Once upon a time I was given the chance to live and work in the city of Chicago. I tried to figure things out quickly, hoping to make it a smooth as possible - I looked at bank accounts that would allow easy access to money from overseas, and I even bought a new coat that would keep out the windchill of the city supposedly famous for its winds (although this is not actually what the moniker means). Sadly the world changed again that year and plans were altered - I never made it there. In fact it wouldn’t be for another three years that I got to step foot on US soil for the first time.
Fast forward a number of years and I’d become a runner, and one who had the ambition of running each of the World Marathon Majors - a series of six races spread over three continents. Most people in the UK will have heard of the London Marathon even if they’ve not watched it. That was the first of my ‘Majors’ races - my first ‘star’. I then started entering ballots for other races to hopefully complete the others, but time after time I was rejected.
Then after ten years of travelling had passed, my only plan for the year had been Croatia; but you never know how plans may change. Finally I got accepted into another of the ‘Majors’ - the Chicago Marathon.
As soon as I got in I messaged James - my friend from Canada, to see if he’d like to join me in Chicago for a few days of sightseeing. At first he was unsure due to the cost, and I insisted I wanted a hotel as close to the start as I could find. It seemed no matter where I looked, the hotels were expensive for the week so had no choice but to accept this trip would be more expensive than I’d have liked. In fact, it’d work out more expensive than my trip to New York.
With James thinking he might not go, I booked a hotel as close to Grant Park as I could find, but had to make a guess on which end would be used for the race start and finish. It was going to cost US$50 extra to make it a twin room, but I figured I should go for it anyway just in case. When you’re spending over US$1,000 for five nights it doesn’t make that much difference. I suggested to James he could have the spare bed and could pay whatever he wanted towards it rather than the usual half.
For flights I booked direct ones from Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare International, and from there to Toronto - we figured I may as well spend some time in Canada whilst I was in the area. If I worked at least one of the days I was over there then at least I wouldn’t be wasting annual leave either.
Once I’d made the trip to Croatia, the remaining weeks before Chicago passed by seemingly faster than a speeding bullet. The remaining preparation had to be swift - though I found myself packing only a few days before flying.
I packed two sets of running clothes - some for training in, and some for racing in. I also made sure I’d packed different clothes for different conditions so I couldn’t be caught unprepared. When it came to figuring out what else to pack, it was easy enough - just the usual. I knew I could pack lightly for camera gear too as I knew more or less what I’d need.
I packed jelly babies to use during the race, and even a bowl of cereal so I could have for breakfast what I’d normally have before a race. When I say I packed a bowl of cereal - it’s quite literal - I even packed a bowl and spoon just in case. It’s might sound incredulous to go to that extreme - but when you’re travelling almost 4,000 miles to run 26.2 miles around a city, I think it’s good to prepare for anything you can think of.