marathon 2012officer craig williams chicago marathon 2012{This is Chicago Police Officer Craig Williams.  He was awesome.}

And my family. Oh, oh, my friends and family.  Friends gave me gifts, presents and words of encouragement the days leading up to the trip.

chicago marathon shoe gift hoxAnd Team Thode – Husband, Em Em Dub, Lil Kathy, Dancin’ Darrell, Assistant Annie and SIL braved the early morning and cold with hilarious signs, tshirts and canyon-wide smiles.  Knowing I would see them up ahead kept me excited to tick away the miles. 

run like you stole something chicago marathon laz kids signs chicgao marathonchicago marathon signslil kathy mile 5 chicago marathon {Lil Kathy sporting her “RUN MEG RUN” tee}chicago marathon runner{Team Thode cheering on my RUNch buddy Kerry}

Marathoners tell you about hitting “the wall”.  The wall is a moment, a mile, a FEW miles, when you mentally and physically don’t think you can go one more step.  I never even came close to the wall.  You, Chicago, made me fly.  I was having such a good time watching YOU, I kind of forgot I was about to accomplish something HUGE.  I wouldn’t know this until later, but I was running negative splits.  When I was supposed to be getting slower, I was running stronger and faster.

chicago marathon 2012{There we go!}

megan sears tower chicago marathonjazz hands chicago marathon{Apparently I thought jazz hands were appropriate. Instead, I just ruined a perfectly good action photo.}libby megan smile chicago marathon 

Suddenly, I saw the sign.  25.2. That’s when it hit me that I only had one mile left.  I was actually going to do this.  I was about to do something I said I would never do, could never do.  I pushed as hard as I could that last mile, running for the finish with everything I had left, minus a little pee. I’m telling you – I was EXCITED!!!!!

Chicago marathon smile As I rounded the last corner, who do I see in the crowd but my parents, running down the street and yelling my name like this was a scripted scene from some Katherine Hegel movie.  As I entered the final straight away, there are bleachers FILLED with people on either side of me yelling “You did it, Megan! You are a marathoner!” and that’s when the tears came.  A woman who’s face I will never forget asked me my name, I blubbered something and she said “Megan, today is a big day.  Congratulations, you are a marathoner!” and she put a medal around my neck.

finish line chicago marathonChicago, you made my first marathon more than a race.  It was an unforgettable experience that I will never be able to replicate.  You were classy, fun, motivating and supportive.  Thank you, Chicago!! Now, let’s party!

Chicago Marathon kisschicago marathon signsmeg kerry chicago marathon chicago marathon family signsmom dad chicago marathon2012 chicago marathon finishers medalmeg kerry skyline chicago marathoncrazy family chicago marathon signsrunch chicago marathon

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24 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the City of Chicago

  1. You sold me! Chicago in 2013 it is. I was debating between it and Milwaukee, but this post put me over the top. Milwaukee is a great race, but it sounds like Chicago is more fired up for its marathoners. Looking forward to it.

    Now, if only I can manage to NOT miss day one of registration; I seem to remember the race selling out in no time flat this past year.

    • I’m SO glad you are going to do Chicago. I’ve heard Milwaukee is fun, but seriously…Chitown rocks. And yes, sign up early! This year, the race sold out in 30 days and I know it will probably be half that next year!

  2. OH MY GOSH, I had tears in my eyes!!! What an accomplishment, and your amazing writing put me right on the sidelines!!!
    Your story makes me think that could be me someday, Megan. Thanks so much for sharing.
    PS – your family rocks!

  3. Your writing is phenomenal! This almost makes me feel like I was there with you. I am so proud of you!!! You did an AMAZING job. So glad that you never hit the wall either. Makes all that crazy training we did worth it. Now you have me wanting to run Chicago. Uh oh! Love you!

    • The training was SO worth it. There is something to be said for “trusting the plan” and working hard, isn’t there?! Chicago is a MUST-DO for your list!!

  4. This was just the motivation I needed this week. I’m one month away from my FIRST marathon and my nerves are already getting to me! I love this…and I love you for writing it! Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

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  6. I came to your blog from Melissa’s blog ( and I’m so glad I did – this is EXACTLY why I love the marathon. I teared up reading this because it takes me back to my first marathon (which was in January). what an AWESOME race experience, congratulations!!

    • I’m glad you did, too! And if you love Melissa like I do, we will get along splendidly!! Thanks for the congrats – it was amazing! I’m still high from the fumes of love, I think!

  7. I’m printing and saving this. You captured the whole 42K perfectly! I couldn’t agree more about the City of Chicago. I <3 each and everyone who cheered us on… Best part of the experience for me!!

  8. This is amazing! Chicago was my very first marathon last year too! Reading this brought it all back to me and brought tears to my eyes! I feel like I was right there with you the whole way (who knows- maybe we were running almost side-by-side the whole time?). Okay if I re-share on Facebook?

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