Chicago Half Marathon: Race Review


The night before the 16th Annual Chicago Half Marathon which took place on September 9, 2012, Casey, Andy (Casey's brother) and I went downtown to check into our hotel room for the evening at the Residence Inn--Downtown River North.

I quickly laid everything out for race day and we left to find a pre-race dinner spot. Our brisk stroll led us to nearby restaurant, Bull & Bear, where we chowed down on turkey burgers (one of our favorite meals) while watching Nebraska vs. UCLA on the big screen.


To make sure I got enough sleep (or at least tried to get enough sleep), Casey and I left a little after 10 p.m. to head back to the hotel. Andy's girlfriend, Lauren, met us downtown so we split while they continued to have fun...after all they didn't have to be up at 5:00 a.m.


When I am really excited about something...I am REALLY excited...like my body becomes a full on circus with my stomach doing somersaults as my brain pedals repeatedly like a hamster on a wheel all while my nerves throw a dance party to the psychedelic song "The Age of Aquarius" (real name: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In). THAT excited therefore...

sleep is impossible.

After tossing and turning it was finally time to get up and get going. I devoured my pre-race meal; a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Bar and a cinnamon raisin bagel and we tiptoed out the door...and by tiptoed I mean we actually let Andy and Lauren fall back asleep after we turned on every light possible and made too much noise as we were scurrying to get ready.

Gear

Due to the cool (but PERFECT) temperatures I opted for my American Cancer Society dri-fit shirt to represent my mom and my efforts to raise money for the ACS in the 2012 Chicago Marathon, Nike capri tights, McDavid knee compression "sleeves" (I have creaky knees at the rightful old age of 26), and my flashy go-to Brooks PureConnect shoes.


Transportation

This half marathon was more on the southside of the city which was a first for me (race wise) as I am so used to walking to the starting line in Millenium Park or catching the 'L,' but luckily despite it being an early morning Case and I were able to quickly find a cab and get to the starting line in Jackson Park.

Runners could also take the Metra or one of numerous race provided shuttles (tickets for the Metra/shuttles were purchased in advance, but the one I purchased was not included in my packet because they lost my BIB #).

Facilities

There were plenty of bathrooms at the starting area in addition to water and Gatorade, however there were also 12,108  runners (number of finishers) plus spectators so there was a little bit of a wait to use the facilities. The race started right on time which is always a plus.

Course

Any Windy City race is flat as a pancake and this course was no exception and although it was south of the Loop, I really enjoyed running the majority of the race along Lake Shore Drive. For me any time you have beautiful scenery it makes running long distances seem a lot easier when you have something to look at.


In addition to running alongside the lake, one of the best parts of the race is that you get a chance to peep the elite field of runners. As average Jens/Joes like me are running miles 5-8, the elite field has already turned the corner heading south and although you're reminded of how much of a slug you are, it's still pretty stellar to see the leaders of the pack fly by you. It's almost as if for a few seconds you get to partake as a spectator versus a runner.

There was plenty of portable toliets and water/Gatorade stations throughout the course. Luckily, I didn't have to stop other than to jog through a water station.

Prior to the race, Casey's dad had mentioned that he's never seen someone running while smiling and how could running be so fun if no one's ever smiling. So I made it my mission to flash my pearly whites this entire race and boy, is Mr. Garms onto something. Smiling increased my confidence which helped me achieve a faster time by escaping mind games and really take in and enjoy the race. I had a great time hooting and hollering at spectators to get the crowd going and thoroughly enjoyed every second of this race.

I think I smiled in every Marathon Foto and will continue this tradition moving forward.


My biggest motivation however for ANY race is getting back into the arms of Casey as fast as I can. It sounds cheesy, but he really is my good luck charm and my #1 cheerleader (aside from my mom). Not to mention he got up at the crack of dawn just to support me. I know, I'm LUCKY.

We also had big plans after the race to watch the Bears game with Andy and Lauren at Joe's so I had to make sure I got done at a decent time to race back to the hotel (yes, race...after racing), shower in world record time and get to the bar.


My goal was to hit 1:50, but I had a cramp at a little after mile 11 (if only I knew to prepare for this in the Chicago Marathon weeks later) and finished in 1:53:42 (PR).


The Medal



The race medal was HEAVY and probably one of the biggest medals I've ever received. I would definitely run this race again and recommend it to anyone.

Improvements

The only negative I heard or have about this race is afterward I found out that many of the shuttles were late or didn't show up and many runners either didn't get to partake in the race due to this turn of events or were late to the race. The organizers of the Chicago Half Marathon later released a public apology for this mishap. Another improvement I think they could make is providing pacers with a much larger sign. I was trying to link up with a pace group but they were impossible to find as their signs were about the size of index cards on a stick.

Post-Race

Casey and I walked for what seemed like forever...okay, maybe 2-3 miles before we barely snagged a cab (us and another couple flagged it down, we offered to share/split fare and they chose to not to as they were going to Navy Pier and we were going downtown...okaaayyy?). Anyway, turns out we could have taken one of the buses/shuttles the race provided as apparently no one was checking tickets.

We made it back in time for me to take the fastest shower of my life, check out and grab a taxi to Joe's.

I've never been one to drink alcohol after a race as it seems like it defeats the purpose and because normally after any race I have stomach issues. I've always been envious of runners that could down a brewski after running because; A. apparently they don't have issues with their stomachs and B. the mentality of hey, I just killed a race...no big deal...want to grab a beer?

Now that I have FINALLY found the jackpot otherwise known as my pre-race meal that (knock on wood) has settled my stomach for every race since...I was finally able to "Tap the Rockies" and partake in this Sunday Funday watching the Bears.


Although, I think Casey and Andy celebrated enough for me...


Our quick trip to Chicago was a success with an awesome half, a family reunion and a Sunday Funday all wrapped into one petite package with a Bears win as a nice bow on top.


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