For the third year in a row I’ve tackled the Chicago Half Marathon. And for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on it’s still one of my favorite races. Why can’t I figure it out? Well, let’s see.
* Unlike many of the other races in the city of Chicago, this one gets all of the south portion of Lake Shore Drive to itself. Most of the others put you on the Lakefront Trail which, while lovely, can get crowded quickly.
* The post-race food is pretty awesome. This year I came home with enough stuff to last at least a week. Not to mention the free pizza.
Not pictured: The Oreos, Nilla Wafers and Nutter Butters we already ate
* Water and Gatorade every two miles or less! Just when you think you might need more liquids there’s an aid station. They are well-staffed with cheering volunteers.
* After the first 4 miles the race becomes an out-and-back course which means if you know other people who are running the race you can kill several miles just looking for them on the other side of the Drive.
* Although this is one of the largest half marathons in the city, it never feels that large to me. Sure, you’re dodging people for the first 3 or 4 miles but it’s not nearly as bad as it could be.
* Packet pick-up is at Navy Pier. The very end of Navy Pier. Source
They do offer discounted parking at Navy Pier but I don’t suggest driving. It’s too crowded. But just remember if you take the bus that it’s about a mile walk to Festival Hall B (pictured above) which is where you can find your packet.
* The race starts and ends at Jackson Park, behind the Museum of Science and Industry on the south side of Chicago.
Although the start and finish is lovely and tree-lined and goes past the harbor, it can be a pain to get to. Traffic will be snarled as everyone tries to exit at one of three spots. Public transit is non-existent unless you pay for the special shuttle buses or Metra trains they offer. Thankfully you can always find free street parking as long as you don’t mind using the mile+ walk from your car as your warm-up.
* No shade for the majority of the course.
I’ve lucked out and the weather has been decent all three years I’ve run. Sunny, but cool. But, still, the longer you’re out there the more the sun will beat down on you. And since you’re running on Lake Shore Drive there’s nothing to block it. The view is pretty nice, though.
Courtesy of ilaxSTUDIO
So, regardless of the crazy pre-race logistics, there is something magical about this race for me. I’ve heard other people say this, too. I ran this race after almost 8 months of very little running relative to what I was doing in 2011. I hadn’t run more than 6 miles or so at a time since doing the Las Vegas Marathon in December 2011. When I won a free entry to the Chicago Half at the end of July I knew I had to step it up.
Which means although I didn’t get a personal record at this race this year like I did the past two years, I still ran better than I thought. My goal was to run a 9:30 minute per mile and I finished with a time of 2:04:02 which translates to a 9:28 minute per mile. Damn, I’m good. Or that’s that Chicago Half Marathon magic.
Many of my friends did well, too. Maybe that’s the other reason I love this race. So many people do it and, after living and running in and around the city for 4 years, there were a lot of friendly faces at the race.
So if this race sounds like it would be a goal race for you or just one to add to your calendar for next year, register now for 20% off! Trust me, I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it and you may even experience some Chicago Half Marathon magic of your own.