On Sunday 10, ?45,000 runners will take on the grueling Chicago Marathon. The week before, I’m tearing through the same 26.2-mile route by car on a one-man pleasure cruise, stopping only to satisfy every unhealthy, depraved urge in the name of a sinfully good time.
Like a dutiful anti-marathoner, I wake up late, just in time to catch Mickey D’s breakfast. Nursing a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit and hash-brown log, I survey the course map: Grant Park to Streeterville and back into the Loop; up LaSalle into Old Town, Lincoln Park and Lakeview; back downtown; west and south to Pilsen, Chinatown and Bridgeport; then north again to the finish line south of Buckingham Fountain. On your mark, get set, go!
0.0 miles At the starting line, I glower at a jogger trotting by and spot a sign for the Green at Grant Park’s $4 tallboys. The opening crack of a beer can is the anti-marathoner’s starter gun.
0.7 miles Light-pole banners on each side of Grand feature earnest marathoners running down their dreams. I scoff and pound the gas.
1.4 miles Illegally parked on State, I’m devouring an Original Rainbow Cone, an orgy of four ice-cream flavors and orange sherbet piled perilously onto a cake cone. In the rearview mirror, I catch a joyful glimpse of my Technicolor ice-cream mustache.
3.2 miles Slithering into Portillo’s drive-through, I pick up a chili cheese dog and a chocolate-cake milkshake, the world’s most gratuitous dessert. On the radio: the disco hit “Shame.” I feel none.
3.3 miles Feeling heavy-eyed. Is this what “hitting the wall” is like?! A Howard Johnson beckons on LaSalle. “Do you have a nap rate?” I inquire within. The Latina desk woman shakes her head. I catch a second wind at the neighboring greasy spoon, Café Luna. The busty counter gal calls me “sweetie,” bums me a Camel and slides over a Styrofoam cup of coffee. I briefly consider pouring the hot java over my head like Gatorade.
6.0 miles Trees and high-rises: bo-ring! Lincoln Park taunts the aspiring troublemaker. Axl Rose howls, “All we need is just a little patience.”
8.2 miles At Phoebe’s Cupcakes, “Death By Chocolate” tempts until I eye the “Breakfast”: buttermilk cake and maple-butter frosting topped with thick bacon slices—the breakfast of anti-marathon champions!
8.6 MILES EXPLORE YOUR CURIOSITY! invites a sign outside Adult Fantasy. Inside, the cashier points me toward the marathon man’s delight: Leg Show magazine. Sample cover line: “Frosty Femmes Warm Your Cockles & Heat Your Meat.” Feel the burn!
10.4 miles Old Town Ale House offers a stiff bourbon-soda and walls of bawdy nude paintings. Bare-ass Blago? Fucking golden!
10.7 miles I hit my sinful stride at gay porno-movie house the Bijou Theater. The matinee: Muscle and Thickness. “A fitness-themed title?” I ask the usher. He ignores the question, suggesting I “cruise the second floor.” An imposing gent cops a squat one seat away. I bolt when I hear him undo his belt.
17.5 miles At Al’s Italian Beef, I greet the “combo”—Italian sausage buried beneath spicy sliced beef—like a mother cradling her newborn.
20.2 miles I kick up my feet while the fastidious crew of Pilsen’s We Wash scrubs my greasy ride.
23.3 miles I add a half-mile getting to the nexus of the fried-food universe: At 35th and Giles sits KFC, Popeyes and Harold’s. Decisions, decisions! I settle on the Colonel’s diabolical Double Down. No pain, no gain.
26.3 miles The home stretch. At Marble Slab Creamery, a woman hems and haws: “It’s the last splurge before my diet!” I chuckle and order up Birthday Cake ice cream mashed with Ding Dongs, mini marshmallows and gummy bears. Being bad feels so good.
26.8 miles The triumphant finish. “Chariots of Fire” plays in my head as I pop the cork on Champagne purchased in Chinatown and light a stogie from Taylor Street. The smoke tastes strong and sweet—like victory.