Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chicago Spring Half Marathon recap--sort of....

I need to start this recap off by stating the obvious: I did not run this race. Due to a broken foot, I have been sidelined from running. I was forced to DNS, a first for this seasoned runner.

But instead of skipping the race entirely, I decided to take Marcia AKA Marcia's Healthy Slice up on her offer to drive me down to the race. I didn't know if she was just being nice or if the offer was real, but I took a chance and said yes. Before today, I had never met Marcia, but we've been corresponding back and forth for almost a year. So really, I felt like I knew her.

True to her word, Marcia picked me up at 515 am. While I was getting ready, I was kicking myself for agreeing to get up so early and go to the race. The forecast was for a beautiful day, and I could have gotten a long bike ride in. This is how I think. Goofball. I promptly kicked myself in the butt (with my boot) and got my head on straight. I had also promised Penny from 26.yikes and Michelle from This Momma Runs that I'd be there to cheer them on, cowbell in hand. As a runner, I know how much it helps to have people cheering you on from the sidelines. And I didn't want to let them down. Plus I really wanted to meet Marcia and Penny! After being "virtual running buddies", it was time to meet face to face. Marcia and I talked the entire way down--it was like we were old friends! We have quite a bit in common and so it was really great to finally meet her.

Marcia and me. 

After we parked near the race, we walked a short distance through Lakeshore East Park and under Lake Shore Drive to the start line at DuSable Harbor. I had never been here before, and was amazed at the beautiful little park and the large yachts moored in the harbor. To the south of the harbor lies the Chicago Museum campus, which is comprised of the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field, which is the home of the Chicago Bears. The entire race is and out and back, along the the lakefront path, taking runners down to 47th street and back. If you have never run along the Chicago lakefront, I highly recommend it. It is simply beautiful.

For this race, runners were assigned corrals A-I. Mine was E, which was the 2:00 corral. Marcia was in D. The start times were staggered, every 4 minutes. The national anthem was sung, beautifully, and the runners were off. As corral C ran by, I rang my cowbell, and saw Penny, Michelle, Michelle's husband Nemo, and Amanda (Too Tall Fritz). I got a hug from Michelle and away they went.

After Marcia's corral crossed the starting line, I made my way to the starting area and began ringing my cowbell for each wave. It was interesting to see each group move through...towards final few corrals, there were a lot of newbie runners. The announcer asked how many first timers there were and a lot of them raised their hands. There was a lot of excitement in the last few corrals. Some of the final runners were actually walkers.

While I was cheering for the half participants, a girl stood next to me. She told me she was running the 10K, her second race and longest distance she had ever run. She talked to me about how nervous she was. I reassured her and told her she'd be fine. Her plan was to run and walk. I told her to do whatever it took to cross that finish line. While she talked to me, I thought about how far I've come as a runner, that a half marathon is "routine" for me! But no one forgets those first run jitters! I watched the first wave of the 10K runners cross the starting line and then headed back to the finish area.

The finish line was back in Lakeshore East Park, which is surrounded by tall buildings. It felt like a valley, an urban oasis of sorts! I found a nice vantage point along the final stretch of the race course, just ahead of the finish chutes and plopped myself down on the curb. A woman sat down next to me. She was wearing running gear and was tearful. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that she was supposed to run the half, had trained for it with her mom, but started to have trouble with her IT Band. She asked about my foot. I shared my story with her, and she asked me if I was upset that I couldn't run the race. I admitted that I would have loved to run it but that I had other races planned for this year, and that I was just happy to be there to cheer my friends on. Because that is the truth. I'm actually shocked that I feel this way, but there it is.

After that, we sat in silence and waited for the runners to pass. Meanwhile, a firetruck came down the narrow road and parked in front of an apartment building just before the final turn to the finish line. I hoped they wouldn't block the runners, and about 5 minutes later, they pulled away. That would have been a first! Soon after that, the first runners began to arrive...the mens 10K champion, the mens' half marathon champion, another male half marathon runner and then...wait? A woman, wearing a 10K bib, moving very slowly--shuffling, actually came around the corner and headed towards the finish line. Clearly not the 1st place woman, I wonder what happened? Did she get lost? Take a wrong turn? Decide to throw in the towel but cross the finish line anyways? Rosie Ruiz? I'm pretty sure that she was DQ'd.

My sign and my cowbell

More runners started to come in, and I rang my cowbell furiously! Because as Christopher Walken said on the immortal SNL skit, you always need more cowbell! I also held up my sign. So far, no one took me up on the free hugs. I was wearing my wicking gear, so I was prepared for anyone sweaty. I started to look for my friends. Finally, I saw Penny and Michelle running together. I shouted out to them! A few minutes later, Marcia came around the corner. I met up with all of them in the picnic area. They were wearing their bling, which was quite nice! Simple and understated, but quality. That's what I like.

We sat and talked, they recapped their runs, which sounded uneventful. And I will say that it was a great experience for me. Do I wish I could have run it? Of course. But if you have never spectated a race, I think it is a worthwhile experience for a runner. I was able to see the anticipation on all the runners' faces while they waited to cross the starting line. No matter what corral they were in, most of the runners looked very serious! And then at the finish line, again watching their faces as they saw the banner. The elite runners were serious, focused. As more runners came in, some sprinted to the finish line. It was impressive to see a big kick like that after knowing they ran 13 miles! As even more runners came in, it was fun to see them smile as they came around the corner and saw the banner. I saw more than a few pumped fists and thumbs ups from the 1:45 and up group. Those are the runners I cheered for the most, the ones that made me smile. Because those runners are me.

L-R: Penny, Michelle, Marcia, and me

Have you ever spectated at a race? If so, what did you take away from your experience? Have you ever volunteered?


  1. What a great experience - meeting awesome bloggers IRL and cheering on runners even though you wanted so badly to be in the pack. Sounds like a wonderful time!

    1. It really was a great day. Not saying that I don't want to be back on the road tho...if anything it made me anxious to heal and get moving again!

  2. It was a really fun day and you were such a good sport to get up and out at o'dark thirty! I see lots of great adventures in our future. : )

  3. Thanks for coming out and spectating! I was telling Bobbi (who I ran with) after this race that I need to get out and spectate some more this year! I usually do at the Milwaukee Marathon and a few other events and I just love cheering the runners on! I love your sign. I am sad you didn't get any hugs ;)

    I hope that girl had a good 10K! Isn't it funny to think about a half being nbd?

    1. It was so much fun..and being a runner, I know what I like from spectators! I'm sure the people around me were thinking how obnoxious I was but hey! that's what motivates me to run faster!!! Puts a huge smile on my face.

      It really did put it all in perspective for me!

  4. AWE love that you still got to enjoy the day! And how fun that you all got to meet up!
    I hope the foot is healing nicely! xoxox

    1. The foot is feeling better! I'm hoping to get back to running within a week.