Training with lululemon to a Chicago Marathon PR

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If you listened to the Chicago Athlete Podcast last week, you heard me refer to the Chicago Marathon as my Super Bowl. I stand by this comment, even though my team, the Chicago Bears, have not been to the Super Bowl since I was five years old and I have no real recollection of this event, and thus no real comparison to be able to make. However, the Chicago Marathon, for me, is an all-encompassing, ball of excitement that begins at the beginning of the week and quickly grows until race day.

Leading up to race day, I make several stops to local running stores, groups, and events. I like to connect with our local athletes that are preparing to tackle the 26.2. I enjoy meeting first timers, six star runners, and even our octogenarian runners that have done this longer than I’ve been alive.

One of my favorite stops was at the lululemon experiential store in Lincoln Park. We have covered the store in the past, and you can read a full review of it here. The experiential store was the first of its kind, launched in 2019 in Lincoln Park. The store features a full café and coffee bar, a yoga studio, two floors of incredible men’s and women’s clothing choices, and now, a brand-new mirror studio where people can take individualized fitness classes.

I stopped by the store a couple of days before the marathon to pick up my race day outfit. I went with the Swiftly Tech Racerback Tank in a bright, bright, bright, neon yellow. I knew I wanted to be spotted easily, and this shirt did the trick! I love this material, as it is sweat wicking and cooling, and very breathable. I also do not have any issues with chafing under arms, as the material sticks pretty close to my skin.

I paired this flashy top with a pair of white Speed Up High-Rise Lined Shorts 2.5″. As a shorter gal, I like the shorter length, and have less issues with rubbing in the longer distances. This is my go-to short, and I wouldn’t run a marathon without it. A convenient pocket in the back has a zipper to keep personal belongings safe, and the panel on the front is large enough for a race bib. I find the material to be extremely comfortable and easy to run in. Not to mention, this style comes in a variety of colors and patterns. I just knew I wanted to focus to be on my neon top!

I went with my tried and true sports bra of choice, the Energy Bra. The sports bra is always the wildcard for me, and leads to the most issues with chafing. However, this bra has never done that to me. The under-boob chafe literally does not exist with this bra and it keeps my girls and place through the entire event. I chose a fun pattern to go under my solid color clothes and was not disappointed.

In addition to selecting my race day outfit, I treated myself to a post run comfy set. I selected a dark teal green Scuba Oversized Half-Zip Hoodie. If you have not tried the scuba hoodie before, you are missing out. This hoodie is extremely soft and warm and it was the perfect piece to relax in post marathon. The Scuba style comes in a half zip and full zip and keeps you feeling so relaxed.

I paired this with the Align™ High-Rise Jogger in black. The align leggings are pretty much everyone’s favorite, as they are incredibly soft and wonderful for yoga and relaxation. I hadn’t tried the joggers previously, but they are the same! I knew I wanted a comfy outfit to attend all of the post-race events scattered throughout the city and this was definitely it.

While I was in the store, I grabbed a cup of coffee and checked out the new mirror studio that has been stationed on the second floor. It is free to use, and all are welcome to try it out when they come into the store. Based upon the mirror workout device, the stationary pod is full of reflective glass and allows you to partake in a number of different fitness classes. It is an incredibly unique experience. When you step inside, you feel as though you are stepping into a virtual reality of fitness. What a fun apparatus to have inside of a store.

After grabbing my race day year, I headed to the expo where I joined thousands of other excited runners, all grabbing our race day packets. It was packed, but the crowds flowed through very easily. Unlike last year, we did not have to provide a proof of Covid vaccination or a negative test, so the bottleneck at the beginning was not there. My biggest complaint is simply that I cannot figure out McCormick place. I have been there dozens of times and still get lost every single time. User error for sure.

After grabbing my bib, pace tattoo, and checking out the commemorative merchandise, I headed back to my car to get ready for a shakeout run the next morning. Thank you to everyone who joined Chicago Athlete and Ten Junk Miles for our shakeout run on the 606. There’s nothing like a fun 4 miles followed by Stan’s Donuts to really get you in the mood for race day. Yes, I got pumpkin…I know, shocker.

I tucked into bed early, but like many was unable to fall asleep. I was up every hour checking my alarm to make sure I did not miss my start time. I was in corral D, and so was advised to arrive by 5:30 AM. After going through security, I headed to the Porta-potty lines and quickly found my corral. It was an extremely chilly morning, and my body has not yet adjusted to the cold, so it felt extra chilly. Thankfully, I had kept my heat sheet from the Twin Cities Marathon and wrapped it around my body, while cuddling under a tree. All of the runners wrapped in garbage bags and old clothing looked pretty hysterical huddled in Grant Park waiting for our various start times to arrive.

In the 40,000 runners, I was lucky enough to find a friend in the Porta-potty line and a few more in my corral to mingle with before I started. The wheelchair and elite divisions set off right away, followed by A, B, C, and finally D. I crossed the start line at 7:43 AM and began my favorite marathon, ever.

The cooler temperatures were ideal and runners dropped clothing between miles one and three. I handed off my long sleeve to my family as we hit the South loop area just past mile one. The crowds were back to being pre-pandemic size, and breathtakingly lovely to see. I’ve run many marathons, and there’s nothing like the crowds that line the streets in Chicago. From the high energy of the drag show, to the helpful hugs in Pilsen, to the cheers of charity row, there is just nothing like Chicagoans cheering each other on. Benny the Bull was back this year, high-fiving with the best of them outside of the United Center and the UIC band was on point. As I wrapped back into the loop and got ready for that insurmountable hill (said every Chicago runner ever) prior to the finish line, I had to take a moment to soak it all in. This city, these runners, this course…It’s incredible.

Even with multiple stops along the course for hugs, clothing drop offs, and high-fives, I finished with a PR of 3:22. I’m so very proud of all of the runners and thankful to the race staff, volunteers, cheering spectators, and law enforcement for making this event so special.

With the Chicago Marathon now over, it’s time to recover, put together a new race plan, and get ready for Boston in the spring. Let’s see what training with lululemon for a spring marathon can do.

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Mandi has been running for over 25 years and has participated in the Chicago, Detroit, and Boston Marathons. Mandi regularly competes in regional events and enjoys being a part of several running groups including CARA and the Badgerland Striders. She is a co-host on the Ten Junk Miles podcast and looks forward to hosting the Chicago Athlete Podcast. An RRCA certified coach and Les Mills certified instructor, Mandi is also a coach with Chicago Athlete Coaching. Mandi is a local government attorney by weekday and race warrior by weekend.

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