Race Recap: Naperville Women’s Half Marathon

Race Recap: Naperville Women’s Half Marathon

I (sort of) ran this race yesterday and quickly realized the many reasons this is my favorite local race. I ran the inaugural in 2016 and absolutely loved it, but had to bow out last year because of an out of town family wedding that same weekend. Before I begin, a little admission:  I did not train AT ALL for this race. My running resumé for the past four months includes those miserable two weeks in Chiberia in January logging miles wasting my time for the LuluLemon 80K Challenge, and then a 2.7 mile run just about 3-1/2 weeks ago. Seriously, that was it. But I signed up for this race almost a full year ago, and with the spring weather (hopefully) finally here, I thought I would use it as a launching pad to get my butt back in gear. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I don’t care much about time. My tagline “not a runner, just a marathoner” is not just a saying; it’s true. My only goal ever is to finish a race. I love them. I love being part of them. I love the atmosphere, the crowds, the camaraderie, and the feeling of accomplishment when I cross that finish line. So despite not having trained, I was excited about this race.

Short line for race-day packet pickup

The race is well-organized and packet pickup is a breeze. It can be done at the Naperville Running Store the Friday or Saturday before the race, or on race morning at the event itself. I will say, I was surprised packet pickup was only available until 6:00 p.m. on Friday. I was able to pick up my packet then, but it would have been nice if the hours were extended to store closing at 8:00 p.m. Still, it would have been just as easy for me to pick up my packet on Saturday, and in fact the line for race-day pickup was extremely short even 15 minutes before the race.

One of the things I love about this race is that it starts and ends just 10 minutes from my house. Seriously, no excuses here. And the start line is just two blocks from my dentist’s office (also a runner), who lets me use his parking lot for all the local races. I pulled into his lot at 6:30 a.m. and a few minutes later he came out, so we chatted a bit about my lack of training and the fact that he will be running the Indianapolis Half Marathon in two weeks and also has not trained. Mi Dentista, Mi Compadre.

Staying warm in my car before the race

At around 6:45 a.m. I headed to the start line. With a 7:00 a.m. start, that gave me plenty of time. I wandered around a bit looking for some friends, but never found them. At 7:00 a.m. sharp, one of the runners sang the National Anthem a cappella (and quite beautifully, I might add), and then we were off! Having not run for the past several months, I was surprised at how good I felt starting out of the gate. I knew I’d be walking quite a bit during this race, but was pleasantly surprised that I could run consistently, albeit slowly, for the first mile. At that point I decided to start incorporating some run/walk intervals. No need to kill myself at my first race of the year.

For a small race (less than 4000 participants), there is ample crowd support. People aren’t necessarily lining the streets, but there are many families with children sitting at the ends of their driveways in the residential areas (of which there are plenty) cheering the runners on. There are also tons of local high school students along the route, undoubtedly logging some volunteer hours in a fun and easy way. There are water/Gatorade stations as well as porta-potties every two miles, and there was never congestion or long lines at either.

Still a bit of elevation at this local race

The race course itself is fun for me because it takes me through so many familiar neighborhoods. My husband and I ride our bikes through these neighborhoods regularly, so it’s a nice way to explore the area on foot. The race starts and ends on the track of the Benedetti-Wherli Stadium at North Central College (NCC) in Naperville, Illinois. The first 11 miles of the course wind through different neighborhoods, with a two-mile stretch (Miles three to five) heading north on Washington, which is a very busy street. The street remains open during the race, with one of two lanes in each direction partitioned off with cones for runners. With the race starting early on a Sunday morning, the traffic is not too heavy. Still, there is a strong police presence throughout the entire route, making sure the runners stay safe. The final two miles take runners along the DuPage River and right back to the track at NCC. This is an area where my husband and I regularly ride our bikes, and in fact he was waiting on his bike at the entrance to snap a few photos before heading to wait for me at the finish.

Still smiling at the finish

As expected, the post-race party was a bit lackluster compared to the bigger races. However, there was great energy and lots of spectators cheering the runners on as they made their way through the finish. The post-race food included Quaker granola bars, cut bagels, and bottled water. Not much in the way of post-race recovery food, but that’s okay with me. With my later finish I could see remnants of grapes, but those were gone by the time I arrived. I grabbed a couple of bagel slices and headed back to my car for the quick drive home.

Overall this was a great race and with my lack of training, I’m happy to have finished unscathed. Registration usually opens the first week in May, with spots open starting at $1, then $5, and up in $5 increments, so the earlier you register, the less expensive it will be! Obviously the rock-bottom fees are few and sell out quickly, but I was able to register each year at the $30 price, which is a bargain at any distance. Fees include a nice finisher’s shirt and medal, as well as a cute pair of Balega socks–my favorite!

I would definitely recommend this race. With a generous course cutoff time of four hours, this is the perfect race for runners and walkers of all abilities, or those like me who have been lacking in their training. There is also a 5K option, and for the first time this year, they offered a Maternity Mile for expectant mothers. I plan to return year after year to help kick off my spring running season.

Did you race this weekend? What is your favorite hometown race? Have you ever run a race with zero training? I wouldn’t recommend it, that’s for sure!

I’m linking up with Holly over at HoHo Runs and Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home for this week’s Weekly Wrap. Be sure to check out their posts as well as the posts of those who have joined the linkup!

26 Comments

  1. I also love the smaller races with easy packet pick up and easy race day logistics. That is quite a lot of elevation! congrats to you!

  2. A dollar to register? Wow. The problem is I don’t plan that far ahead. Who knows what can happen before then!

    Congrats on running it even on little training. You always amaze me with your ability to gut it out on these long distance races. Altho personally, I think the shirt had something to do with it…

    1. Author

      The way I figure, with such a cheap entry fee, I don’t mind taking the chance it might not work out. Unfortunately they don’t allow bib transfers, though. And yes, that shirt! Definitely brings the juju!

  3. $30 for a shirt & socks is quite a bargain. It also sounds like a nice race.

    I have run with little training and for a half it is not fun for me.

    I do love your attitude and that you are happy to race with a goal of only finishing.

    I always say that but in the end, I am competitive and want more.

  4. $30 for the shirt, medal, socks and the experience itself? It does sound like a very good deal and a very convenient one for you. Now for the real questions: how do you manage to look so good and so perky at 6:45 a.m.? And how do you finish a half-marathon–running, walking, any way– with no training? How do your legs feel after that?

    1. Author

      Haha thanks for all that! My quads are stiff today, but not so bad. Don’t forget…I take it slow and do lots of walking. If I were running the whole time, now that would be a different story!

  5. Way to go. I do a lot of home town races, it’s just easier for my family. I always train for a race unless it’s a 5k and I’m just running for the fun of it.

  6. That sounds like a great race. I’d love to be able to get to a race that close to the start. The Reston races I do are like that, but they are so far from my house I leave early just in case there’s a traffic issue. It sounds like the course is great too.

    1. Author

      It’s definitely so much easier to find a race so close to home. Just the anxiety traffic can create makes the usual stress of a race that much more intense.

  7. Congratulations!

    I have done some races with no training. It’s not the smartest of ideas, but sometimes you do what you have to do.

    My favorite local race is probably the Gate River Run. It’s a 15K in March (the largest 15K in the country), and it’s both a crazy challenging course, and a giant street party. It’s awesome.

  8. Holy elevation!

    This looks like a great race and I love that they have you a pair of socks. I always like when races give out swag other than a t-shirt.

  9. Ever since I began my running journey (2008), I have pretty much been running year-round. Granted, I scale back my running during the winter, but I still run enough to keep a base. That said, I have never really run a race “untrained,” but I definitely have run some “under-trained.” LOL

    1. Author

      Every year I say I’m going to run through winter and never do. I went the first two weeks of January this year, and that was it for me. You amazed me with all of your winter runs this year!

  10. Congrats on the finish! I agree, a race that close to home is sort of a must-do. I was hammered with emails for that race this year. Glad I did not succumb given the state of my knee.

    1. Author

      It’s so nice to have these local races. I don’t have tons of friends who run, but I always run into someone I know. Glad your knee is still behaving.

  11. Great way to kick off the spring racing season! Honestly, I think being under trained takes the pressure off. LOL. You don’t have to prove anything and can just run for fun! I love smaller, hometown races. I think registration for ours is around $30. You can’t beat that or sleeping in your own bed the night before. Thanks for linking!

    1. Author

      The sleeping in my own bed part is awesome! And it seems all the local races start in the same general vicinity, so being able to park in my dentist’s lot just a couple of blocks away is just icing on the cake!

  12. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this race from multiple people. If I lived in the Chicago area, this race would definitely be on my “must run” list.

    I too love local races. The half marathon that I ran on Sunday only had about 550 runners. The small field was incredible because the course never felt crowded, And the local running store that puts the race on does an absolutely incredible job taking care of runners before and on race day. All for a very reasonable price.

    1. Author

      The more I do these smaller races, the more I love them! I ran the inaugural 2 years ago and absolutely loved it. I was so bummed I couldn’t run it last year. I’m hoping for next year again!

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