Where to start? I’ve ran the Chicago Half Marathon three times now & the Hyundai Hope on Wheels 5K once. My first appearance at the half was 2007, 100ish degrees
or so it seemed, full sun and MISERABLE. This was my first half marathon and I think I crawled the last half of the race on my hands and knees then called my friend Lisa on the way home and told her that I was going to give my running shoes to the first homeless person I saw cuz I just wouldn’t be needing them anymore! Yeah, not my finest hour.
My second appearance was in 2008, 8 days after my first 70.3 triathlon. It poured rain the entire time. I don’t mean it rained either, I’m being legit by saying that it POURED rain. Organizers even had to reroute the course due to flooding. However, I loved the race. Had a blast. Loved splashing thru the puddles for the entire 13.1 miles. I just kept pulling my hat in tighter, kept trucking along and managed to negative split, which is super rare for me.
My third appearance at this event was for the 5K, last year, shortly after I returned to running after rehabbing my foot. The 5K was good but left me feeling as if I was missing out by not running the half. That brings us to this year, my fourth appearance at the event and my 3rd Chicago Half. This year was all about being social. I’m not race ready. My legs are
very, very, very fatigued. I never fully recovered from the 70.3 which I did in the 101 degree temps last weekend but I went to see friends from the area and out-of-towners who came in to run. I was hoping to have enough in my legs to run with my friend Jess and to be able to finish with a smile on my face.
Jess & I in our neon yellow/pink outfits which we put together
as an excuse to buy around the Pro Compression sock of the month!
Unfortunately, I screwed up on parking and missed seeing a lot of people pre-race but instead hustled to the start line in an very un-TTF like fashion. The start was crowded. They had 3 corrals but I’m not really sure who made the cut to get into those corrals. Jess and I were back with the masses and let me just say that it’s been a while since I’ve started a race without a corral and it’s just not fun. My apologies to all of you who do it each and every race. Wow, such a mess.
This half had around 14,000 people so not a big race by Chicago standards. The key to running these type of races is to either get out early, hit it hard and run away from the crowds, or settle in and just go with the flow. We were in the “go with the flow” mode as both of us were feeling less than perfect. I really only had one goal for this race and that was to hang close to Jess for as long as possible. I didn’t know if I would be able to with as bad as I felt but that was the goal. Have to have at least one goal, right?
I was super happy when we finally made our way out of Jackson Park and onto Lake Shore Drive (around mile 3.5) because I knew the road was wider and the crowds would thin a bit.
I snapped a few photos early on and ironically, someone snapped a photo of me in the process. I always like seeing what’s on the “other side” of the camera so here is an example. I’m attempting to take a photo of the lakefront while running. Derek, a fellow F’N runner (gold shirt), somehow managed to spot me in
my neon outfit the crowd and simultaneously snapped a photo of me! Love this! Thank you, Derek!
The crowds did start to thin and I was temporarily distracted watching for my fast friends heading toward the finish as we cruised thru the miles. Jess and I were “together” but not really together. There wasn’t any chatter or cheering each other on, we were putting all of our energy into the run and both of us were struggling. I was trying to pay attention to where she was in an effort to try to keep
our neon outfits in the same zip code a decent pace rather than just falling off to a walk. My legs were shot and that’s not being pessimistic, just fact. I was also trying to focus on the positive aspects of the weather: a nice breeze and cloud cover. However, the humidity started taking its toll early and I was hitting every aid station for drinking water PLUS dumping water on my head and chest. I was completely soaked by mile 5 or 6. And still hot. And still thirsty. I was also slightly alarmed by how badly the runners on the other side of “The Drive” looked. The runners who were fast and almost finished. They looked like death and not the smooth fast machines which I normally see at this race. That certainly was a call to me to pay attention to my hydration since I would be out there much longer than those fasties who were already headed toward the finish.
Once I hit the turnaround, I tried to briefly pick it up but that lasted all of a 1/2 mile before I wilted even further and just settled into whatever pace I could manage. I just kept focusing on the finish and kept myself moving with the mantra, “pump your arms and your legs will follow”. I said that over and over and over to myself between miles 9 and 12. Once I hit 12, I refocused on finding Jess so that we could run in together. Not sure that she cared but I wanted to be with
my neon run twin her at the finish. I was chuckling internally as we cruised thru that last mile, weaving around person after person. Even the short 1/4 mile shoot to the finish was crowded and it was somewhat difficult to stay “together”. However, we did manage to finish together, side by side, and even had the exact same finish time so it was a successful mission in my book!
This is really a great race. Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s crowded. However, the view of the lake, the city and being able to see the rest of the runners both in front and behind you, is really cool. The support from aid stations is incredible. The volunteers are lively, call out your name, encourage you, and have endless supplies of water & gatorade. Lots of potties too! Lots of medical support. Lots of spectators. Some on course entertainment. Pizza, beer & a band at the finish.
If you are into swag, the shirt was super cool this year. It was the ever popular Helium brand, gender specific in a bright orange color with the Chicago Half logo. Bonus – it actually fits & I’m wearing it right now. LOVE it and am dreaming of cooler temps where I can actually wear long sleeves for running!
See you next year!
** Run Chicago ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **