Race Review: Honda Miles Per Hour

The Honda Miles Per Hour Run held this past Sunday was included in my list of 25 Chicago Must-Do Races published last year even though it hadn’t been held yet. I included it solely based on the concept and its timing on the race calendar. An indoor race in February in Chicago got my attention. The unique approach to racing further sweetened the deal. I registered for the inaugural event and hoped I would be able to give it a great review. I can.

The event was forged through a partnership between Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) and the Chicago Auto Show. It helped that Dave Sloan, auto show general manager, is a runner. A course was laid out inside McCormick Place that traveled through the auto show displays. Another unique aspect of this race was not transversing a given distance as quickly as possible, but how many miles a runner could cover in an hour. The loop course with no real finish line was approximately 2.4 miles.

I got to McCormick Place about an hour before the 8am start. It took about 10 minutes to get from the recommended Lot C to the staging area. I thought a couple of directional signs would have been helpful, but I followed a group ahead of me who seemed to know the way. While packet pick-up was available during the week at various Fleet Feet Chicago locations, none worked with my schedule so I was happy for the convenience of race morning packet pick-up. 

Since I was away from the elements from the parking garage to the race, I only had a sweatshirt and my race shirt (cotton, women’s cut tee, with creative event logo) to gear check. Everything from online registration onward was organized and smooth. Packet pick-up and gear check staff/volunteers were pleasant, friendly and even encouraging and supportive!

There were no start corrals, just self-policed pace markers by which runners lined up. There were 515 who finished the race, so that’s a lot of people to move through a twelve foot wide start line. But it seemed to work okay. Everyone started at 8am and would be scored on gun time, rather than chip time. I don’t know how the folks in the back made out. I started by the 8:30 pace sign and figured I lost about 15-20 seconds at the start. Not consequential. 

Everyone was reminded to “stay right, pass left” and to be wary of faster runners coming from behind, especially after the first lap (I wasn’t lapped by the leaders until about 36 minutes and almost through my second lap). We were also warned about sharp turns. The course was well-designed with no hairpin turns; the sharpest turns I noted were 90 degrees. All runners I observed were cooperative and exhibited proper running etiquette. There were two fluid stations on the course that included Gatorade as well as water. Music and announcement were broadcast through the venue’s sound system and heard no matter where you were on the course.

Everyone’s “miles per hour” were calculated for the full hour based on the time they crossed the last timing mat. Mats were placed approximately every 2/10 of a mile. I managed to come in at 7 miles per hour. While I enjoyed the event, I will admit that as I began my 3rd time traveling the course, I was looking for some better scenery and the one hill on the course (the Grand Concourse bridge), seemed a lot steeper in the last lap than it did in the first! Although by the last lap the competitor in me started kicking in to high gear in order to reach my goal of hitting the mat near the 7 mile marker.

That’s the reason I’ll keep coming back to this event. It’s a great personal challenge time trial. “How far can you run in an hour” is a great way to check-in on your level of endurance going into spring training. Year after year we will be able to assess our fitness level against ourselves from the prior year. Another perk is early access to the Chicago Auto Show floor. While our race bibs gave us access, friends and family could also purchase tickets at a discounted rate in order to cheer from spots on the part of the course within the show floor or visit the show with runners after the race.

I overheard one participant complaining about the finisher’s medal. “You’d think you’d get more than a plastic medal for $60,” he said. I thought the medal was fine. It was actually rubber and since is was a sneaker shape with tire treads, the rubber seemed very fitting. Can’t please everyone! The registration fee included the auto show access (a $13 value), t-shirt, refreshments, finisher’s medal, and free race photo downloads. I thought the price was fair and competitive with other races.

I really enjoyed the event and about 90 minutes walking around the auto show as a cool-down. Given the number of people I saw filing in as I was leaving, I was grateful for the early entry. I look forward to returning next year and traveling a greater distance in that hour!

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