Chicago Marathon: Budgeting and Tips for Filipino Runners

Discover the essentials of participating in the Chicago Marathon, from managing costs to acclimating to the colder climate - a Filipino runner's handbook.

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Congratulations to all the Filipino runners drawn from the lottery to join the 2024 Chicago Marathon! You’re about to embark on a journey that’s not just a race, but a celebration of endurance, culture, and personal achievement. As many of you are preparing for this incredible event, I want to share with you what you need to know about the costs involved and how to prepare for the colder climate of Chicago.

You’re already aware of the registration fee for the Chicago Marathon, set at approx P15,000. However, to ensure a truly successful and memorable race experience next year, it’s essential to start planning your trip well in advance. From travel arrangements to training schedules, early preparation is the key to making the most of this incredible.

1. Travel and Accommodations

  • Flight Arrangements

    • Choosing an Airline: Consider airlines that offer convenient routing to Chicago. For example, we chose Cathay Pacific because it provides a route with a short stopover in Hong Kong, which is a good balance between cost and comfort.
    • Booking Early: Aim to book your flight tickets well in advance. This not only ensures availability but also often results in better pricing. Late booking could result in higher costs; for reference, a round trip booked later can cost around 75,000 PHP.
    • Airport to Hotel Transit: Research the best options for traveling from the airport to your hotel. Options may include taxis, rideshares, or public transportation, depending on your budget and preference. We did not prepare for this, so we opt for UBER which costs us around $100 (P5,600) to get get to our hotel.
  • Accommodations

    • Proximity to the Race Venue: Staying near the race venue is crucial for convenience. Hotels like ALOFT MAG MILE, located about 1.5KM from the race start, offer the advantage of being close to the event, reducing travel stress on race day.
    • Cost Considerations: Accommodation prices can be high during marathon weekends. ALOFT MAG MILE, for instance, can cost around P25,000 per night. Consider sharing the room with friends or family to split the cost.
    • Post-Race Options: If you plan to extend your stay in Chicago, look for more budget-friendly options like Airbnb in the suburbs. These can offer a more cost-effective stay and an opportunity to explore different parts of the city.
    • Reservations: Book your accommodations as early as possible. Demand is high during marathon weekends, and early booking can secure better rates and locations.
  • Navigating the City

    • Public Transportation: Familiarize yourself with Chicago’s public transportation system, including buses and the ‘L’ train, for cost-effective city travel. UBER is convenient, but it would cost more than learning to use the train station.
    • Walking Routes: Plan walking routes to and from the race venue. A test walk or jog before the race day can help you get a feel for the distance and the best pathways.
    • Safety and Convenience: Always consider safety and convenience, especially when returning to your accommodation after the marathon or sightseeing.
  • Local Amenities

    • Groceries and Dining: Identify nearby grocery stores and dining options. Staying near local markets or restaurants can make your stay more comfortable and convenient, especially for pre-race nutrition. In the days leading up to the race, we focused on a nutrition strategy centered around ‘safer’ food choices to minimize the risk of stomach issues. Our favorites are Nando’s and Chipotle, known for their wholesome and reliable menu options. These restaurants became our go-to for pre-race dining, ensuring we were well-fueled with foods that were both nourishing and gentle on our digestive systems.
    • Medical Facilities: Know the location of nearby medical facilities, just in case of any health concerns or emergencies during your stay.

2. Gear and Clothing

Running a major marathon like Chicago’s requires specific attention to gear and clothing, especially considering the colder and windy conditions. Here are some tailored recommendations based on our experiences:

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  • Understanding the Climate: The weather during the Chicago Marathon can be challenging for those unaccustomed to cold conditions. For instance, in 2023, the temperature dropped to 7 degrees Celsius. While this might be comfortable for Europeans or Americans, it can be quite cold for Asians.
  • Adapting Your Running Gear: In addition to your regular running attire, consider wearing running shorts with an extra lining for added warmth. For women, leggings can be a good option, though personal preference plays a role. I personally opted for shorts as I’m not accustomed to running in leggings.
  • Arm Sleeves and Gloves: A good pair of arm sleeves and running gloves are essential. They provide the necessary warmth without being too cumbersome.
  • Pre-Race Warmth: Remember, you’ll likely be waiting in your corral for over an hour before the race starts, so staying warm during this period is crucial. Invest in throwaway gear like a jacket and, if possible, pants. These can be discarded at the start or along the route. The Chicago Marathon organizers collect these discarded items and donate them to charity, so you’ll be keeping warm and contributing to a good cause.
  • Emergency Blanket: An often-overlooked but highly effective item is an emergency blanket. These blankets are lightweight, compact, and can provide significant warmth. They are available for purchase at stores like R.O.X. or Decathlon in the Philippines, typically ranging from 150 to 300 PHP. You can use an emergency blanket before the start of the race and after finishing to maintain body heat, especially while waiting in the colder temperatures. This is a cost-effective solution to keep yourself comfortable in the chilly Chicago weather.
  • Layering Strategy: Layering is key. You can always remove layers as you warm up during the race. This approach helps maintain optimal body temperature throughout the run.

3. Race Kit Claiming and Expo

The Chicago Marathon makes race kit claiming a streamlined process, beginning on the Thursday before the race. To ensure a smooth experience, it’s best to arrive in Chicago by Thursday or Friday. This early arrival not only eases the claiming process but also gives you ample time to prepare for the race day.

  • Exploring the Expo: The marathon expo is not just about claiming your race kit; it’s an event in itself. Allocate enough time to explore the various stalls and activities. The expo is a great place to soak in the pre-race atmosphere and get excited about the event.
  • Shopping at the Expo: The expo also offers a range of shopping opportunities, especially for official marathon merchandise and gear.
  • Official Gear: Be prepared for the cost of official marathon gear, which can be on the higher side. For example, the official Chicago Marathon jacket was priced at $120. If you’re planning to buy official merchandise as a souvenir or for practical use, make sure to budget accordingly.
  • Deals and Essentials: The expo is also a great place to find deals from partner brands. You can purchase last-minute essentials like nutrition products, race belts, sleeves, gloves, and more. This is an excellent opportunity to grab items you might have forgotten or to try new products endorsed by the marathon.

4. Race Day

Race day at the Chicago Marathon is a culmination of all your hard work and dedication. Here are some essential tips to ensure a smooth experience:

  • Know Your Start Time:
    • Familiarize yourself with the race manual to find out your corral’s start time. The marathon typically has staggered starts; for instance, gun times might be set at 7:30 am, 8:00 am, and 8:35 am.
    • Plan to arrive about two hours before your start time. This window allows for security checks and participation in pre-race activities.
  • Plan Your Journey to the Venue:
    • Estimate a 30-minute walk to the starting area, depending on your hotel’s location. This ensures you’re not rushing and can arrive at the venue calmly.
  • Bathroom Strategy:
    • For those who need to use the restroom before the run (like me!), be aware that while there are several portalets, lines can get long.
    • It’s wise to queue up before you feel the urge to go, ensuring you’re ready in time for your corral’s start.
  • Pre-Race Nutrition:
    • Carry a light snack, such as a pack of Sky Flakes, to stave off hunger before the race begins.
  • Stay Warm:
    • Dress in the gear you’ve prepared, keeping warm while waiting. The early morning chill can be significant, especially for runners from warmer climates.
  • Savor the Moment:
    • The atmosphere, with thousands of international runners, is electric and inspiring. Absorb and enjoy every moment leading up to the start.
  • During the Run:
    • Focus on enjoying the run. You’ve trained for months; now is the time to experience the joy of running in Chicago.
    • If you start off wearing a jacket, you’ll likely warm up between the 5K to 7K mark. Feel free to discard any excess gear at this point.
  • Embrace the Experience:
    • Running in Chicago is unique. Enjoy the city’s energy, the cheering crowds, and the sense of shared achievement with fellow runners.

5. Post-Race Essentials

After completing the marathon, it’s crucial to have the right items on hand for comfort and recovery. Here’s what you need to know about packing your post-race essentials:

  • Official Race Bag Limitations: The Chicago Marathon has specific rules regarding check-in baggage. Participants are only allowed to use the official race bag provided. This means you need to be strategic about what you pack.
  • Essential Items to Include:
    • Extra Money: Always handy for any immediate needs or emergencies.
    • Change of Clothes: You’ll likely want to get out of your sweaty running gear. Pack something warm and comfortable for the post-race period.
    • Compact Jacket: Choose a jacket that can easily fit in the race bag. This will be crucial for staying warm after the race, especially given Chicago’s unpredictable weather.
    • Emergency Blanket: As mentioned earlier, this can be a lifesaver in maintaining body heat.
    • Extra Socks: Fresh socks can provide comfort and warmth, especially if you have to walk a considerable distance after the race.
    • Food and Snacks: Post-race nutrition is vital. Pack some snacks or energy-rich foods to help replenish your energy levels.
  • Planning Your Return: Remember that you might have to walk back to your hotel or travel to your Airbnb. Ensure that the items you pack are suitable for this journey, keeping you warm and comfortable as you move.

6. Exploring Chicago

After the exhilarating Chicago Marathon, exploring the city’s attractions and culinary scene is a delightful way to unwind and celebrate your achievement. Here’s an enhanced guide based on our experiences:

  • Architectural Cruise: The architectural cruise is a must-do in Chicago. It offers breathtaking views of the city’s skyline and a unique perspective on its architectural marvels. The tour, priced at around 2,500 PHP, is a relaxing way to soak in the city’s beauty. We enjoyed the cruise by Chicago’s First Lady for their exceptional service.
  • Field Museum: Dive into the natural history and science at the Field Museum. It’s renowned for its extensive dinosaur exhibits, including the famous T. Rex. This museum is an excellent way to engage with history and science in an entertaining setting.
  • Managing Your Time: With just a couple of days after the marathon, it’s crucial to plan effectively. The architectural cruise and the Field Museum are easily manageable within this timeframe, allowing you to experience some of Chicago’s iconic sights.
  • Coffee Shop Exploration: For coffee aficionados, Chicago is a haven. From the expansive Starbucks Reserve, one of the largest globally, to the cozy ambience of Dollop Coffee and the artisanal offerings of Blue Bottle Coffee, there’s a coffee shop to suit every taste. Fairgrounds Coffee and Stan’s Donut also provide unique and local coffee experiences that shouldn’t be missed.
  • Culinary Adventures: Chicago’s food scene is as diverse as it is delicious. For a taste of local flavors, Portillo’s Italian Beef and Billy Goat Tavern are iconic. For burger enthusiasts, a visit to 5 Guys Burgers is a must. For a celebratory dinner, Morton’s Steaks offers an upscale dining experience. These culinary spots are just the tip of the iceberg in a city known for its vibrant food culture.

7. Total Cost and Budget

Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the estimated expenses to help you budget effectively for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

  1. Marathon Entry Fee:
    • The cost to enter the Chicago Marathon lottery is set at P15,000. This is your ticket to the race and the first expense to consider in your budget.
  2. Air Travel:
    • Flights, especially when booked closer to the date, can be a significant expense. For instance, a round trip via Cathay Pacific might cost around P75,000. Early booking is recommended to potentially secure better rates.
  3. Accommodation:
    • Staying near the marathon venue, such as at ALOFT MAG MILE, can cost about P25,000 per night. To reduce costs, consider sharing the room with friends or family. For a more budget-friendly option post-race, Airbnb stays in the suburbs are a great choice.
  4. Daily Expenses:
    • Daily expenses in Chicago, including food and local transport, can range from P2,600 to P5,200. Averaging it out, let’s allocate about P3,900 per day, accounting for five days, totaling P19,500.
  5. Official Marathon Gear:
    • Setting a budget of about P10,000 for official gear, like the marathon jacket, is advisable. This ensures you have a keepsake from the event without overspending.
  6. Sightseeing:
    • For exploring Chicago’s attractions like the Architectural Cruise (approximately P2,500) and the Field Museum (around P1,512), allocate about P4,012.
  7. Miscellaneous:
    • It’s always wise to have a contingency fund for unexpected expenses or emergencies.

Total Estimated Budget:

  • Marathon Entry: P15,000
  • Airfare: P75,000
  • Accommodation (Shared): P37,500
  • Daily Expenses: P19,500
  • Official Gear: P10,000
  • Sightseeing: P4,000
  • Grand Total (Per Person): P161,000

This estimated budget is a guideline to help you plan your trip. Remember, the actual costs can vary based on personal choices, spending habits, and fluctuating prices. Nevertheless, this breakdown offers a solid foundation for managing your finances as you prepare for the exciting and challenging Chicago Marathon experience.

8. Chicago Marathon Experience – Video

As you embark on the journey to the Chicago Marathon, remember that this adventure is not just a race; it’s a celebration of your dedication and a testament to your Pinoy Pride. The challenges you’ll face and the triumphs you’ll experience will become a part of your personal marathon story.

From the thrill of securing a spot in the marathon lottery to the excitement of exploring Chicago’s attractions post-race, this adventure offers a unique blend of endurance, culture, and camaraderie.

So, embrace the experience, savor every mile, and carry the Pinoy Pride with you every step of the way. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a first-time runner, the Chicago Marathon is a chance to showcase your Filipino spirit on the global stage.

As you cross the finish line, you not only bring home a medal but also a sense of accomplishment and pride. You’ve not only completed a marathon but also brought a piece of the Philippines to the heart of Chicago. Enjoy the adventure, run with passion, and let your Pinoy Pride shine bright.

1 COMMENT

  1. Just want to ask, is it typical to have a really high credit card processing fee for the Chicago Marathon? I got accepted as an applicant and saw they charged an additional USD182.92.

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