Zooma Chicago Half Marathon Race Review ……

The Zooma Women’s Series came to Chicago on Saturday for the inaugural event.   Zooma Chicago offers both a Half Marathon and 10K run.  It is a ladies race that is geared toward bringing women runners together with an entire fitness focused weekend. 

The fun started with a small expo at the swanky Langrahm Hotel

Zooma_langrahm lobby            Zooma_langrahm_hall  

We were able to mix, mingle and shop with several vendors and I was excited to see a few of my all time favorites:  Whooha Gear and the lovely Dimity and Sarah from Another Mother Runner.  I “may” have purchased a few things.  The new “Regret Nothing” tee from Whooha Gear and the “I Run Things” tee from Another Mother Runner.  Both of these fit me to a “tee”.  Smile

image   image

Zooma can easily claim the prize for the best swag bag in town.  Our goodie bags included a navy women’s specific performance tech shirt with a cool logo, a beautiful water bottle that Aby already stole for Cross Country, a yoga mat & cool reusable bag.

Zooma_bag        Zooma_SWAG

The race venue was at Montrose Harbor on Saturday morning.  This is a massive area that is really hopping on the weekends.  However, it was easy to spot the venue as it was close to Lake Shore Drive and not too far into the park.  I was easily able to unite with my fellow Team Tough Chik members, the Chicago Running Bloggers and the Zooma Ambassadors and hit the start line on time.

Fellow Toughie – Margaret, Casey, Nicki & Myself:

Zooma_Team Tough Chik

Chicago Running Bloggers:

Zooma_Chicago Running Bloggers

The race started right on time at 7:00am with both the Half Marathon and 10K runners starting together.   The event was chip timed and the course was primarily on Chicago Park District property, thru various parks and on the Lakefront Path.

Without getting into my personal race which was merely a race from one potty to the next I’ll break the event down by Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • Ladies Only
  • Amazing SWAG Bag
  • Vendors who work to empower and encourage women of all shapes, sizes & skill levels
  • Free shuttles to/from host hotel
  • Small Race for first timers with 652 half marathon finishers & 311 finishers for the 10K
  • Large Venue that is easy to find
  • Lots of public parking if you get there early
  • Lots of people on the public park & lakefront paths so that you don’t feel “alone”
  • Lots of shade thru said parks

Zooma_lake front path 

  • Aid stations with potties every 2-3 miles
  • Cocktails and a boxed lunch at the finish
  • Cool PR medals to all those running the distance for the first time or crushing a new PR
  • Lovely Finisher’s Pendant that Aby already claimed as her own

Zooma_necklace    Zooma_necklace2

Cons

  • Costly, early bird registration was $105 for the half
  • Packet pick up was at a downtown Chicago hotel so parking was an issue
  • Course was on heavily populated trails during prime usage time for marathon training & recreational use for local residents
  • Non Zooma participants weren’t excited to have us on location, and “may” have yelled obscenities at us
  • Course was confusing in spots without proper signage or race marshals for direction.
  • Half & 10K courses crossed at times creating more confusion
  • Boring – Felt like a training run with so much chaos and so many non race participants milling around
  • Most runners expected an out and back lakefront run with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and we only had one small section, which we ran 2x, that offered the beauty of the Chicago lakefront.

Zooma_lakefront path 1

Overall, I liked everything about Zooma Chicago other than the actual 2013 course.  I’m hoping they make a change for 2014 so that our ladies have a bit more direction and also space to run or walk as they please. 

Note to those who use the Chicago Lakefront Path – Please respect one another.  I’ve now on several occasions had the opportunity to personally witness certain users of the path yelling at, or being rude to others.  It’s a public path.  Share.  Your activity is not MORE important than anyone else’s.  In some instances, it’s absolutely impossible to “GET OUT OF THE WAY”.  I’m sorry.  I’d move if I could because I don’t want you to run me down.  You are making us locals look bad and quite frankly you downright scared some of my Zooma friends.  I’m embarrassed.  Grow up and take your rage to a more appropriate venue, like the boxing ring. 

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

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16 thoughts on “Zooma Chicago Half Marathon Race Review ……

  1. Busy paths can be a nightmare, especially in a race situation when they’re still open to the public. I had a great time in Lake Geneva the year before – although I know many complained of the hills. Sounds like ZOOMA will still be searching for the “perfect Midwest destination”…

  2. I almost got run over last year at the Get Lucky Half Marathon on the lakefront path as well. People flying by on their bikes, going a zillion miles an hour. I’m sorry but if you want to ride your bike fast, the lakefront path on a Saturday or Sunday morning in downtown Chicago is probably not your best bet.

    I also heard the course was pretty confusing/dreadful. Hopefully they make some improvements for next year. I enjoyed running Zooma at Lake Geneva in 2012 so I’ll be interested to hear what changes are made for 2014!

    • I ran ZOOMA last year, and after the race I was chatting with one of the race directors, and she mentioned they planned to move it to the Chicago area for 2013 and were asking for our opinion on location and date. I’m not sure if they felt they could get higher participation by moving it to Chicago, or if there were other factors. I didn’t run it this year, but I really enjoyed that it was a “destination” race last year. I’m not a huge fan of races on the Lakefront Trail, for the reasons Amanda listed in her post.

  3. happy their were a lot of pros but also total bummer about the lakefront path. it stresses me out to run/bike on there sometimes b/c it makes it so unenjoyable. appreciate your PSA at the end.

  4. What? People actually yelled obscenities at you? That’s insane.

    And I agree, August is probably the WORST time to have a race on the lakefront path. It was just way too crowded. And I was very upset with the lack of water from miles 6-9.

  5. I have never understood why “locals” get frustrated when races are held there… Generally signs are posted a few days prior warning of the event. Plus – Its Chicago in the Summer… You should just assume several races to be held. The lakefront path is ALWAYS crowded on weekends and not just with runners… If you don’t like it then you can certainly run elsewhere. Just baffled that you would get so angry when its kind of the norm.

  6. Despite the cost and the anger issues of those running the race- it sounds like a good one with, yes, freaking great schwag! I also love an all-female race and I hope that Zooma reads this recap and takes your suggestions into account for next year. And congrats on getting another half under your running belt!

  7. I’ve been “lazy” this summer, so on the weekends, I’m usually not running on the LFT until after 10am. I feel like it’s a different crowd at that time than the one you encountered – lots of “lazy” runners and cyclists like me who prioritize sleep over running, as well as a lot of people (and families) out for a walk or heading to the beach. It can get a bit crowded, but so far I have not had any issues personally or seen any issues happening. But I can imagine if I’m training for a marathon and out there every Saturday morning and suddenly there is a RACE in my way, I would get annoyed. But that’s no excuse to be rude.

    I was kind of disappointed last year when the ZOOMA race director mentioned wanting to move the race to Chicago. I don’t remember exactly what feedback we gave her, but I think we mentioned there are SO many races on the LFT, the last thing we need is yet another one. Oh well. Guess they wanted the “city” setting? Personally, I liked the destination and resort-y feel of the 2012 race. Not to mention the excuse to get out of town for an affordable girls weekend.

  8. That sucks about the course! I thought about running it but then winced when I saw the price. Yikes. Hopefully next year the course will be better and maybe I’ll sign up early to avoid the steep cost.

    • I signed up the first day, the first 100 registrants got a special discount (for this year). So I think with the active.com fee, I was at $90 for the half for the “super early bird”. They then comp’d me when I became an ambassador but I paid first with the intention to run, then applied to be an ambassador.

  9. Pingback: 2014 CHICAGO MARATHON HOTELS

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