Chances are you either love or hate race expos; there isn’t much of an in-between. For newer runners, expos offer a chance to touch, taste, feel or learn about hundreds of products, events or organizations in a matter of minutes. For crusty old veterans, the expo is just a sea of nervous energy and “no thank yous” they must navigate through after picking up their bib numbers.
With more than 160 exhibitors, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is one of the largest of any marathon in the country. Whether you want to learn more about a possible destination marathon in Serbia, or you’d like to sample a new super-food bar from a local bakery, there’s a lot to take in when you come for packet pick-up. Stopping at every booth would take you longer than two marathons and you want to be off your feet as much as possible before race day. So, we rounded up five unique booths that are worth popping in for a peak (or a bite).
Picky Bars (booth #757)
Professional distance runner Lauren Fleshman and pro triathlete Jesse Thomas are picky eaters. You have to be when you’re competing against the world’s best in some of the toughest endurance races on earth. What started with the couple making delicious energy bars in their kitchen has grown into a thriving business, mostly because they taste really good. Not to mention each bar has only a handful of all-natural ingredients. Picky Oats have been the latest craze among endurance athletes. While we don’t advise trying anything new on race morning, if you pick up a few packs, it might soon become your go-to pre-race breakfast. Plus, Stephanie Bruce, an American athlete on this year’s field, is a partner in the company. Perhaps she’ll make a special visit? Learn more about the product at pickybars.com.
NormaTec (booth #680)
By now you’ve probably seen Normatec boots or something like them. But have you actually given them a try? If you’ve been holding out on trying these “space boots” then the expo is the perfect chance to give them a test run. Don’t worry: even if you’ve never used them before they won’t make you sore on race morning. Chances are your legs will feel a bit fresher. While a typical post-workout recovery session in NormaTec boots lasts 20-60 minutes, in just a few minutes at the expo, you’ll be able to experience the benefits of graduated compression therapy. Think of it as a chance to get off your feet and get an ultra-quick massage before the big day. normatecrecovery.com
Stryd (booth #276)
Part of the allure of running is that it can be as low-tech as you’d like it to be. As long as you have some running shoes and some clothes to wear, you can run as long as you please. (People have been known to run without either). But it’s becoming increasingly more high-tech—for those who choose—thanks to things like GPS, fitness trackers, TrainingPeaks, and even power meters. Just like you can monitor your power on every pedal stroke on your bike, you can now measure the force you apply to the ground with every stride (sort of). The idea is to help you pace by effort and not, well, pace. Whether you’re running uphill or down, into a headwind or with the breeze at your back, the Stryd sensor can help you dose out your effort like never before during training and on race day. stryd.com
Floyd’s of Leadville (booth #569)
It’s been a heck of a ride for former professional cyclist Floyd Landis: From racing alongside Lance Armstrong to briefly being named Tour de France champion to his doping case and a bike accident that destroyed most of his hip. To help manage chronic pain, Landis started driving the CBD bandwagon years before there was one, and the result is a booming CBD business that makes everything from recovery bars to protein powders, to creams and balms. Floyd’s of Leadville even makes high-quality CBD treats and creams for pets. If you have a little ache that’s bothering you before race day, head on over to the Floyd’s of Leadville booth to try some topical cream before you pop another ibuprofen. floydsofleadville.com
Zensah (booth #554)
Your compression socks probably look ridiculous. It’s just not a garment that’s easy to make look good. Zensah aims to change that, with a unique variety of socks that have the function and fashion to suit every personality of runner. For this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Zensah has put together a unique Chicago flag and skyline design that’s available as socks or sleeves. You’re guaranteed to turn some heads at the start line. If you’ve got another marathon on your bucket list, they have unique patterns for other cities with more designs debuted every month. zensah.com