It’s almost race time, ladies and gents! Here’s a handy guide to get you through the Chicago Marathon Heath and Fitness Expo.
Parking: Parking in Chicago sucks. Period. So of course, parking at McCormick Place is no exception. If you can easily take public transit, do it. Otherwise, try to carpool. Don’t forget to bring your parking ticket with you into the expo so you can get it validated — otherwise, the price gauge is outrageous. Also, the automated payment machines are inside. Oh, and WRITE DOWN WHERE YOU PARKED (or take a pic of it with your phone). The last thing you need is to log extra miles wandering around the massive garage the day before your big race.
Be prepared: Make sure you have everything you need to pick up your packet. The rules have changed slightly this year with higher security measures, so make sure you follow the instructions in your participant guide to a T.
Take care of business: So many shiny, happy running-related things at the expo, it’s easy to get distracted. But before you partake in any of the awesomeness, pick up your packet and race shirt — and hold onto that bag for dear life.
Go early: For my money, the best time to get to the expo is Saturday morning or Friday morning (if you can skip out of work or if you’re an out-of-towner in extra early). Friday evening is packed with folks coming straight from work (or from out of town), and by noon on Saturday, the place is packed. It’s kinda cool to see how many people are there, but bigger crowds mean longer wait times and less dawdling to be had. And then you have the rest of the day to, well, rest.
Splurge a little: The expo is a magical place filled with discounted shoes and official (and unofficial) Chicago Marathon gear. It’s a marathon, so go ahead and treat yoself. Just remember: DO NOT wear anything, including your race participant shirt, for the race. Disaster awaits! (And you don’t want to be that guy). Save your new wares for post-race partying.
Take a friend: There’s no better way to get your friends and family as fired up about the marathon as you are than by dragging them to the expo. Especially if they’re a non-runner, it will blow their friggin’ minds. There’s always a ton of interactive stuff — poster-making stations, raffles, free samples, etc. — so it’s fun for the whole family.
Set a time limit: There’s soooo much going on at the expo (and much shopping to be done), but don’t exhaust yourself by going to every single booth and spending your entire day there. Remember, you’ve got 26.2 to run! When you get there, take care of business and pick up your race packet, then allow yourself time to wander, but don’t go overboard.
Helping hands: Last year, we had a bump in the road with our pre-race dinner reservations (I totally made them for the wrong night, d’oh!). Turns out, there are friendly and helpful race concierges at the expo to help with just such crises. Dinner reservations, last-minute hotels, directions, you name it, they can help.
Oh, and one last thing: The sped-up video of the race course is usually playing on loop. IT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. Seriously, if you’ve never run the race, that video might scare the bejesus out of you, so we recommend you avoid it at all costs. For those of us who’ve run it before, it still makes us queasy.
See you at the expo, Angels! — Mags