Which Fall Marathon Rules: Chicago or New York?

Illustration: Michelle Schrantz

Chicago Marathon (Oct. 9)

A few years ago, I was in one of the starting corrals of the New York City Marathon with 40,000 other runners when Mary Wittenberg, then-president of the New York Road Runners, said “Welcome to the Running Capital of the World!”

What?!? I literally spit out the water I had just sipped. Says who?

Much, much respect to Wittenberg, who helped build the spectacle of the race and grow running, but there’s no such thing as the “running capital of the world.” Secondly, only a New Yorker—or maybe Frank Sinatra or perhaps the marathon’s late founder Fred Lebow—would try to make such a claim. And, thirdly, no one outside of New York cares about how great everyone says New York is anyway.

New York is a great city and the New York City Marathon is definitely one I’d recommend every runner do at least once—if they can get in. For my money, I’d much prefer to run the Chicago Marathon. It might not get the same “must-do” or bucket-list hype as New York or have the history and prestige of Boston, but it’s got everything any marathoner would ever want—no matter if you’re a first-timer, a speedster or somewhere in between.

The Chicago Marathon is run on a pancake-flat route that tours many of the city’s great neighborhoods and landmarks. It’s a fast course that has helped set a few world records. If your goal is to run a fast time or try to set a new PR, Chicago’s no-excuses profile is built for speed. The loop layout of the course allows it to be a bit more spectator-friendly for friends and family cheering you on at the start, the middle and the finish.

PHOTOS: 2015 Chicago Marathon

The Midwest, and that includes sometimes-too-staid City of Big Shoulders, often gets ripped for being too heartland, folksy and boring, caught between much more glamorous and trendy places. (And yes, I grew up there and moved away.) But there’s something pure and authentic that comes from running a race mostly devoid of hills, hyperbole and haughtiness.

If you want to run your best marathon and enjoy a world-class city—plus the best pizza in the world—Chicago is second to none.—Brian Metzler

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why the Chicago Marathon Rocks

New York City Marathon (Nov. 6)

New York City vs. Chicago! Really? Is there even such a thing? New York City is the best city in the world. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but ask me and I’ll tell you it’s a fact.  It’s home to three of my favorite things: pizza, a game at Yankee Stadium and the TCS New York City Marathon.

Our marathon is the biggest block party anyone will ever attend in their life. It’s a tour of the diversity New York City offers. On the other side of each bridge is a whole different world. The city, as my students would say,  “is lit” across all five boroughs, from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan to the Bronx. People are along the course cheering and blaring music as runners from all over the world take over NYC.

RELATED: 45 Reasons Why We Love the New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon course is tough, you have to dig deep and challenge yourself to get through, but when you cross the finish line it makes it all that much better.

The first time I ventured out of my comfort zone to run a marathon in a different city was for the Chicago Marathon. The rumor was, it was flat and the pizza was to die for … Well, I disagree with both. It was not flat at all. The course has hidden inclines with no downhills. The saying “what goes up must come down” somehow doesn’t apply to the Chicago Marathon.

As for the pizza, I’ve given Chicago “pizza” two chances and both times I craved a slice of New York City pizza after. Chicago pizza has too much damn sauce, cheese and thickness. I mean, it’s pizza, not a casserole. The fact that I had to use a fork and a knife to eat Chicago pizza drove me crazy. A hot damn mess if you ask me.

Chicago is a great city and I love it there. But I’m a New Yorker until the day I die!—Jessica Lebron

PHOTOS: Experience the Energy of the New York City Marathon

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