CHICAGO – Even the most experienced marathoners were in for a first Sunday: A city to themselves on Chicago Marathon day.
“It’s dead here. Usually there’s tens of thousands of people, but it’s very weird and very quiet,” Lauren Angland said. “But it’ll still be fun.”
This was supposed to be Angland’s third Chicago Marathon, but it, like so much else, was canceled because of the pandemic. The Marathon opted to go virtual, encouraging runners to create their own routes. Angland was one of a handful to begin at Grant Park, near the traditional start line, as the sun rose.
“Normally I’m getting hyped up, but today I’m more approaching it to just like slow down, have fun, take in every step, take in all the neighborhoods because we’re not racing anybody today,” Angland said.
Last year’s marathon hosted a record number of finishers: nearly 46,000. This year, everyone had to participate from home.
“We’ve got people that are running virtually from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, which is really special to us,” executive race director Carey Pinkowski said.
But that means those thousands of runners and their families aren’t spending their money in Chicago, staying at the more than 40 hotels that work directly with marathon organizers, he said.
And the volunteer teams that make the marathon what it is would miss their annual reunions. That didn’t sit well with the start line team, so they gathered where they normally would, this time on a Zoom call with their friends across the country, to remember two teammates they lost since the last marathon and reflect.
“I’ve had a kid, moved, got a promotion and been laid off since I’ve seen them last,” volunteer Len Musielak said.
“It’s warmed my heart to see them all. I’m fighting tears at the moment,” volunteer Megan Dwyer said.
They tried to make the most of what feels like a marathon year, already anticipating 2021.
“We’re going to look to the future with a lot of optimism,” Pinkowski said.
Any runners who registered for the 2020 Chicago Marathon can carry over their fees to the 2021, 2022 or 2023 marathons, organizers said.