Chicago is my favorite city. I love the reflection of the city in the bean, the sparkle of the lights on the Chicago Theater, the smell of Garrett’s popcorn wafting in the air, the breeze off the lake. All of these things I was able to share with my running buddy as we tackled the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon.
Staying at the Palmer House was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Upon entering the revolving door I felt like I had just stepped into The Great Gatsby. Golden peacock doors (with their own history) greet you once the revolving door deposits you inside the lobby. Then up a short staircase one’s eyes are greeted with a fresco covered ceiling that makes you feel like you’ve just entered Rome, not a Chicago hotel. The peacock theme is continued throughout from the wall paper to the carpeting. And upon entering our room, the most inviting olive green velvet chairs beckoned us to sit, put up our feet, and sip on a mint julep. I never wanted to leave Old Sport.
But I had a race to run…
Pre-race was a breeze. It started with a 4:45AM wake up call, lounging in the hotel room until 6, then finding the Half Fanatics on the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago for a group picture. This was my first time running as a member, and I have to say they are the most supportive group. I was so glad I wore my Half Fanatics shirt and was a true member of the asylum.
From there it was off to the corrals which were more of a suggestion than a rule. The humidity was stifling, and I was worried about finishing, so we may have moved up several corrals to provide a little bit of a cushion between me and the cutoff time.
The race started at 6:30, but my feet didn’t cross the start until 7:15. I hit the start on my Garmin, and I was off telling my running buddy I’d see her at the end. We started up Columbus Drive before heading under a bridge where I immediately lost signal on my GPS. This continued to happen throughout the race. It would go in and out, and at mile 3 it said I had done a 35 minute 5K which is five minutes faster than normal. I decided I was going too fast, so I slowed down. However, my GPS was not accurate, and when I passed the real 5k marker, I was at 45 minutes. From there on out I stopped paying attention to my Garmin. It was so off that at the end of the race it said I had run 15 miles. Apparently lost GPS signals is a common problem while running through the city.
The humidity was brutal, but there were the occasional lake breezes which provided some relief. I know that I train in this kind of humidity in Florida, but it is still hard to cope with. The race advertised eight water stations which there were, but it was too few for as humid as it was. I was glad to have my hydration belt. I had to fill it up twice in addition to hitting every water station.
Ice bags and a misting station were a welcome relief along the course, but the best part was the sponges and ice packs towards the end of the race. They were a welcome distraction from the blazing sun.
Around mile 9 there were boxes of salted watermelon Gu, but I didn’t want to try anything new, so I stayed with my Honey Stingers. Mile 12 had us passing Solider Field. And then it was over. With a medal around my neck, I was searching for my running buddy and a place to sit and cool off.
Entertainment was sparse throughout the entire course. There were three bands and a few stilt walkers. Miles 11-12 had a DJ blasting music on the course. There were three bands performing after the race, but we didn’t have time to get over to see those. I enjoyed the scenery for the most part, and with my own playlist I was never bored.
The finish line area was very organized. After crossing I snagged my medal, a water, and was handed a popsicle. The popsicle was the best post race food I’ve had in a long time. There was also chocolate milk, bagels, and a variety of other things to eat. Then it was back to the Palmer House to wrap up our Chicago weekend.
The Rock and Roll series is great at communication and post race goodies. I loved the t-shirt, medal, and the Palmer House, but the advertised entertainment on course seemed to be lacking. I might give them another chance before saying I would look for other racing opportunities. Perhaps another city might give a different experience. At least I can cross Chicago off my list of cities to run in, and I got to add another state to my half marathon list.