Big city marathons take a little extra planning when it comes to getting to the start line ready to run. Read all your pre-race information about transportation to the start, staring waves and any other race specific information to help calm jitters and do all you can to help race day go as smoothly as possible. Every race is different. And that’s one of the things that make them fun! But knowing what to expect is comforting as well.

While I now live in sunny San Diego, I lived in the Windy City for five years and loved my daily runs along the lakefront. I ran the 2010 Chicago Marathon, and it remains my favorite marathon to this day. Keep reading for my tips about how to have a great day on the course.

Get there early so that you can hit up the port-o-potties. Remember, it’s a big race and lines can be long.

Set a meeting point with your loved ones and friends for after the race. Also arrange your post-race transportation before the race, so you have one less thing to worry about when you’re tired. The start and finish are about half a mile apart in downtown. If you really want to make it easy on yourself, book a room within walking distance for stress-free commuting.

It’s a very flat course, making it easy to start out too fast. Check your watch and keep it slower than your goal race pace. Give yourself time to warm up, find your rhythm and temper race day excitement.

Enjoy the different neighborhoods. Chicago is well known for it’s rich, varied cultures and diverse neighborhoods. The loop marathon course passes through more than two-dozen neighborhoods, each with a unique and energizing vibe.

Be mindful of where you step at water stations—volunteers try to stay on top of it, but during crowded times, there could be a lot of used hydration cups on the ground.

It’s generally chilly on race morning. Dress appropriately, and be prepared to shed your layers right before the race start. Items will be donated to charity. Goodwill is also a great place to find items to stay warm before the race.

Soak up all the cheers and camaraderie; this is a big, fun and festive event. But that also means it can be crowded. Be prepared to be patient.

Chicago is known as the “Windy City,” and it usually lives up to its name. The crowds often help with drafting, but if you catch a head wind, don’t try to push your pace. Keep your heart rate level and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Head to Lake Michigan post race, you can scope it out as you run by during the marathon, for an all-natural ice bath. The Lake’s average temperature on race day is in the high 50’s.

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