I spent 5 days in Chicago with Brittany, my Mom and the rest of the Saucony 26 Strong ladies. It was a wonderful coincidence we would be doing Chicago Marathon for the program this year, as it meant extra time with my Mom who I don't see often (she splits time living between NY and CHI). Britt and I flew in a day early to stay with her, relax, unwind and gear up for a fun filled weekend. Of course we kicked off that first night at the local pub, and tasted our way through local beers and fantastic food. 6 meals, 3 women: we don't mess around.
On Friday Britt and I took the train into the city so we could check into our hotel and do some things on our own before the group came in. Let me just say, our hotel (Renaissance Chicago) was amazing and we felt spoiled beyond belief. Saucony/Competitor gave us the royal treatment for sure.
Then it was time for the expo, packet pickup and meandering around. We visited our favorite booths (Saucony, Nuun, Goose Island, Zensah, Gen Ucan) but also didn't make a day of it (Pro tip: don't waste your energy, or something like that).
After an interesting ride on a school bus back to downtown (WTF my luck with school buses and marathons?! See Boston 2015 bus to start line), we decided it was time for a trip to Eataly. All I can say is, that place lived up to every bit of hype Britt made about it. We had amazing food, wine, and walked around for a while afterwards. I immediately texted B and told him we HAVE to come here together.
Before we knew it, it was time for the meet and greet back at the hotel. I was so excited to see some of the women that I already knew and also meet the others that I hadn't met before. Most of us had interacted enough on social media throughout the process that I felt like I actually knew them. Spoiler: Many are so much more awesome in person. The organizers of the program (from Saucony and Competitor) went above and beyond for all of us, they really love what they do. A few of us went to the hotel bar afterwards to continue chatting, and also greet the others that flew in later in the evening. We made a pretty good welcoming committee if you ask me :)
|Britt, Me, Lindsey and her cadet Olivia|
|Good Morning Chicago!|
|The 26 Strong Ladies!|
We met back at the hotel with the rest of the teams for brunch. The food was amazing, the coffee was so-so, but the company and the 'entertainment' was second to none. We chatted, got to know each other more, and then listened to an exceptional speech by Sharon Barbano. Sharon is a highly decorated runner, and also the VP of Public Relations for Saucony. She made us laugh, smile and even got a few tears (Angela and I at least!) all while inspiring us to be 'eagles' and "Find our strong". I vote for her to write a book, or at least record her speeches.
Later we took Uber out to the expo again, our driver was wearing Saucony- talk about a good omen. I'm sure Jaleel (wasn't that his name ladies?) loved us, we laughed and selfied our way through the drive.
|From Lindsey's IG|
|Jenny, Michele, Lindsey, Me|
|Ashley, Ruth (Ashley's MIL), Lindsey, Theodora, Jenny, Me & Michele|
Saturday night brought Chicago style deep dish pizza, good luck phone calls, delivering Britt's pre-race gift/card and obviously bumming around in compression tights. Race weekends really are fun, I love the whole process.
I don't think I stopped smiling all weekend. I was constantly surrounded by inspiring, kick-ass women supporting one another. In a world that spends a lot of time trying to tear us down, it was refreshing to be in an environment that was completely opposite.
Sunday night was so bittersweet. We knew we wouldn't see anyone after that, and saying goodbye after a weekend like this was just plain old hard. It's funny how you can really get to know people in a short amount of time, and feel like it's been forever. We laughed and celebrated over a fantastic family style dinner at Beatrix, and I didn't want the night to end.
I am so grateful for this opportunity, and chance to experience it all with Brittany. We made the most out of an already amazing weekend. We embraced meeting new people, feeling silly in photo shoots, spending time with the other women, and representing the companies the best that we could. Most importantly we embraced the heck out of the program's main point: to run a marathon side by side and support one another. Britt and I got to spend a ton of time together and it only made our friendship and the experience that much better. I can't imagine having gone there and not been by her side, it's HER day not mine. I have my recap of the marathon coming, in the mean time go read Brittany's!
|My cadet. My fellow runner. My fellow Buffalo Bills fanatic. |
My friend, who now carries the title: MARATHONER!