"A marathon by runners, for runners": Sunday's Chicago Marathon marks 44th year of iconic event
In front of hundreds of racers itching to pick up their 44th annual Chicago Marathon race packets at McCormick Place Convention Center on Thursday morning, Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson meditated on marathons.
"A marathon is truly a metaphor for life," she said. "You don't know what's gonna happen around the next bend, so just go for it. And make sure you have triple knots in your shoelaces."
Samuelson is a champion of both Chicago and Boston marathons and held the fastest time for an American woman at Chicago for 32 years after winning the event in 1985.
The year before she was the first women's Olympic Games marathon champion.
On Thursday, Samuelson addressed the congregation of runners, many of whom will begin their first marathon this Sunday in Grant Park.
"Chicago is a marathon by runners, for runners," Samuelson said, "and that makes a huge difference, so we are all here for all of you. And all I can say to the first-time marathoners, live your dreams, follow your heart."
Because of the constant traffic, it's easy to forget how comparatively few miles make up Chicago.
But as any Chicagoan knows, traveling 10 miles means roaming through about five different neighborhoods. As the Chicago Marathon covers 26.2 miles, the race will run through 29 different neighborhoods.
The course race starts at 7 a.m. Sunday and runs north to Wrigleyville, southwest to the United Center, more south to Bronzeville, and then back up north past McCormick Place and Soldier Field, finishing through a final stretch of a spectator-lined Columbus Drive.
There will be an estimated 40,000 runners including participants from all 50 wards in Chicago, all 50 states, and 100 countries, and 1.7 million spectators in the streets on Sunday.
"The Chicago Marathon is an iconic event," said Glenn Eden, board chair of Choose Chicago, one of the marathon's sponsors. "It runs through some of the most beautiful parts and neighborhoods of our city. It brings together tens of thousands of people in the pursuit of the same goal."
With a forecast of 46 degrees at start time, overcast skies, limited wind, and a dry morning, it sounds like a perfect day for a race.
The cowbells will be ringing, and the signs will be large as ever. Streets will be blocked off, and music will be playing alongside the racers through the many unique neighborhoods. Prepare as you must.
Just make sure to triple-knot your laces.