Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Chicago Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
Three years ago while (pseudo) training for the Chicago Marathon, my son asked me if I wanted to run the Chicago Half Marathon with him. I whined like a baby about the drive into the big city and decided to run a half closer to home. Queue the extreme jealousy and regret when he texted me a picture of his finisher’s medal. The Roman numeral XXs spin! He also absolutely loved the race, so when the opportunity to run this year came up, I was excited to check it out for myself. As an added bonus, since I had already run the Chicago Spring Half Marathon in May, I would earn an additional medal for completing both races.
As with the Spring half, packet pickup was at the Fleet Feet in the South Loop. I planned to drive in on the Friday afternoon before the race, but the weather was horrible and even in good weather, driving in and out of the city (the big city!) on a Friday afternoon can be a pain. I decided to drive in on Saturday morning instead, but then I remembered my son and his girlfriend were coming in from the city on Saturday morning to spend the weekend with us. Um, Mike, would you mind doing me a really, really, really big favor? It was sort-of-on the way and they didn’t seem to mind at all. They arrived at Fleet Feet just after packet pickup opened and texted that it was very crowded and they would be in line for an hour. Oops. As it turned out, things moved pretty quickly and they were in and out much faster than the lines would make it seem.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but once again I was on weather watch leading up to the race. And once again, rain was predicted for the entire weekend. Here we go again. At least it would be somewhat warm. I got my things ready and went to bed early, knowing I would have to wait until morning for a final decision on the race. I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m., but thunder and lightning had me wide awake by 3:15. By 4:30 no definitive decision had been made, so I got in my car and I was on my way. I figured the worst that would happen is I would have to turn around and go home. The rain was so heavy that I pulled over at one point and debated turning around. I checked the race’s Facebook page and the race had not been called. I was more than halfway there, so I kept on going.
I had arranged for parking in the Millennium Park Plaza Garage and would take the train from there. Between the weather and the confusion as to how to enter the garage, I pulled in at 5:36 a.m., just 9 minutes before the train would depart. I had no idea where to go to catch the train. Another car pulled into the garage and the three guys that got out obviously were there for the race. Like me, they had no idea where they were going, so I said we would stick together and figure it out. We made a mad dash for the exit, ran through the plaza mall, ran down a staircase to find three locked doors, and then ran back up the stairs and found a rickety old elevator. I suggested we try it but they didn’t want to because it seemed to lead to the same locked doors. I went for it. They followed me onto the elevator and lo and behold it opened up directly to the train station. Another mad dash and we hopped on the train at 5:43, just two minutes before its on-time departure. Talk about a shake-out run!
About 20 minutes later we exited the train and walked in the rain to the start. I was wearing flip flops (that made for a fun run to the train station) and a rain poncho and also had a small umbrella that I would be fine with dumping before the race. I wanted to stay as dry as possible before the start. It would be an understatement to say the staging area for before and after the race was muddy. It was an absolute slog fest. The mud was inches thick and where there wasn’t mud there were puddles of water that were just as deep. It was raining pretty steadily and everyone’s shoes were soaked and muddy.
Except mine. Someone please nominate me for the Brilliant Runner of the Year Award. I carried my running shoes, socks, and a small towel in my bag, along with four Menards shopping bags. If you’ve ever shopped at Menards, you know their bags are nice and thick. I also had a disposable hospital gown which is my usual M.O. as my throw-away to keep me warm before a race, but since I was wearing a poncho, I didn’t need it. I slogged through the mud to the gear check area wearing my flip flops, and about 10 minutes before the race, I laid the gown on the ground, sat on it while I dried off my feet and put my socks and shoes on, and then wrapped my feet in the Menards bags. I might have looked ridiculous, but my shoes, socks, and feet were completely dry as I made my way to the start area. Minutes before the race the rain had slowed, so I took the bags off of my feet but decided to keep them for after the race. I twisted them together and tied them around the back of my SPIBelt, and never even noticed they were there. I also kept my umbrella since it folds up very small and can pretty much fit in the palm of my hand.
Anyway, how about a race review? Despite the rain, moods were good and the race announcer was energetic and fun. He warned runners to stay away from the edges of the road and to be careful around cracks and potholes in the street since they would be full of water and there would be no way to tell the depth of the potholes or what else might be in them. The race started exactly on time which was a treat given the weather conditions. The race started and ended in Jackson Park in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. The first two miles the rain was coming down pretty heavily, so I kept my head down and didn’t notice much around me. The rain started to ease and I was getting warm under my poncho, so I took it off and wrapped it around the back of my SPIbelt, since I knew I would need it later. At Mile 2 we hit the first aid station and I was thrilled they had Gatorade Endurance, since that’s what I’ve been training with this summer and what will be available at the Chicago and New York City Marathons this year.
We headed toward the lake and at the 3 Mile mark we turned north where we would run along the lakefront for the next five miles. By the time we got to Mile 7, us slowpokes could see the elite runners on the other side of the road with only three miles left in their race. We cheered for the lead runners and I might have gone a little crazy when the first female runner passed. Girl Power! As we approached the turnaround at Mile 8 I could hear thunder in the distance. Oh no, please don’t call the race now! We made the hairpin turn and I was again thrilled at about the 8-1/2 mile mark when the volunteers were handing out Gatorade Endurance Energy Gels. They were out of my favorite flavor (Blackberry), but still had plenty of my second favorite, Mango. Yum!
I turned around and saw none other than the three guys from the parking garage. What are the chances of that happening? We ran together and chatted for a bit and then I pulled ahead. I was trying to motor since I wanted to get to the finish in case the race might be called because of the weather. The rain started to pick up again so I put my poncho back on and just kept moving. At this point I was walking more and running less, but the rain had me walking at a pretty good clip. I kept pushing through and as I made the final turn into Jackson Park I knew I was close to my goal but likely wouldn’t make it, so I decided to walk for a bit. I wound up coming in just two minutes over, which was fine by me! I ran through the finish line and was immediately rewarded with an ice-cream filled Bomb Pop. How awesome is that???
I rarely check a bag but because of the weather, this time I did. I am so glad I kept my Menards bags because by the time the race was over the grounds were that much sloppier. I put the bags back on me feet and slogged my way to gear check. Unfortunately it was clear on the other side of the field. I’m pretty sure most everyone’s shoes were ruined. If you look closely, you can see some of the thousands of worms on the ground!
After I picked my bag up from gear check, I made my way to the tent where I would pick up my challenge medal I earned for finishing both races. All three medals fit together to make up some pretty sweet bling. And you know I like me some good bling!
The post-race party included Home Run Inn pizza. I grew up walking distance from the original restaurant and though I was excited about the best pizza in Chicago, there was no way I was walking through that slop just to get a piece! Instead, I chatted with the very nice ladies at the challenge medal tent and then made my way back to the train station. Since I didn’t stick around for the post-race festivities, I had to wait a little over an hour for the train, but I noticed a bright orange hat at the train station and sure enough, it was my fellow Bib Rave Pro, Brandy. Again I say, what are the chances of that happening? I introduced myself to her and we chatted the whole way back to the Millennium Park Station. Running friends are the best friends, and I love making new ones everywhere I go!
Overall I’m very happy with my time. My first five miles were a little faster than usual, and in fact I beat my Mag Mile 10K time by over five minutes! The race was awesome and very well organized. I learned from the Chicago Spring Half to trust the race organizers to make the right decision regarding the weather. While packet pickup is a little inconvenient for me, as it turns out, it’s not all about me! I was happy my son and his girlfriend could do it for me, but it would have been just as fine to drive into the city myself. The race swag was awesome and if not for the weather, the post-race finish party would have been a blast. I will definitely be back for this race next year!
Have you ever run the Chicago Half Marathon? It seems many Chicago Marathon runners run this race as part of their final taper. Have you ever had Home Run Inn pizza? A little bit of Chicago trivia for you: It’s named so because the original restaurant is right across the street from what was called Lawndale Park when I grew up, later named Piotrowski Park. So many baseballs kept hitting and breaking the windows – that’s how the restaurant got it’s name!
Upcoming races on my calendar include:
October 13: Bank of America Chicago Marathon
October 19: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon (use code BourbonRave2019 for 10% off!)
November 3: New York City Marathon
November 16: RnR Las Vegas 5K (use code 19RNRBRP16 for $6 off the 5K/10K distances!)
November 17: RnR Las Vegas Half Marathon (use code 19RNRBRP16 for $16 off the half/full marathon distances!)
March 1, 2020: Tokyo Marathon
I’m linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics! This week’s Tuesday Topic: Themed races – yay or nay? You can write about this or as I did, any topic you would like! If you’d like to join along, just follow this link for the linkup rules and a list of upcoming topics. Be sure to check out to Kim’s and Zenaida’s blogs, and visit some of the other linkers while you are there!
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On Sunday, November 3rd, I will be running the New York City Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training, an organization that helps The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) support cutting-edge research projects in the most promising areas of cancer research. If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising efforts, you can still do so by clicking on the link below. Any donation, big or small, will help and is greatly appreciated!