Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chicago & Saucony 26 Strong

When you get off a plane, have bags under your eyes, a froggy voice, a little wobble to your walk and a suitcase near it's breaking point all while wearing a big smile on your face- you know you did the trip right. By those standards, Chicago Marathon weekend was an utter success.

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
Saturday was when it all really got going though. I went out for a few solo miles first, to honestly just allow myself to appreciate how happy I am lately. More on those reasons another time, but in general life is just really freaking good right now- and a crisp run in an amazing city allowed me to appreciate it even more.
Good Morning Chicago!
I met up with the rest of the group and we had a great morning full of running, photos and of course smiling and laughing along the way. A few of us even got a smaller second photo shoot as we hadn't been to San Diego earlier in the year for the other ones. Monkeyed around for a bit, and we giggled our way through some more photos. I can't wait to see them all!
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
Upon returning to the hotel, a group of us were hogging seats at the hotel bar/lobby. We chatted, greeted people as they came in, and clinked our glasses to a great weekend. I almost fell off my bar stool running to see Michele when I saw her walking through the lobby, I then ordered her a glass of wine and told her unwind. I saw her only a weekend prior when I ran last few miles of her marathon with her- but couldn't contain my excitement to spend more time with her! An afternoon of running and life chat with some women that inspire the hell out of me, yes please.
Jenny, Michele, Lindsey, Me
Ashley, Ruth (Ashley's MIL), Lindsey, Theodora, Jenny, Me & Michele
I wish I saw these ladies more, it was so much fun to be able to sit and hang out in person. I could see some of us doing dinner and cocktails together (and running together!) on a regular basis.  My Mom's quote of the day "Don't you have any ugly friends?"

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!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sounds like an amazing weekend! Looking forward to the race recap, bu the leadup to it seems perfect enough :)

  3. Wow!!! Sounds like an amazing weekend Laura!!!

  4. So I'm wondering how did we not get any pics of us together? I think I was too busy wiping my tears or holding my wine glass. It was so nice to finally meet in person. Hopefully we'll be able to hang out again one day soon!

  5. It sounds like it was a great weekend and I'm glad you were able to enjoy yourself. I'm glad everything went so wonderfully and you had a great time. You deserve that. I'm also glad to hear things are going well for you outside of running.


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