The Chicago Half Marathon/5k was this past weekend. Like all of the other city races I’ve run here, it was a great course and a well-organized race. It was a Lifetime Fitness event that served as a Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) Circuit Race and the USA Track & Field Illinois (USATF-IL) Half Marathon Championship. The event also boosted fundraising efforts for charity partner Chicago Run, which promotes “the health and wellness of Chicago children through innovative, engaging, and sustainable youth running programs.”
The start and finish were at Jackson Park on the southside. Once exiting the park, it was essentially an out-and-back course along Lakeshore Drive with views of the lake and city skyline. Entertainment, refreshments (pizza and beer tickets included on all runner bibs), vendors, running groups, and charity teams had a presence in the big post-race celebration at Jackson Park. And the one thing organizers had no control over – the weather – was absolutely perfect. The cool temps and relatively flat course made it a PR (personal record) race for many!
The only thing that could have made this event challenging was the location and early start time. Corrals closed at 6:45 in anticipation of the 7:00am start. There was limited parking at the Museum of Science and Industry ($22) and much less in the local neighborhood. Public Transportation (which would be a long trip with a few transfers between train and bus anyway) doesn’t operate at that hour on a Sunday morning.
Race organizers provided shuttle buses from Millennium Park and from the Belmont “L” station. And this is my only complaint. I registered for the race, what, six? Maybe nine, months ago? – when I was still living in New Jersey. I don’t recall needing to choose a shuttle bus option. Not knowing where I was going to be living, I probably would have chosen the one from Millennium Park, but according to my bib, I hadn’t chosen any. So, I chose Belmont “L” at the expo which is walking distance from my apartment. I was required to pay an additional $20 (shuttle bus was included at the time of registration) and of course no one was checking passes when we were boarding the buses. I hope the charity got my $20.
This event is strategically held two weeks prior to the Chicago Marathon on the first weekend of tapering for anyone training for that – a weekend that usually has a 12-mile long run on the schedule. If one can be disciplined about not racing too hard, this half provides a great dress-rehearsal for the main event on a course supported with volunteers and fluid stations. And that’s why we were there. My boyfriend will be running the Chicago Marathon – his first! – on October 7th.
My goal in training over the last 10 weeks or so was to be ready to help pace him so he didn’t go out too fast, have confidence in the training he did up to that point, and make the most of the dress-rehearsal. Given my performance at the Chicago Spring Half in May (read my review here) and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicago Half in July (reviewed that one too, read it here), I was also wanted to be sure I didn’t drag him down. When we run together, we tend to stick together. Mission accomplished, although after hitting the 11-mile mark and having maintained a conservative 10-minute-per-mile pace, I encouraged him to go on and run his own race and finish strong. This gave him the confidence boost he needed. I finished less than 2 minutes later, so I felt like I redeemed myself from my Half Marathon performances earlier this year.
Finally, I can’t say enough about “the bling!” The medal earned for the Half was 4.25 x 6 inches and weighed over a pound! No exaggeration (yes, I weighed it)! Additionally, this event was part of the “Chicagoland Half Marathon Series” that included the Chicago Spring Half, and therefore came with an additional medal for those that completed both. The third medal serves as a holder for the two other medals that together depict the Chicago skyline. Anyone motivated by hardware got their money’s worth at this event. For those of us who suffered through that cold and windy Chicago Spring Half, this event was a pleasant finale for a well-earned keepsake.