SWEET RUN CHICAGO

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal; blue vest (Photo: courtesy Vijayaraghavan Venugopal)

The 2018 Chicago Marathon happened on October 7. Part of the World Marathon Majors, it is the fourth largest race by number of finishers worldwide. This year’s edition was won by Mo Farah of Great Britain. He finished the full marathon in 2:05:11, a new European record. It was Farah’s first victory in the discipline. Among women, the winner was Brigid Kosgei of Kenya who covered the distance in 2:18:35. The Chicago Marathon is known for its cheering with spectators lining the street and encouraging runners on. Despite windy conditions and rain, this year too, the cheering stayed strong. We spoke to some of the amateur runners from India who participated in the 2018 Chicago Marathon.

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal

For the last three years I have been attempting full marathons at international destinations, including the World Majors.

Chicago Marathon has the option of direct entry on the strength of timing. I had applied and secured entry to this event known for its flat route. World records were set here until Berlin Marathon came into the picture. Chicago Marathon’s route entails more turns compared to that of Berlin. The weather is also an issue. Chicago is known to be a windy city and is prone to temperature fluctuations.

My run went off very well and I ended up with a sub-three timing of 2:57:11 hours. This is my second fastest timing. My fastest so far is 2:55 hours set in Berlin in 2016.

At Chicago, it was quite chilly with temperature around 10-12 degrees Celsius. It was windy and there was rain. For those of us coming in from warmer countries like India, Chicago’s weather can be challenging. Thankfully, I had appropriate clothing including head gear and gloves. I made sure that I did not get wet till the start of the race.

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal (Photo: courtesy Vijayaraghavan Venugopal)

Chicago Marathon has awesome cheering with some 1.7 to 2 million people lining the streets all through the 42 kilometer-route.  It is truly a city marathon as the course passes through the heart of the city.

I landed in Chicago on Monday, first day of race week, to avoid the lingering tiredness of travel and jet-lag.

Broadly speaking, my goal in timing was to run a comfortable sub-three hour marathon. The cold conditions during the race were okay but rain was a dampener. If it hadn’t rained I could have chopped off a couple of minutes from my timing. I ran quite well for 35 kilometers but slowed down during the last seven kilometers.

I would like to focus on the full marathon for the next couple of years. It is important therein to keep fit and stay injury-free so that I can continue running sub-three marathons. I hope to do New York City Marathon in 2019.

In the meanwhile, I will also do shorter distances such as 25 kilometers, half marathons and 10 kilometers. Running shorter distances at a faster pace helps in running marathons.

So far, I have done five marathons in a timing of under three hours – Boston Marathon, Paris Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Mumbai Marathon and now Chicago Marathon. Each marathon poses a new challenge. Also, training for marathons takes up three to five months. Staying injury free is key.

(For more on Vijayaraghavan Venugopal please click on this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2017/06/08/maintaining-sub-three/)

Rajesh Nambisan (Photo: courtesy Rajesh Nambisan)

Rajesh Nambisan

I have been running for the past seven years. Chicago Marathon was one of my best runs.

For me, the race went as per plan. I had trained for the preceding nine months. I recorded my personal best of 4:25 hours with more or less equal splits – the first half in 2:11 hours and the second in 2:14. It was one of those runs where I felt strong throughout the race and did not hit a wall after 30 kilometers.

I was a bit apprehensive a day before the race when it was predicted that it may rain at the start. But the weather was cool throughout and though it did rain heavily midway during the race, the body was sufficiently warmed up and in rhythm.

This run at Chicago Marathon was part of a plan to complete all the World Majors. I have now completed three out of six; New York in 2016, Berlin in 2017 and Chicago in 2018. I will be doing the London Marathon in April 2019.  I do not have any plans to do Chicago again in the near future.

Chicago is the second largest marathon in the US with approximately 40,000 runners. New York has around 55,000.  It is mostly a flat course.

More than a million spectators line the streets throughout the course to cheer the runners. The atmosphere is electrifying. I would highly recommend the Berlin and Chicago marathons to runners seeking a go at their personal best.

Although I have been running for the past seven years, I never trained seriously for any of my races. I started running in 2011 with my office colleague Sandeep Parab. We quickly graduated from running half marathons to full marathons and were always on the lookout to run races wherever our office work took us. Visit and explore a new country and run a full marathon – that became a theme.

In three years we ran full marathons in five continents – Asia (Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Dubai, Singapore), Europe (Salzburg, Prague), Australia (Melbourne), South Africa (Cape Town), North America (San Francisco) and finally on February 20, 2015, we achieved our dream of running a full marathon on all the seven continents. We finished the quest with Punta Arenas in Chile (South America) and the White Continent Marathon in King George Island, Antarctica.

I also ran the Texas Metalsaw Marathon, Houston in the US, IDBI New Delhi Marathon, Tata Ultra Marathon (50K) and Comrades in South Africa. We were running for the sheer love of running without looking at our timing. Also there was no emphasis on speed training, strength training gym workouts etc.

From December 2017, I joined Life Pacers and began a structured training program under the guidance of Dr Pravin Gaikwad, Dnyaneshwar (Don) Tidke and Panada. This training has helped. The result was visible in my personal best at the 2018 Tata Mumbai Marathon and 2018 Chicago Marathon. I was also able to complete my first Comrades Marathon of 90 kilometers in June 2018.

I plan to run the London Marathon in April 2019 and Comrades Marathon for the second year in a row in June 2019.

Manjunath Bhat (Photo: courtesy Manjunath Bhat)

Manjunath Bhat

I am amazed when an entire city gets its stuff right to organize a race.

Be it Chicago Marathon or Mumbai Marathon I always get goosebumps at the start line thinking about all the people who had to come together to put an event of such scale together.

I was happy to see that the streets of Chicago were filled with people supporting runners from around the world. I saw people with the Indian flag at two different places. People were cheering all along the way.

This has been a perfect race for me in terms of my performance, training, support etc. The aid stations were well-stocked and placed at just the right interval.

I did better than my expectation. My training was for a 3:59 but I ended up with a 3:52:54. External factors might have affected (improved my performance) a bit. I had not planned for a cold and wet morning. Hence I had not packed enough dry clothes when I was heading to the start line. I have never run a race with so many runners racing the full marathon. So I had to wade through runners till the finish line.

I did not know about the World Majors before I registered for Chicago a year ago. I knew that I would be in Chicago during the month of the marathon and decided to give it a try. Given a chance, I would love to do it again.

I felt this was one of the best races I have run. Including the pre-race expo, the baggage counters, the starting corrals, the route and crowd support – everything was well planned and well executed.

I would say this is a must run race for any runner.

I started running in 2011. I have participated in Kaveri Trail Marathon, Mumbai Marathon, Bengaluru Marathon and Philadelphia Marathon among others. I plan to apply for the 2019 Berlin marathon. I wouldn’t be disappointed if I don’t get in.

I run one race every year to have a timing certificate and to see where I stand. So I would definitely be running a local race if not a major one.

Poonam Bhatia (Photo: courtesy Poonam Bhatia)

Poonam Bhatia

I started running six years ago at the age of 44. I have run many 10 kilometer runs, half marathons and full marathons. I also ran three ultras.

Doing World Majors was never on my mind, but I registered for Chicago while training for Comrades this February; I was getting a bib.

I started training in August and had just two months to prepare for the race. I had heard that it’s a very good race with good weather and flat course.

I thought I would train to whatever level I can as per my capability in the two months I had and just go and enjoy my first major. Though I was a little apprehensive about running in a crowd of close to 50,000 runners and in a slightly cold and rainy ambiance on race day, it turned out to be a fantastic experience for me. I ended up with a personal best.

All arrangements right from the bib collection to getting to the start line, to aid stations on the course, to crowd support, to crossing the finish line and collecting our medals and refreshment bags – everything was superb. All arrangements were made keeping runners as the first priority and to make them feel special. The race T-shirt and the medal are very good.

Even three days after the race, people congratulated any runner they came across on the streets wearing the race T-shirt or medals. This was such a fabulous experience for me that now I am tempted to run all the six World Majors.

Some of the major events I have participated in are Ladakh Marathon, Run the Rann, two Comrades Marathons back to back in 2017 and 2018 and Tata Ultra Lonavala. The latest one was Chicago Marathon.

Well for now its recovery time. I will soon be back to training to get ready for the Tata Mumbai Marathon and then Two Oceans in April 2019 in South Africa.

Ramani Brahma (Photo: courtesy Ramani Brahma)

Ramani Brahma

The race was really good and unlike any marathon in India the crowd support was wonderful right from the first kilometer to the finish line. You could not have asked for anything more.

Weather was good maybe a bit cold but I had no complaints. It also rained for a while.

I entered this race because my daughter lives in Chicago. Of course, this was one of the races in my bucket list.

As regards timing it was below my expectation. I had to take a break and that led to the poor timing. The first half of the run was as per plan.

Overall I enjoyed the run. It was a different experience to see tens of thousands of runners running non-stop.

Next on the cards is Comrades Marathon. But that will be considered only when I improve my timing. I have been running for 15 years now.

Dhiraj Dedhia (Photo: courtesy Dhiraj Dedhia)

Dhiraj Dedhia

I ran the Chicago Marathon just two weeks after the Atlantic City Half Ironman.

It more than compensated for the disappointment I experienced at Atlantic City where unfortunately I had a DNF (Did Not Finish). During the cycling segment I missed the third loop and found myself exiting the cycling course without completing the distance. Nevertheless, I continued and finished the running leg of the triathlon.

Two weeks later at Chicago I had an excellent run.

At Chicago I ended up with a personal best of 4:20:29 hours, shaving off 16 minutes from my previous personal best.

Weather was really good.

It was an awesome experience with much cheering.

My next event is a half Ironman distance triathlon at Kolhapur.

That will be followed by a full marathon at the Ahmedabad Marathon in November.

Chitra Nadkarni (Photo: courtesy Chitra Nadkarni)

Chitra Nadkarni

Chicago was a wonderful experience.

It was my fourth World Marathon Major.

When I landed in Chicago the weather was warm. But gradually it changed and it was for the better. On race day the weather was cold and rainy; there was intermittent rain throughout the run.

I had struggled with my earlier runs in London and New Zealand. Hence my coach Suchita and I worked hard on hip opening and lot of exercising of the legs. I put in much effort like taking care of food, exercise, rest, mileage.

Chicago marathon was a beautiful experience. There were so many volunteers. There was plenty of water and Gatorade. The crowd support was tremendous and the cheering, loud. The route was beautiful. There were so many runners. There was never a moment when I was running alone and never a moment when I felt I should walk or stop.

I missed my family a lot when I finished the race. It’s because of the support from my husband and daughter that I am able to do all these races.

I would truly love to do Chicago and Berlin again because they made me feel good about myself. I would love to do London again because I am sad about the result I got and given I love the city, I would like to do justice to my run.

I will be running New York in November.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)

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