Race Review: 2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon on July 22. I had run the event’s 5k and 10k last year. I did the Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon 5 years ago. This has been my only experience with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series races. I’d like to do more. From my experience, I can say they are well organized events with great amenities and some really awesome bling!

The expo/packet pick up was at McCormick Place. Parking is easy and this venue has a lot of space for a comprehensive expo and this one was filled with lots of vendors and fun stuff to see and buy. The coolest was perhaps shirts that included all participants names! All men were included on the men’s shirts; women on the women’s – perhaps problematic for anyone who might have wanted the shirt for the gender that didn’t include their name.

Highlight of the expo for me was the opportunity to meet Kathrine Switzer. She certainly opened doors for women runners with her courage and many of us owe our ability to participate in marathons to her. She was there promoting 261 Fearless, a “global supportive social running network which empowers women to connect and take control of their lives through the freedom gained by running.” Go Kathrine!

Although this was only my second Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, it was my 44thHalf Marathon overall and I will say ranks toward the top. I heard someone say in the starting corral that the course offered all the best of the Chicago Marathon course. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it offered all the best parts of the Marathon course, but it included many worthwhile points of interest.

The Start.

The start was on Columbus Drive, same as the marathon. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half turned right onto lower Randolph and around to Lower Wacker.  Having the cover of the roadways like this in several spots on the course was beneficial to the runners and also provided shelter from the rain for some of the bands that lined the course. There was a lot of diversity in the sound provided by the 17 bands along the course.

The Course.

As the course winds through downtown, it makes a couple passes over the Chicago River and around the stunning architecture for which Chicago is famous. Runners pass the Chicago Theater, Daley Plaza, and The Lyric Opera. Only the final two and a half miles are in the park. The only negative on the course at this point was the pass-through McCormick Place. It’s a service tunnel. Nothing nice to see. Not a great road surface. Although it did shelter us from the rain. I’m not sure why anyone would design a course this way when there’s a much more scenic, open, lake-view option.

For me, having done both the Chicago Spring Half and the Soldier Field 10 in May, this mostly-city course was a nice change from those courses that included mostly Lakefront Trail. If you are not going to run the Chicago Marathon, this course is a good way to tour the city while running. And did I mention the bling?

The finisher’s medals included a rendering of the Chicago Theatre. I liked it, although maybe not as elaborate of other medals I’ve received. Maybe I needed to run the 5k the day before for bigger bling. The Rock N Roll race series certainly does a nice job of encouraging participation by offering special incentive medals for multiple races in the same weekend or numerous races with in the series in a specified time frame. For more information and picture of medals for inspiration (assuming you’re motivated by that sort of thing), visit their website.

The only issue with this race is that it can be pretty hot in July in Chicago. We were treated to a cool overcast day. And rain. Lots of it at times. It was refreshing for the most part. Last year it was hot. As we runners know, the one thing we can’t do much about is the weather. Although signing up for races in months with potentially hot or cold conditions is a choice.

My final word – or lesson learned – don’t run a half marathon on a broken toe! Although because of my stubbornness, I can – for the first time in 286 races – include a review of the medical tent. Although my toe became excruciatingly painful at around mile 8, I didn’t seek medical attention until after I crossed the finish line. I figured if my toe had actually fallen off as I felt like it had, my shoe and sock weren’t going allow me to misplace it completely and I was sure it could be reattached. Besides there was no blood. The medical staff carefully removed my shoe and sock, applied iced, wrapped it up and let me sit for about 20 minutes (while I posted to Instagram).

I hobbled back to the car in a deluge of rain, changed into dry clothes, and signed up for next year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon as soon as I got home. So yeah, all good. And I vowed to take better care of my feet between now and then.


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