Race Review: Run Mag Mile

Race Review: Run Mag Mile

This race was included on my list of must-do Chicago races in late 2019, although I had yet to run it. I had every intention of checking it off my list before the end of 2020, but… we all know what happened to the 2020 race season. In spite of my inexpereince, Run Mag Mile made the cut based on Kurt’s first-hand knowledge and recommendation. What appealed to me was that it is the only race which runs up and down Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue.

The start

The race takes place the Saturday after Labor Day each year, so September 9 this year (I know, I’m a little behind in my blog posts). The event is organized by Ventures Endurance Events (formerly RAM Racing), who also organize several other local events that make up the Run This Town series. Runners who complete four of the nine qualifying races will receive an additional commemorative medal. These events have traditionally also had excellent swag. Some, including Run Mag Mile, have their own finisher’s medal which was enough for me this year. We completed only two of the series events for 2023.

Run Mag Mile includes both a 5k and 10k. The start is on Ida B. Wells Drive, just west of Columbus. The first half, which includes the trip up and down Michigan Avenue is the same for both. As the course comes back into Grant Park, the 5k makes a left to the finish on Columbus. Theoretically, if someone who signed up for the 10k decided they bit off more than they can chew, they could make the decision at that moment to cut down to the 5k. Not saying someone did that, but it could be done.

The 10k goes right on Columbus from there heading towards the Museum Campus where it does a loop along the lakefront trail and back on the bike path parallel to DuSable Lake Shore Drive, back under the underpass near the Museum Campus and north on Columbus to the finish. The second half of the race was hotter as temperatures climbed in the early September sunshine, and that’s something everyone should be aware of going into this race. Hydrate and dress appropriately (like I’m thinking those who wore the fleece-lined quarter zip race giveaway might have regretted it).

The first-half stretch on Michigan Avenue was indeed spectacular. I enjoyed running over the river, past historic landmarks like the Chicago Tribune building which has personal significance, and seeing the Water Tower and Hancock building up in the distance as we reached the turnaround. I do wish the course went all the way up to Delaware Place, rather than turning around at Superior, so we could take in those sites more closely. However, I understand that race directors aren’t miracle workers and have a bunch of legitimate reasons for what they do.

Coming back south on Michigan Avenue over DuSable Bridge

One nice added surprise was that with the Taste of Chicago event being bumped from its usual time slot by NASCAR this summer, they joined forces with Run Mag Mile. All race participants received two tickets to use at any participating booth. Additionally, there was a post race brunch featuring waffles, sausages, Eli’s Cheesecake, and beer. Interesting combo.

With Kurt at the post-race brunch

The only thing I might say could be done better was race photos. I thought there were several photo opportunities missed along the course, particularly coming south back over the DuSable Bridge with the Tribune Tower in the background. But that’s it and they were free, so that’s something. Registration was easy. Packet pick-up was conveniently at Fleet Feet South Loop where there is access by public transportation and free parking with validation (there was a mail option too). Event day parking was effortless. We used the Millennium Park Garage, but Millennium Lakeside and Grant Park North and South Garages were also convenient options. There were no issues that I can think of with gear check, porta-potties, at the start, on the course, or finish. I enjoyed this event and would do it again.

Mark your calendar for the 2024 event: September 7, 2024. Registration is open.

Free race photo, that’s the Art Institute in the background
My 25th Anniversary New York City Marathon

My 25th Anniversary New York City Marathon

It’s been three weeks, so here’s my overdue reflection on the 2022 New York City Marathon.

November 2, 1997. That was the day I crossed my first marathon finish line. It was a cool and rainy day in New York City. My family – Chris, his mom, my parents, my boss, and my friend Kevin – out on First Avenue. On the west side of the street, just above 66th Street. Wet and cold, jockeying for position at the barricade in order to have a front row seat for the 30 seconds or so it would take me to pass by.

This year it was overcast, humid, and unseasonably warm. When there were a few rain drops, I longed for the heavy downpours we experienced in ‘97. Although I knew that would not be good – especially for spectators. In ‘97 my dad had worn a brand new red corduroy shirt and when he got back to his hotel room and took it off, his white undershirt was pink.

This year’s cheer squad consisted of my 22 year old daughter with friends at around mile 11 in Brooklyn and Kurt on First Avenue at 77th Street (mile 17) and again in Central Park (40k mark, close to the conclusion of mile 25).

So much has changed in 25 years besides the make-up of my crew…

  • Marathon Expo at Jacob Javitz rather than the Coliseum (now the location of “The Shops at Columbus Circle”)
  • Chip timing!
  • “The TCS New York City Marathon App”
  • Better clothing, GSP watch, and “fast” shoes
  • Fueling with Maurten’s gels rather than Chuckles
  • Running with a phone/camera…and not a disposable camera with actual film
  • Texting my family afterwards to regroup (how the heck did anyone find each other before texting?)
  • Following it all up with pictures, stories, and reels on social media and a blog post!

I’ve learned to have throwaway clothing I can discard when I get warm; rather than tying a jacket and a long sleeve cotton (cotton?!?) tee tied around my waist for miles. I’m also quite certain no one had a big Sony Walkman – complete with wired headphones – at this years marathon, and I’ve learned to run without music, taking in what the course has to offer.

The last time I ran New York – 2005 – I was overwhelmed with sadness when I passed 66th Street on First Avenue and thought about my parents having been there for my first, and yet at the time they were still very much alive, although it was age that kept them home and I guess I sensed what was to come. But this year, long since my parents passed, I was filled with nothing but gratitude for lives well lived including my own. It’s also been more than 8 years since I sat in that church on First Avenue and 66th Street when I was early for an appointment at Memorial Sloan Kettering. And the Fred’s Team cheer zone on the course on that block, I took in as my own.

This marathon wasn’t my fastest, actually it was my slowest. Even slower than last year’s muddy marathon on the Delaware Canal Towpath, but there are a number of things for which I am very proud. My miles had meaning by doing a small fundraiser for Mercy Home, an organization with whom I am now employed after 25 years of trying to combine running and fundraising. I also gained my entry to this marathon with a qualifying time – a World Major at that! And in spite of the warm weather, my lack of consistent training, and advancing age, I still finished comfortably and got to both the start and finish healthy. Finally, and maybe what I am most proud of, is who I have become as a runner and marathoner in the past 25 years.

A first marathon is magical because for us non-elite athletes is about personal achievement, sticking with the training, perseverance, endurance, and victory in simply making it to the finish line. Your time doesn’t – or shouldn’t – matter. It’s about proving to yourself that you can cover the distance, and maybe setting a benchmark for the future.

Since ‘97 my mantras have change. “You got this.” “Keep moving.” “Trust your training.” “You are strong.” “You are fast.” To this year’s, “No one cares.”

Not that I believe for an instant that no one cares about what I am doing – judging from responses to my social media posts , greetings on the course, and donations to my fundraiser – clearly all the right people cared that I was running a marathon. What they didn’t care about truly was my time. They wanted my time to be whatever I wanted it to be. For marathon number 12 – a victory lap of sorts, in New York City, celebrating 25 years where it all began – I simply wanted my time to be fun.

And it was. I high-fived kids in Brooklyn, was shot by a confetti gun, read the funny signs, stopped for photos, saw a guy running while balancing a pineapple on his head, was overcome with emotion coming off the 59th Street Bridge into the roaring crowds on 1st Avenue, got some “ridiculous support” from my New Jersey running crew staffing a hydration station in Harlem, and ran, walked, jogged, and shuffled my way through a 26.2 mile party.

I don’t recall exactly when it was, but I remember telling Kurt that if it ever took me longer than 5 hours to complete a marathon I was done. That maybe that would signal my marathoning days we’re done. Of course there was also that time after my 2nd marathon which took me 2 minutes longer than my first that I thought I was done… and that time at the 2018 New Jersey Marathon when I called Kurt from mile 19 to say I was done right there and then!

When I crossed my latest marathon finish line in 5 hours, 42 minutes and 11 seconds, the furthest thing from my mind was that I was done. Although admittedly I need a break. I want to get rid of the Covid weight, get strong again, and recommit to training. But I’m not done. Next marathon: BQ in my next age group. After all, I get another 15 minutes!

The most important thing that I’ve learned in 25 years of marathoning is that the marathon is whatever YOU want it to be. While the definition of success varies for each individual, it also varies from one year, one race, to the next. Goals are personal. What remains the same is the distance. It’s 26.2 miles. There are no shortcuts.

Victory lap. Central Park, New York City. November 2022.
Podcast S1|E24: John Jaeger, 50 Marathons for Mercy Home

Podcast S1|E24: John Jaeger, 50 Marathons for Mercy Home

John Jaeger, board member and long-time supporter of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls has challenged himself to run marathons in all 50 states! He is almost to the half way point having run marathons in 22 states and has also raised a whopping $152,000+ toward his $250,000 goal. He shares what inspired him to do this, what keeps him going, and lots and lots of fundraising tips for all charity runners. This episode will motivate you on your charity marathon journey for sure!

One of 50!

Learn more about John and Mercy Home here: https://www.mercyhome.org/blog/leadership/meet-our-board-members-john-jaeger/ 

John’s Fundraising page: https://p2p.mercyhome.org/diy/john-jaeger

Or call or text John at 708-347-4921 to support him or learn more.

Podcast S1|E23: Lydia Nader, Nutrition for Optimal Performance

Podcast S1|E23: Lydia Nader, Nutrition for Optimal Performance

Lydia Nader, registered dietitian nutritionist, discusses the importance of nutrition for optimal heath and performance, especially for marathon runners. We also talk about her experience growing up with Girls on the Run and how she continues to give back to this organization that shaped her lifestyle.

IG: @fuelwithnader
Twitter: @RUNwithNader
You can also find Lydia on Thursday nights running in Logan Square with 3Run2. For more info: https://www.threeruntwo.com or look for 3Run2/Three Run Two on Facebook, Instagram, and Strava.

Podcast S1|E22: Kurt Fliegel, Solutions to End Gun Violence

Podcast S1|E22: Kurt Fliegel, Solutions to End Gun Violence

Kurt Fliegel, runner, concerned citizen, parent and grandparent, (and yes, my husband) discusses practical solutions to end gun violence. He answers the question, “what can I do” and provides a template that everyone can use today to create a personal plan of “positive, organized, networked action.” He is a supporter of Sandy Hook Promise, but suggests that you look at all the non-government organizations advocating for solutions and find the one which best aligns with your values and thinking.

I would also like to add that Kurt, having recent dental surgery, was reluctant to come on, but felt this cause was too important not to, although he was still a little self-conscious about his speech being less than normal. Sounded okay to me, 🙂 but I promised to put this disclaimer in.

Kurt’s template, which can be used to mobilize for this and other causes can be found HERE

Kurt can be found on Twitter: @kurtfliegel and Instagram (mostly running) @flglchicago