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.
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.
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.
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.
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!