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Deep Dish Pizza, Grant Park & The Magnificent Mile – 2 Racers Discuss All That Surrounds the Chicago Marathon

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The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is right around the corner! As one of the six World Major Marathons (among Boston, New York, London, Berlin, and Tokyo), runners from across the nation and 100 different countries will head to the Windy City to run the course (of course), but also to eat at The Pasta Bowl, view the Cloud Gate, hang out in Grant Park, and more. We were lucky enough to chat with racers Justin Stone and Neil Gottlieb. Read on as they dish out all of the details on the goodies surrounding the Chicago Marathon and what they’ve been doing to prepare.

Before we get right into it, meet our marathoners.

Justin Stone

Justin Stone on race day

Justin (@DisnyRunr24): I’ve always liked to run, but didn’t get serious about the sport until 2010, when I entered a 5k sponsored by my company. Not really training, the race ended up a complete disaster with me wheezing and hacking through two of the 3.1 miles. It was then and there, I decided to get serious and explore training programs that would increase my performance. To date, I have run over 50 races, five of which are marathons, and even a triathlon. I’m not on a professional team, but like to participate with a great local running club, RUNFELLOW, as well as some online running groups. I try to write about my running experiences as much as I can. Although, I am no expert, I try to write an honest perspective from the eyes of a runner. You can find me at alwaysrunningforward.com and on Facebook and Instagram.

Neil Gottlieb at the Boston Marathon

Neil Gottlieb at the Boston Marathon

Neil (@Neil_Gottlieb): From Philadelphia, PA. 45 years old. Married with 3 kids (18, 16, 7). Been running for over 20+ years. Triathlete, duathlete and mararthoner. I have completed multiple Boston Marathons and had finished the 2013 race and went back towards the finish line to watch folks finish when the bombs went off. It was a horrible day and to this day, not a run I do or a race I compete in goes by that I do not think of that day and push through the hard training runs remembering those who were injured and died that day. Former collegiate soccer player and coach. Professionally, I run an animation studio in PA.

Have you done the Chicago Marathon before?

Justin: This will be my 3rd year running the Chicago Marathon and is by far my favorite marathon. Being from Chicago, I feel a deep connection with this race, and this city never disappoints. The energy from the spectators is nothing short of extraordinary, and they line every inch of the course so you never feel alone. The course itself is flat and fast, and the communities you visit are so endemic to what makes Chicago the best city in the world. I also have to say, the Runner Expo is by far the best of all the races I run. It’s jam packed with great gear and personalities. A must see even if you aren’t running.

Neil Gottlieb

Neil Gottlieb looks forward to running the Chicago Marathon

Neil: This will be my first Chicago. I have run the others in the Major Marathon Series, including Boston (multiple times) and Berlin. I am looking forward to a nice flat and fast course, but also I love the city, having spent many years there while living just north in Wisconsin. It is a great running city with lots of fan support, a good climate for running in October, and great food.

What makes the Chicago Marathon  different than other marathons? 

Justin: As mentioned, I was born in Chicago, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m now located in Boston, which is no slouch when it comes to high profile marathons, but Chicago just has this energy about it, and I think it comes from the diversity of Chicago’s neighborhoods. They all have their own personality, which is great since you have a new experience mile after mile. Just past Chinatown (around Mile 22), each year I have run, there have been a group of spectators with cans of Guinness, and they will run with you so you can grab a swig. It’s amazing. I would also say, running through Lincoln Park (my old home) is sentimental for me. Lastly, running through Boystown is just, well, an experience not to be missed. There are so many amazing spots along the course.

Neil: Chicago is unique in that it is very flat with little elevation change. It is a large race with more fan support along the course then any of the other majors. This race is special for me as I have qualified for a front corral placement based on previous race results and [I’m] looking forward to racing with some of the best athletes in the sport.

What do you recommend for people visiting the area the weekend of the race? What are your plans?

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate photo courtesy of cityofchicago.org

Justin: What I love so much about Chicago is that it is such a foodie town. Tourist or local, you MUST hit Portillo’s for a Chicago Dog and Italian Beef. Other tremendous places to visit are: The Pasta Bowl (Clark St. & Fullerton), best pasta in the city! For celebrating your accomplishment, check out MK. It’s dressy and pricey, but a must-do when we are in town. Sights and sounds are the traditional Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), Mag Mile and Grant Park. But, I’d also recommend taking a run north on the lakefront trail in the morning (such great sights), the Lincoln Park Zoo (it’s free!), the old Marshall Fields building in the Loop (now Macy’s), or just walk around the city and soak in the amazing architecture. I love that city so much!

Neil: For an event like this, the city has a very “Olympic” feel. There is a ton of energy from about Thursday through the weekend. Wear your Chicago Marathon gear that you can get at the Expo with pride, and people will stop you and wish you good luck in the race. Stay down by Grant Park, and take some light runs across the finish line that will be set up on Friday. Also, make reservations early for some of the best carb-loading Italian restaurants in the world just by the start and finish line areas. And when done with the race, celebrate with a classic deep-dish pizza and a light beer. I will be personally arriving on Thursday, and I am an “Expo Junkie” so will be there a few times Friday and Saturday. I plan to run a few light shake-out runs to keep the nerves in check and carb load like crazy.

What do you wear on “race day”?

Justin: Lots of Body Glide. But, seriously folks…. Recently, I’ve exclusively worn singlets. This year, I’m running for TeamPAWS, which raises money to save stray animals and gets them set up with homes they deserve, so, I’ll be wearing a TeamPAWS singlet. New Balance shorts, and for shoes, New Balance 1600s. I’ve recently switched over to them from my trusted old adidas Adios and have had great experiences. Although, I haven’t completely made my decision on shoes, so I will bring a few pairs and make my decision based on race day conditions.

Neil: Regardless of temperature, I wear Brooks racing shorts and 2XU singlet.

Goals for the race?

Justin: It’s important to have multiple goals. I really want to finish in the low 3:40s, but if that doesn’t happen, I’d be happy with anything under 4:00.

Neil: Based on my training, I plan to perform well, and if I show up healthy at the start, I plan to beat my Berlin Marathon time from last fall, which was on a similar course (flat and fast).

What are you going to do to celebrate after you finish?

Justin Stone after finishing a race

Justin Stone after finishing a race

Justin: I’m going to eat a lot and celebrate with my friends. We’ll probably hit The Pasta Bowl one more time and then work our way up Clark St. Of course, I’ll have to make my pilgrimage to Wrigley Field to see my beloved Cubs, even though they will have ended way before my visit, so I’ll just snap a few pics of the stadium.

Neil: First, I always look for my family as they are the ones who put up with my insanity all year training before the sun comes up, eating crazy foods, and me having to be in bed early every Saturday night because of the long runs on Sundays. And of course, pizza is the celebration meal.

Why do you do it?

Justin: Not to get existential, but I’d refer you to George Mallory’s quote when he was asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. “Because it’s there,” he replied.

Neil: Because I can. Period.

Finish Line wishes a ginormous good luck to Neil and Justin as they prepare for the race — and eat lots of deep dish pizza afterwards! If you are running the race or just attending as a spectator, let us know how the weekend is going by tweeting at us @FinishLine.