On Tuesday the 3rd October after I have packed and re-packed worrying incessantly that I may forget some vital item for Chicago Marathon – eventually I am satisfied so we set off by train for Paris for an overnight stop before flying to Chicago. This is our first visit and I cannot tell you how excited I am. On landing I want to buy a newspaper from one of those street vending machine but Charles says ‘You don’t read newspapers” but I’ve seen so many on American films I just want to get one. Then as we cross the road I spot the blue marathon line that indicates the most direct route of the race and I get over excited again and we have only been in Chicago for an hour. I think I better pre-warn readers that there will be lots of superlatives in this post.
After spending nearly two hours in queues getting through immigration at the airport we eventually arrive at the Wyndham Grand Hotel and the view from our room is awesome, right in the middle of all the action, immediately opposite Trump Tower with the waterways beneath us – Charles is struggling with my emotions.
Wednesday and Thursday are chillout days and we enjoy an amazing American breakfast at the very popular Wild Berry Cafe which is far too big and we both have to leave some to allow room for the pancakes – and of course we have to take photographs. We take a walk to the start and finish of the marathon and its good to know its only a 10 minute walk from the hotel.
On Thursday we visit the Expo where I collect my marathon bib and the bib for the 5k shakeout run on Saturday. I have to practice restraint so I don’t over spend as there is so much fabulous running gear to feast my eyes on but I settle on a Chicago celebration jacket and Charles guides me out as fast as he can. In the afternoon we are prevented from getting to our hotel by Police who have closed the roads due to demonstrations about a recent court case of a white Police Officer who had shot and killed an unarmed back youth. It’s noisy but peaceful but the cops are not looking too happy.
On Saturday the heavens open and I am not sure the 5K shakeout run will take place but I get ready anyway and make my way to start line with Charles who cannot believe I am making the effort. On arrival there are hundreds of drowned rats trying to find shelter all listening to a voice on the tanoy explaining the race has been postponed as the weather is making it too dangerous but after a while the rain eases and we all line up first to listen to the American National Anthem and we are soon on our way. Kerry my personal trainers last words were to take it nice and easy but I am enjoying myself too much and run it in good time. I’m chuffed not only getting a celebration hat but also a medal. The rest of the day is spent chilling out and resting before the big day.
Sunday arrives and I have a host of butterflies in my tummy and nerves are all a jangle (is that a word?) Charles walks me to the start line but has to say his goodbyes as I enter the runners only area. Runners are very social creatures and I soon get chatting to people around me, try to relax with some stretches and it’s not long before the gun goes off and the race has started.
I’m feeling good and know that I have put in the training so soon relax into a steady pace and enjoy looking around and soaking up the atmosphere from the thousands of cheering supporters. The weather is a good temperature but I could do without the intermittent rain showers. In no time at all well to be precise in 4hrs and 2 minutes the race is over and I receive my medal only presented to me by the one and only Paula Radcliffe – how special is that!! A couple of medics approach me as I walk slowly to the family meeting area because my lips are grey and I’m shivering but that’s normal for me and after eating chocolate and drinking an energy drink I’m soon back to normal. I’m disappointed I didn’t break the sub 4 hour time and Charles is a bit frustrated with me but I guess you have to be a runner to understand – I’m still chuffed but come on 2 minutes, what was I playing at!!
Now the holiday part begins and I forgot to mention that when we arrived in Paris Charles informs me he has something to tell me – he’s forgotten to bring his driving licence meaning I will be doing all the driving. So on Monday we pick up our car and head to Detroit about a four hour drive. We are visiting The Henry Ford Museum so stay in a nearby hotel which also happens to be by the airport and we both admit it is a bit of a mistake. The people are friendly, very loud and seem to think everyone around needs to hear their very uninteresting stories but it’s only one night and we enjoy the museum which is both fascinating and informative; seeing the actual presidents vehicles including the one JFK was assassinated in. Unfortunately we cannot stay all day as we have to drive to Canada as our next hotel is at Niagara Falls so we have another four hour drive.
We are a little surprised how tacky the town where Niagara Falls is situated is but we are in a nice hotel and once we walk through the arcades and theme park area we come to the falls and they are awesome, so powerful and on an evening coloured lights provide a spectacular view. We enjoy a meal overlooking the falls and long walks along the river.
On Wednesday we take a walk behind the falls before enjoying the compulsory boat trip on The Maid of the Mist getting soaked up close to the falls where of course I have to stand right at the front to get soaked!!
In the evening we enjoy a meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Skylon Tower and I have to keep remembering not to put anything on the shelf next to our table as our table moves but the shelf doesn’t!!
On Thursday we take a short drive over The Rainbow International Bridge crossing the border back into the USA. By contrast the American side is much more like a national park although the views are not quite as spectacular but still amazing and we enjoy long walks along the River Niagara.
On Friday we take a long drive to Cleveland, Ohio and spend the afternoon in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but can you believe that Cliff Richard has not been honoured so I am not so impressed anymore. It’s too far to drive in one day back to Chicago so on Saturday we stay overnight in Fort Wayne arriving back into Chicago on Sunday morning. How silly was I to think the roads would be quiet in Chicago as I don’t think I have been so terrified driving in my life especially when driving in one lane and Charles informs me I need to be three across and turn left but we cope and I do lots of girlie smiles and expressions of bewilderment to other drivers who clearly decide to give me a wide berth and the car is returned in one piece and I cannot deny I am relieved to be rid of it. Well I wasn’t looking forward to doing all the driving, about 1000 miles I reckon but it really wasn’t so bad and I am much better at driving than navigating which is Charles expertise.
We take the train to our Airbnb and I am not impressed with the new neighbourhood. I do believe we could purchase any type of drug one desired. It doesn’t help when we walk in the wrong direction pulling suitcases, carrying bags, camera’s with Charles having his mobile phone in his hand desperately trying to find the apartment getting some very strange looks from the locals. The description did say it was a very colourful area but I am really frightened and ready to run – good job I’m a good runner. Eventually we find our place which if we had gone in the right direction was less that a five minute walk from the subway and is a lovely place with all the amenities to make it a comfortable stay but I make sure all the locks and chains are bolted!!!
We are here until Thursday so enjoy being tourists – including the River Architecture Cruise, the obligatory hop on hop off bus tour, 360 Observation Tour, Chicago Art Museum and History Museum. On Wednesday we enjoy our first live ballet of Swan Lake and it’s amazing. Slightly unnerving when the taxi driver taking us back to our Airbnb checks the address and tells us we shouldn’t be staying in that area, it is just not safe!!! Good job we are going home tomorrow.
We love Chicago, the architecture is just amazing, the people are friendly even it is meant to be of the most violent cities in America and of course getting a personal best in the marathon makes it even more special. We both agree that one day we will return!