Yesterday's Chicago 13.1 Marathon kicked off at 7:00am from the beautiful South Shore Cultural Center. More than 5,000 runners participated in the half-marathon and 5K races that took participants north along the lake path, then back south tothefinish.
I committed to the race a few months ago with my sister, Nicole. She'd never run a half marathon before, and we'd never participated in a race together, so I thought it would be fun!
I love running, but have really cut back on the easy, long-distance running to focus on interval training over the last few months. In the past, I would normally have some sort of insane base built up, with hundreds of miles under my feet - not unlike many other mid to long-distance runners. What's more, I recently kicked off a new weight loss/fitness program called The 40-Day Shape Up and wanted to go through the same workouts that my participants were doing. In the end, the longest run I'd done prior to race day was right around six miles (usually averaging less). The intervals I did varied from longer tempo-style 20-minute intervals, to short, ultra-intense 1-minute blasts. The fitness plan of The 40-Day Shape Up is all body weight (no equipment), so much of the strength workIdid was using just my body. The workouts weren't traditional running workouts, per se, but (in my case) worked.
Race Day Play-Back
4:00am: I woke up, had a big glass of water and ate something light.
4:45am: Left my house and headed to Millennium Park where the race shuttles were waiting to depart at 5:30am.
5:15am: Parked and standing outside the shuttles with my sister. There were probably 30 buses lined along Michigan Avenue ready to drive runners to the South Shore Cultural Center. Parking at the Cultural Center is sparse, so shuttle service was set up at Millennium Park and the Museum of Science and Industry. The process was smooth. My sister and I had the pleasure of being entertained by a woman behind us who wasn't shy (or quiet) in telling her friends about the time she "got hammered" after the Shamrock Shuffle while waiting for her mother-in-law to finish the race.Gotta love post-race beer!
6:00 - 6:45am: Arrive at the Cultural Center. The race doesn't start for an hour, so, along with hundreds of other runners, have plenty of time to spend in line for the porta-potties and check my gear. Around this time, a little lost and very scared-looking puppy was sitting against a fence on the race site. He was surrounded by a growing crowd of concerned runners. I hope he's ok now.
6:45 - 7:00am: We make our way toourwave. I started in Wave C, and my sister was in Wake K. Since the race is directed along the path, each wavestartson two-minute intervals. The staggered start makes perfect sense, ortherun would have quickly turned into a stampede along the narrow path. The only variable that wouldn't work in the favor of the runners in one of the later 22 waves was the heat. It was right around 70 degrees at the start of the race for me. My sister, who started 16 minutes after me, could potentially deal with more heat and humidity.
7:04am: My run starts. The race is dotted with DJs and bands. On my way, I got to listen to 311's "All Mixed Up," Van Halen's "Panama," mixes of Daft Punk and lots of Michael Jackson. Mypersonalfaves were the Chicago Bucket Drummers (love them anywhere) and the Bag Pipers.
7:30am: The course goes from green to yellow, which means it shifted from good to cautionary conditions. The flag system displayed at every mile marker made it easy to see what was going on. The heat was rising, and it was no surprise to see this.
7:50’isham: I see the lead female runner, Lindsey Hattendorf, running back to the finish. She looked really strong and ended up finishing the race with a first place female finish time of 1:22:40.
8:00am: I'm running along and see this guy in front of me who is barefoot. The balls of his feet are taped, but other than that, he's got nothin' on his feet. Oddly, he looked exactly like another guy who I ran behind during the Race to Wrigley in April. I'm not a big fan of talking when I run, so I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to strike up a conversation with him, but I wanted to know how he felt running barefoot, and more importantly, if he was the same person I saw in Wrigleyville!
"Excuse me." Crickets.
"Excuse me!" Crickets.
"Excuse me...I'm not trying to pass you." After I got his attention, I asked if he was the same person I saw a couple months ago. Nope, not him. Oh well. I asked him a few questions about running barefoot. As it turns out, his name was Josh and he started running barefoot several months ago. About 7 miles into the run, his feet were hurting a little bit because the path was rough, and there was some glass earlier on that he plowed through. His goal was to continue running barefoot, with next week's Steamboat Classic 15K in Peoria as his next race. He mentioned he had asthma, and that the humidity presented a challengeforhim as well. I moved on after we wrapped up our little conversation, expecting to see theturn-aroundatanypoint.
8:10am: My only regret was not planning out my fuel prior to the race. Usually I getgeeked-out by what I put in my body - and for good reason. I planned on running easy, so I didn't bring any race nutrition. Not smart. Needless to say, I had to rely on the race fuel, which was Gatorade. I don't like Gatorade and it would have been better for me to have avoided. Did I mention the course had severalporta-potties sprinkled along the 13.1 miles (probably for poor planners like myself)? Lesson learned.
8:30am: The race is going smoothly with aid stations every mile. Right around this time, I see a participant who is down, unconscious-looking and surrounded by medics. I heard a medic call him Daniel. While he was surrounded, it appeared everyone was calm. I can only imagine he's not feeling the best today. I hope he's ok. It was a good reminded to take it easy.
8:50am: I'm close to the finish and feel good. One more turn and I'm there. The home stretch is well-shaded by a canopy of trees. I pick up my pace a little bit for a couple minutes to finish stronger. Done.
9:00am: I'm in the grass wiping my legs and arms off with the wet towels that were given out at the end of the race. Knowing my sister will still be out there for a little while, I decide to find a shady area and check out what's going on.
9:15am: An 80s band is playing to runners who are in the beer tent area taking full advantage of their slice of Lou Malnati's pizza and, you guessed it, beer. Four women, who looked like they were with the band, were sporting their 80s finest and dancingkinda like the way you'd picture four women wearing droopy shoulder shirts, leggings and lots of day-glow colors. I can't imagine dancing to Huey Lewis and the News in near 80 degree weather at 9am in front of a growing audience of people who just ran 13.1 miles and won't soon be feeling the desire to dance with them can't be easy. I hope they were well-paid.
10:10am: My sister finished about 20 minutes earlier, feeling good, but happy to have the race behind her. Unfortunately, we had to leave right away and didn't have much of a chance to soak up any more of the post-race atmosphere. The shuttles were waiting for us nearby. After getting through some traffic, we were back on Lake Shore Drive. On the way back to Millennium Park, we passed the Girls on the Run 5k which was going on at Soldier Field.
10:40am: It took a while to get back, but by the time we got off the shuttle bus, the desolate Millennium Park we left five hours earlier was packed. The Art Institute of Chicago had a line of patrons waiting to get in that stretched down the block.
All in all, it was a great race and a really nice morning. For a runner, 50 degrees and cloudy might be more comfortable, but you never know what you're going to get in early June in Chicago. Looking forward to next year!
Traci D Mitchell is a health and fitness expert in Chicago. Yes, she likes to run, but she loves coaching people with their diet and exercise habits. The creator of The 40-Day Shape Up, Traci makes it easy for anyone to eat right for their body type and get fit – fast! You can learn more about Traci at www.tracidmitchell.com.