I've run races in flat Chicago and hilly Madison Wisconsin. People I talk to think the hills make the races harder. I don't know about that. I've come up with a checklist to determine whether Madison races or Chicago races are harder.
1. Do you need to hear music when you run? Try the big Chicago races like the Rock & Roll Half or the St. Patrick's Shuffle. There are plenty of bands and D.J.s playing. Going to Madison? The Madison Mini, a half marathon in August has plenty of music blasting. Otherwise, bring your Ipod or whatever MP3 player you use.
2. The climb up Observatory Drive on the University of Wisconsin campus can be taxing, but so can a long straight seemingly never ending stretch of South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
3. Crowds or no crowds? Chicago's Marathon gets 40,000 plus. The Madison Marathon? 2,000 at most. Are you used to crowds? Maybe you want to test that by running on Chicago's lake shore path on a summer Saturday or Sunday when all of the running groups are out, the Tour de France wannabees zip by on their bikes, and well..everyone is out for a lovely day. Maybe you want to try a neighborhood 5K such as the Fall into Fitness, held in Portage Park in September. Field of about 300. Too big? Go up to Madison in October for the Fall 15K for a pastoral Sunday race? The field is slightly under 200. Hills at no extra charge.
4. Crowds at the packet pickup. Do they bother you? If not, most of the big Chicago races have their packet pick ups at McCormick place. These "health & fitness expos" are filled with exhibitors with
Too crowded? Too many vendors? Madison's the place for you. The full & half marathons have their packet pickups in a downstairs hall at the Monona Terrace Convention Center. You can get in and out, and still have time to enjoy the view of Lake Monona. The Madison Mini's packet pickup was at Union South on the U.W. campus. This year, they've changed it to the Alliant Energy Center. Oh well, they do have a field of about 3,000