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Chicago Marathon 2017


The second Abbott World Major Marathon of the year for me, and again I’m there in a unique capacity. Part cheer squad and spectator, part volunteer, this was an amazing weekend!

Is there such thing as an “Elite Spectator?” Trademark, Dave Masterson, All Rights Reserved!

I arrived Thursday morning before anything marathon-related was underway. I stayed in my brother’s hotel, he was in town early to attend meetings for his company. I ate lunch at Portillo’s first (a must!), then rented a Divvy bike for the day. I had a good time by myself reacquainting myself with the city. I used the bikes to see some of the 5k run course, the Lakefront, riverfront bridges, Grant Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and the Loop. It was sunny weather and cooler than Florida – a welcome change! Dinner was at the Kerryman Irish Pub with John and his coworker, Ken.

Friday morning, I woke up and ran 6 miles around the lakefront and Grant Park area. The race facilities started taking shape, jeez this is a big production. Different than New York and Boston, all start and finish area things are in the same place. That is an amazing logistical feat, so many tents, trucks, and things to support 40,000 plus athletes and many more spectators. I moved our luggage to the Chicago Hilton while my brother, John, worked, this was our base for the weekend. Having a room up high in the race’s host hotel added so much to the experience!

Since I rented the Divvy bikes for a 24-hour day, I rode it to the Expo on Friday morning. It was very crowded! I thought the largest crowds would be Saturday, but Friday had McCormick Place Convention Center full of runners and run fans. I met Joan Benoit Samuelson and Deena Kastor, two cheery and personable lady running legends. One guy, I believe he was with RRCA, had old photos of Joan from in the 1980s. He gave them to her, I think she knew him from far-gone racing days. The expo had many vendors, this is one of the biggest and best-run shows anywhere. Nike as the shoe sponsor had a huge presence. They have a hip and “now” image, plenty of pumping music and lines around their booth with people waiting to pay for logoed apparel from the event. I left the expo after lunchtime once I picked up my 5k bib for Saturday’s Chicago International race. Last year they had 2710 finishers. This year the race had over 7000 signups, it was a big deal. Early registrants got their home country’s flag on their bib. The packet pickup for this event was way easier than for Sunday’s marathon. Since I registered later, my number was 7000-something. No line for me to get the bib, thank you!

I lingered and walked around near the downtown area until John finished his meetings, then we met at the hotel and both went to the expo for his race things. Surprisingly, there weren’t as many people there, the floor was way easier to navigate. We saw and got a pic with Deena, I think this got John excited for all the people we’d meet this weekend. Once I explained who she was and what she was famous for… he was on the running celeb spotting train!

Our hotel was getting crowded. I went down to the Media Center and met a gal named Tamrin. She gave me an official Media Guide which I really enjoyed. A full digest of the weekend events plus runner bios, race history, stats, everything the local announcers would reference for the audience. So that’s how they know all that stuff! I saw plenty of lean, elite looking Africans milling about in the lobby and common areas. I guess all the top guns stay at this hotel! I got photos of the Winner’s trophy, a large testament to 39 years of male and female past champions. Very impressive!

All the other runners from Florida were arriving Friday after dinner, I knew people staying in different parts of the city. On Saturday morning, I woke up early and went for a strider run outside the hotel. Then I met with Monica and we walked to the 5k start. It was in the middle of downtown. They had roped off corrals, sorted by minute per mile. This was considerably bigger than I thought it would be! I did more warmup intervals on a closed off street near the start, and also tossed in a “gut-check hurdle” of a police barrier. Two others were warming up and we were watching each other, you know, without watching each other. Those high-knees exercises and 50-yard sprints take second to a steeplechase-like hurdle at 7 am. Or so I believe! I then found Jen Rapaport and Chris McKnight in the corrals. It had rained only an hour before the race, so the white painted lines on the road were very slippery. That and puddles. A small kid ran next to me down the first straightaway street until we turned under the elevated railway. He stepped in so many puddles, splashing all who were close to him. I was glad he faded in the first ¾ of a mile. Joan Benoit and Paula Radcliffe were there to start the race, I also saw Carrie Tollefson and Khalid Kannouchi in the corral up front. Big names for a big city 5k!

My race was ok – right at my usual 5k time. I noticed the GPS signals were weird among all the buildings – sometimes I was running 4:35 miles (according to the watch) and other times no readout due to running under Chicago’s famous L trains. A good course, good number of fans out early, and a great finish area scene made this event something I was glad I entered. (5k race recap here) I found Jen and Chris at the finish, Chris’ daughter Laura and then Teresa, Janet and Tom joined us having watched the run. We took a walk to show them “Mt Roosevelt” at mile 26 so they’d know what to expect on race day. I think they benefitted from the reality check of knowing the hill wasn’t a big deal.

Teresa, Kathy and Cecelia and I walked back to the Hilton and had breakfast at Kitty O’Shea’s in the hotel. Before going in, I spotted Noah Droddy, the American “first timer” looking to score a good time at the marathon distance. He had the big mustache, the hair down to his beltline, and the baseball hat on backward. He was going across the street into the park for a run, we got a good photo with him.

Back at the Hilton, John and I had some breakfast then got a ride to River North to meet Christie Brinkley. She was in town to promote Little Smiles charity and also her new line of Prosecco drinks. John went along and we really had great laughs with her and the others that came out. It also made for some amazing photos!

John wanted to minimize his walking around, so we did local things near the hotel. I connected with Monica’s husband to shore up a good strategy for him and the kids to see their mom on the course. It’s really nice to be a part of all the race buzz minus the concern of actually having to run the marathon. I went out with Teresa, Kathy, Cecelia, Teresa’s aunt and Brenda to Miller’s Pub on Saturday night. (Teresa’s first view of it had her saying we should stop at “Killer’s Pub) A few drinks and laughs, why not. Back to the Hilton, where things were quieting down. The big race was tomorrow and most were already in their rooms sleeping or winding down.

My AWD volunteer duties had me up for a 5 am meet up with the group. I met Marcel Hug on the el

evator and recognized him easily. He was with his coach, who John and I saw and spoke with the night before. I asked him if the black fabric bag on his lap contained a certain chrome helmet, he replied, “Yes” with a big smile and I wished him good luck. I received a hat, jacket and Start and Finish Line credentials. AWD athletes were already in the lobby, they know the drill. It takes time to get them and their gear to the start, that was our first role. I walked over with Ernst Van Dyke, a pre-race favorite from South Africa.We had a special tent on Monroe Street where we helped athletes get settled and prepped for the start. I ushered a few up the hill and into the tents, then stood at Monroe and Michigan Street with a Chicago policeman answering questions and helping runners located the entrance to the general corrals. Once 6:25 am came, I headed to the tents and start line area. I helped some of the non-wheelchair bound runners across the start area to the restrooms. I got some great pics of the elite warmup zone. I met Jordan Hasay’s aunt, who was looking for her dad and the elite runners. Press, photographers and running “dignitaries” were all over. I saw Dave McGilvary walking around the starter’s area, Carey Pinkowski, the race director, and Alberto Salazar. The wheelchair athletes were warming up and doing equipment checks, the American athletes in the Development program had an area to wait in for the start, it was exciting to see. The elites had their own tent, porta-potties, and patch of Grant Park grass to warm up on. Jordan Hasay came out early, sat on the start line and adjusted her shoes and socks. I saw Dennis Kimetto, Sam Chelenga, Noah Droddy, Kirui the defending champ, all of them. When Galen walked towards the start area, a coach put his hands on Galen’s head, they bowed towards each other, then Galen blessed himself and got ready for the race. This was the whole show unfolding very close to me. And I took this video – look how calm the eventual race winner is!

All of the runners were in their corrals prior to the National Anthem being played. I couldn’t see the end of the corrals – it was so many people. I was right on the start line for the wheelchair start – getting good photos of the top male and female push rim athletes. A few minutes later, the rest of the runners from Wave #1 were sent out, led by the elite men and women. In between Wave #1 and #2, we moved all of the AWD day chairs and gear to the AWD finish zone. I met Kelly Breen, one of the AWD leaders in Chicago. She explained how it’s taken years for the Achilles and AWD organization to get the prominent placement in and around the start and finish area. The finishing tent was well appointed with coffee, drinks, food and massage tables for the finishing athletes. And private restrooms!

Once the athlete equipment was moved, we got to the Finish line area to begin waiting for the wheelchair finishers. Marcel Hug and Tatyana McFadden won the push rim races, I helped a guy with an Illinois jersey along with his female teammate back to the tent. I made another run back and forth with a different finisher before waiting at the finish for the men’s and women’s race winners. Galen Rupp sizzled around the final turn and won convincingly, that drew a huge roar from the full bleachers! Turunesh Dibaba was uncontested in her win, but the big deal was Jordan Hasay’s 3rd place finish in a new American woman course record and second fastest US lady marathon time ever. The whole finishing zone was amazing – great sunny weather, all sorts of buzz and great finishes by Americans. I saw Luke Puskedra and Noah Droddy finish strong also. As a group, we kept escorting athletes back to the AWD tent and cycling back to the finish to repeat the process.

I checked in on our locals using the race app. TCS made it very easy for fans to see where each runner was on course, including split times and estimated arrivals. Tom and Janet would be here first, Teresa and Missy not far behind them. My brother and Monica started in the third wave, so they were an hour off gun time. I waited in line to help athletes all while looking for those I knew to finish. I somehow missed Janet and Tom. I saw Jen Rapaport. Then I missed Missy and Teresa. It’s a real challenge to see all of the finishers coming across the line while trying to pick off their faces. It was considerably warmer now than when the first runners came across. It was going to be a long day for the Wave 2 and 3 runners.

I was in the right spot for Monica and John’s finish, getting a short iPhone video of each of them. I helped Teresa with a quick med tent visit, she was tired and dehydrated. The a/c in there was very cold, I think that aided her quick turnaround. Good staff and a personable 68-year-old physician made that a positive experience. Our group met in the Afterparty area, that was also well done by the Chicago Marathon team. Live music, happy runners, and beer flowing. Chicago’s runners had good weather this year. Too warm for some at the end, but most took advantage of it at the after party.

We went back to Kitty O’Shea’s to celebrate after the race – this made for good pics and laughs. I saw Sam Adams 26.2 Brew for sale, that was a surprise. The familiar taste and accompanying good cheer was not a surprise. Today, I saw running history with the Galen win and Chicago’s 40th anniversary of the big race. The course’s back half was very exposed to the sun and heat – but everyone adjusted and made it back – no runner dropouts among our group. I’d race Chicago again – this is a great scene for the runners and the people like me that came to be a part of the event.

We saw more pro athletes in and around our hotel on Monday. Marcel Hug at the coffee shop, Tatyana McFadden walking her dog outside the hotel, and John met Noah by the hotel entrance. He told John that he has 25 marathons in him, not to stop at “21 and done.” 

So that’s the advice a first timer like Noah is giving to the mortals?


Be Boston – Marathon 2017

Welcome Runners!

This was my first visit to the Boston Marathon as a spectator! I’ve been wanting to do this for several years. I know the weekend schedule, I know the town, and I know the course. I can put myself where I want to be, without any of the concerns that I’d have if I was racing. The advice is stamped into every runner’s head – “Don’t stay on your feet at the Expo too long, don’t eat experimental things, don’t have too many beers…” NONSENSE! I’m doing this one right.

I came on the same flight as Julie, together we have over 25 people we know running and that we will track on Monday. We landed at 9 am and were left on the runway for half an hour. I’ll go on record as saying this flight lands every day at the same time, it cannot be a surprise the ground crew – WHERE’S OUR GATE? More importantly, this chews into the time I’d rather be spending trying to get to the 5k to see the elites finish. Although we are close to Boston Commons, we are goofed up by the airline so we missed it. Molly Huddle misses her 4th consecutive win by only 2 seconds, and Ben True sets a new American outdoor 5k record with a 13:18. Wow!

First things first

We went to our AirBnB which is on Beacon Street in Brookline. Our host is Jennifer, a very nice girl. We are staying ON THE COURSE at mile 24.5 – This is exciting! We dropped our stuff off and walked to the Expo. Past Fenway Park, the Citgo sign, Kenmore Square, up Hereford Street to the convention center. It is crazy crowded with a HUGE line winding around the building. Confession: I walked around not really knowing where I was supposed to go and when I saw people heading inside I went right with them. We did a nominal security check and we were in! We went towards the Adidas section to see all of the official race merchandise. So many neat things to buy if you were doing this year’s event! We found the Samuel Adams sample booth – that was worth a few trips back on the line to get 26.2 Brew. There is plenty to see and play with and… we have all day to do so!

We find the lululemon “Sweatbox” at the other side of the show. We’ve seen this before and know it means try a garment on the treadmill and keep it! We each wait about 45 minutes and get to come out with something new. Most people hear about this and don’t want to wait. They have to get “done with the expo” and back to a hotel to relax. Understandable. While there, I catch up with Lilia and Chris – they are excited and enjoying the show also. We get texts from Sandra and Pete Holahan that they are going to the Runner’s World Speaker Series to hear Kathrine Switzer’s story. I know of her, I figure we can do that for an hour.

KV Switzer is Amazing

So glad I did that! She is so energetic and youthful. She ran up to the stage, told her story and really explained her efforts since the original 1967 Boston Marathon experience to get more women involved in running. I didn’t know the amazing level of her involvement in the first female Olympic marathon and her “261 Fearless” organization. I really enjoyed her talk. Julie had a lady translate for her so she caught the whole thing, too. Very impressive. I waited until she was done talking to speak with her. I told her they would have a statue of her somewhere on the Boston Marathon course. She chuckled and replied with, “I don’t know about that.” I am very glad I got to tell her that in person. It will happen! [Update: Her bib number 261 was forever retired for use in the Boston Marathon when she finished on Monday]

Once out of the meeting room, I am spotted and greeted by Cami and Jeff. We always, even in a crowd of thousands, find each other! They have to zip through the expo, but we agree to meet at Capital Grille for drinks and appetizers. How fun to catch up with them and get Cami’s take on the race and the local happenings.

After meeting with them, we walked to Boston Commons and found our dinner restaurant. We stopped and took some pictures at the finish line area, there’s always so much good energy and excitement there. The crew was clearing off the 5k and One Mile awards podium and getting things ready for Monday. Our restaurant, the Artisan, was in the Ritz Carlton. We met Steve and Mary Monks, Ricky and Nina Montez and Steve Chefan and his wife. We were all confused as this was not the restaurant or atmosphere Steve explained to us. It was a good meal and great laughs with a great group!  Steve later reported finding the original place he intended on us visiting a day afterward. He sneakily paid the check for dinner for all of us – a nice but way unnecessary gesture. We took the T train back after dinner. Tine to sift through our Expo goodies and get to sleep.

Running with elites

Sunday morning we went to the Runner’s World pop-up store to do a shakeout run with the staff and Molly Huddle. That was a good event starting at 8 am, the Hotshot girls was there, KT Tape was sampling their goods, and the store was crowded with runners one day before the race. Molly ran and chatted with plenty of us. Her next big event after yesterday’s 2nd place in the 5k will be the Prefontaine Classic in May. She is a personable elite runner that could be anyone’s friend. Our run went to the Charles River and around a familiar loop east to the bridge by Harvard and the band shell. Once we arrived at the store after the run, I won a drawing for a sample pack of KT Tape and a body “cool and heat” pad. It holds the heat pack or ice in place when applied to a part of your body. Glad I’m not injured, I really don’t know when I will use such a prize! Runner’s World also had an offer whereby if you prove you are a subscriber, they give you these neat Boston Marathon-themed gloves. Each finger has one of the towns the race passes through. I like them!

I did the same run again an hour later, this time with Sandra and the Oiselle girls that were in town for the race. We met at a nice coffee shop, the Thinking Cup, and ran on the Charles River trail again. Once we returned, Julie had found her way back to the coffee spot and we had drinks and light breakfast with Pete and Sandra and Steve and Maria. With all of the people we knew collectively, it would be difficult to plan to meet them all. It seemed to all work well with minimal planning that we saw most of our friends doing things like this.

After that, we walked back up Boylston Street to see the rest of the Expo, the Adidas Run Base store, the finish line area in the daytime. There are always people taking photos, Marathon Sports is full, and the street is blocked off with no cars. The large area after the finish line is busy, too, setting up for the next day. There weren’t many flowers at the sites of the two bombings, but today there are more. An area in front of Marathon Sports has been fenced off, that is collecting some flowers and a few pairs of running shoes. I didn’t feel like taking a photo of either site, it’s a choke-up in the throat reminder to me of what occurred and how fortunate I was not to be injured in 2013.

The Expo was easy to get into today, plenty of buzz happening. Most folks had already claimed their bib numbers, so I took Julie up the extra escalator to see how and where that is done. It was mostly empty by the time we got up there. The fast runners of tomorrow’s race have picked up their stuff already!

Athlete Dinner – The event so few attend (but should!)

We went back to the apartment and dropped our bags – it was time to change into warmer clothes for the night time. The temperature was 82 today so I wore shorts. Jeans and a long sleeve shirt were on tap for the night. We took the Green line train to Government Center, that’s right where the Athlete Dinner was. We had a wait of about 45 minutes, and the weather cooled significantly as we were in the line

The dinner was a great time, chicken meatballs, pasta, salad and as much beer as you’d like. We stayed at a table and enjoyed the videos playing, the mayor’s announcements and most of all, meeting other runners and their families. We had a group from London, from Texas, from Milan, Italy and another that I don’t remember from where. We laughed and enjoyed being with all these people who were so excited about the race. A few first timers asked about the hills and the expected warm weather. I was light in my mood to hopefully help them relax. We stayed until they closed the venue, then went back towards the Back Bay area.


We went to Pizzeria Uno on Boylston Street to watch the hockey game and have more beer. They served the 26.2 brew and in large glasses! It was good to stop walking, to talk and laugh. No other runners were in the bar. Race morning would come fast with an early rise for buses to the start.

We took the train home from the Copley Station. It’s not a far walk home but having been on foot all day and now being full of pasta and beer, yeah, we are on the train! We got home and went to the rooftop of our apartment. The wind was picking up from the east and that made it cold. Here’s a photo from that vantage point…

The winds would shift while we slept to come from the Northwest, a perfect tailwind for the runners.

Race Day!

Waking up Monday we had no rush – we went to Dunkin Donuts on Beacon Street. We saw the New Balance banners set up alongside the T stop and roadway. Barricades that weren’t there last night were all in place. The whole city comes together for this big show! We took the train from nearby Yawkey Station to Wellesley to position ourselves well to see the pros. We arrived too early for the train and had a 50-minute wait. Seems like even with the annual throng of people following the route and runners, the train schedule is light on the Patriot’s Day holiday. It was a short train ride and we met and spoke with nice people in town to cheer for family members. In Wellesley, we had plenty of room to pick a great spot on the road. We went to a bakery for a snack, and then put ourselves in a good position. Figuring it might be most crowded nearest the train station, we went east and found a great place to stand and wait. Right past the half way point we would watch for the wheelchair athletes, pro women, then the pro men. First, we saw a few of the military walking the course. Then two F-15 jets flew over, signaling the start of the race. It was about 35 minutes before the first wheelchair came down the hill – very fast and NOT Marcel Hug! He was second but already behind several minutes at the 13.1 mark. Next came the women elites. Jordan Hasay and Desi Linden right with the leaders. Julie took phone videos while I snapped iPhone 7 pictures. The next few elite women came through at less than 6 min pace, Liz Costello is shown here. They really look as if they are slower because their pace doesn’t cost them much energy. They are smooth and almost running step-for-step with each other. It’s very impressive to see up close!

The elite men came next – Galen Rupp in a white hat, white singlet and pale skin just nestled in with the Africans! The unheralded Maiya from the Army was up with him. Luke Puskedra and Jeff Ward followed, then Meb. They all looked great at the halfway point!

We boarded the very crowded train and after having delays to start and delays at almost all of the 7 stations back to Fenway/Yawkey, we made it onto the streets to get a good spot. The sun was warm and we didn’t have sunscreen – noticeable when I was in Wellesley. We went through Kenmore Square which was very crowded. The first wave of runners (red bibs) was coming through. We found a great spot on the shady side of the street. It was next to a mailbox and garbage can that was barricaded around. This meant that we had a very clear view up Commonwealth Avenue. We stayed here for over two hours, looking for our friends and trying to track them via the BAA app. The app wasn’t reliable, most of our runners seemed to “stop” at the 30k mark. We saw Julie and Spencer West, Lilia, Ricky and some more of Julie’s friends. We met Jeff here and waited for Cami, but by the Jeff moved to Hereford St and Boylston where she would usually expect to see him.

Trackhouse & Tracksmith  

Julie and I had invites to the new Trackhouse – Tracksmith’s new permanent store on Newbury Street. It’s a retail run store on the first level and a recreation of the “Eliot Lounge” runner’s hangout on the second floor. Free beer and fresh fruit and food. What an interesting concept. We stayed there and relaxed after many hours on our feet walking and standing. I met Eric Ashe, men’s finisher #25 with a time of 2:23. He was rolling out his legs on the couch as if he’d just run a 5k. We met Pete and Sandra here and she got a poster made with her number stamped on the bottom. A nice touch! I hope this company catches on. Their products are very nice with a “retro” runner look. I bought a pair of shorts and two singlet tops. No one has these back at home!

After that, we met Jeff and Cami at their usual post-race spot – Anchovies. A good dinner and recap of the day. Julie and I walked to Fenway Park for the Athlete Celebration, which was a chance to get out on the field and go behind the scenes at Fenway. Terrific cooperation between Fenway, the BAA, Samuel Adams, and Adidas. They really made it a special day for the runners and their families.

I know I’ll be back to run here again and to enjoy a weekend as a cheering spectator again. It is a very special event done so well!

Thank you, Boston!


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