Chicago Marathon runners push through second half with help of crowd


Just past the halfway point of a marathon, sometimes all it takes is a catchy sign or an enthusiastic chant to boost runners’ spirits.

The West Loop had both on Sunday.

Long after the winners of the 2023 Chicago Marathon had crossed the finish line in Grant Park, thousands of runners with more modest goals made their way along Adams Street. They were greeted by spectators who’d brought picnic blankets to sit on, coffee to keep warm and dogs for company as they encouraged runners to keep going.

“We joke that we will never do it, but we will be here every year,” said Tiffany Gonzales, who watched the race with her golden retriever, Halsted, while holding her all-purpose sign: “Go random stranger!”

Tiffany Gonzales and her golden retriever, Halsted, cheer on Chicago Marathon runners on Oct. 8, 2023.

Tiffany Gonzales and her golden retriever, Halsted, cheer on runners at the Chicago Marathon in the West Loop Sunday.

Yelling out personal cheers like “You got this, Morocco” to a runner with the Moroccan flag on her shirt, or “Hi Barbie!” to a runner dressed in pink, Kate Stack knows how much motivation is needed at the 14-mile mark.

“If they took the time to put their name on their shirt, I’m gonna yell it out,” said Stack, who lives in the West Loop. “If someone can give a little cheer and take your mind off any pain you might be starting to feel, then I’ll do it.”

Ivette Murphy-Aguilu ran the Chicago Marathon in 2012, but this year she’s watching her husband, Tom Murphy, run. Decked out in a Scooby Doo costume, she held a sign that said “You can Scooby-Dooby Doo it.”

“It just came to me in a moment,” she said of the phrase.

Murphy-Aguilu, an infectious disease doctor at Alexian Brothers, was watching the race with friends she met on a Facebook group for doctors who are moms and enjoy running. Some women from the group were running Sunday, she said.

“I’m having the time of my life — I’m going to lose my voice,” she said. “There’s nothing like it in the world. I see strangers walking by with tears on their face, I just wanna give them a hug.”

Ivette Murphy-Aguilu dressed as Scooby Doo to cheer on husband Tom Murphy at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 8, 2023. She holds a sign that reads “You can Scooby Dooby Doo it!”

Ivette Murphy-Aguilu, dressed as Scooby Doo, cheers on her husband, Tom Murphy, and other runners at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

Some spectators went with the traditional “You can do it” or “Go, go, go” signs, but Stack and others got creative: “Run like Swifties to the NFL,” a reference to Taylor Swift’s rumored romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Meagan Huskisson, who lives across the street from that part of the route, had a similar idea for her sign: “Run! Do it for Travis and Taylor!”

He may not have been doing it for Travis and Taylor per se, but finisher Jared Aman said the crowd was there to pump him up when he started feeling cramps in the second half of the race.

He had run a marathon in his hometown of Houston last year, “but Chicago, there wasn’t a point where people weren’t packed on the sidelines, playing music, handing you bananas,” the River North resident said.

He finished in 3:21:08, shaving eight minutes off his previous marathon time, he said. The energy on Wacker Drive around the halfway mark helped him “grind through” to the finish line, he added.

Chicago marathon finisher Jared Aman drapes a banner over his shoulders after running the race at 3:21:08 in his second marathon.

Chicago marathon finisher Jared Aman said the crowds lining the route helped him push through cramping and pain near the end of the race.

A group of friends from Paris marked their first trip to Chicago with marathon finishes, some recording personal best times. Chicago’s race atmosphere stuck out to them.

“It’s an authentic atmosphere — for the marathon, it was amazing,” said Laurie Sicot. “In Paris, people are more shy, so for us it’s a great experience.”

The five friends agreed they’d expected to come to a city that felt like New York, but Chicago exceeded their expectations. A few days before the race, they rode Divvy bikes, walked along the Chicago River and explored the Art Institute.

Edouard Mouveaux, Julien Simon, Laurie Sicot, Nora Luxereau and Alex LG show off their medals after traveling from Paris to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Edouard Mouveaux, Julien Simon, Laurie Sicot, Nora Luxereau and Alex LG show off their Chicago Marathon medals. They’d traveled from Paris to run the race.

“We understand now why advertising all over the world talks about Chicago,” said Edouard Mouveaux. “I’ve seen it in Paris, I’ve seen it in Tokyo.”

And, to wrap up any true Chicago experience, they had a blunder on the CTA.

“We took the Green Line,” Sicot said. “And we ran into a bit of trouble.”

But they laughed it off, finished the marathon, and made plans to find the best pizza in Chicago before heading back to Paris.

Runners in Grant Park at the start of the 2023 Chicago Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.

Runners in Grant Park at the start of the 2023 Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images


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