I’m starting to get nervous. I’ve done a half marathon in Ohio, a half marathon in Wisconsin, and now a half marathon in Illinois. Do I keep the trend going? Am I going to make this a thing now? Dare I say it — do one in every state? I don’t know about that, although I would love to do one of those Disney World half marathons because it’s over my birthday weekend and the medals are really sweet. And it would be easy to do other races around the Midwest within driving distance. Well, I’m not committing to anything just yet! What was extra fun about this race was that:
1) It was huge — 30,000 runners!
2) There was a band at almost every mile marker since it was one of the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathons.
3) We got to run through downtown Chicago.
4) Most importantly — my fiancé ran it with me! It was his first big race with the exception of last summer’s Tough Mudder.
It was really nice training with a partner for once. We live in Chicago now so it was the first time I trained in a city environment. Basically that means I threw my timed runs out the window. I didn’t even wear my watch. Stopping at red lights and dodging cars adds a lot of time to each run. But I got really good at starting and stopping, which is usually hard for me. In the past, if I stopped once to drink or stretch then started running again, it would be that much harder for me to get going. Now I feel like I’m a pro.
I was a little nervous about this race considering the fact that I had just spent two weeks in Europe eating pizza and pasta and drinking wine. I returned from my Italian getaway on Monday night, flew to St. Louis the next morning, then got back to Chicago on Wednesday. Meanwhile the race deadline of SUNDAY was looming down on me. I had run 11 miles before I left, three miles in Italy and then went on two hikes as well. Then I ran three miles in St. Louis. That was as much preparing as I could do. I snuck in one more five miler on Thursday and then I needed to give my body a break.
Luckily, the morning of the race wasn’t too hot — that was one benefit of starting at 6:30 AM! Eek. And thankfully, there were a lot of great people cheering us on during the race. Friends of ours lived right on mile four and snapped a pic of us. Around mile six, there were some hilarious signs including “If you haven’t sh*t your pants yet, you’ve already won.” Miles eight through 10 were a bit boring — we were on Michigan Avenue but way south and there were no bands and barely any water. But somewhere around mile 11 we turned back north and I got a glimpse of beautiful Lake Michigan and the skyline which energized me.
When we ran under McCormick Place, it was dark but the lights were flashing and the DJ music was blasting like we were at a rave. We were getting so close! My friend Meg and her boyfriend cheered us on just before the finish line by yelling, “WINTER IS COMING!” and then we did it. 13.1. Finally. The end of the race party was pretty awesome. Mini Jamba Juice smoothies, freezing cold towels, food trucks, a live band in Grant Park, and of course a free beer. What is it with beers at the end of races? I love it. Unfortunately the medal does not double as bottle opener like my last one, but I’ll still take it.
Aubre Andrus is a freelance writer in Chicago who specializes in copywriting, blogging, reporting, and social media consulting. View her website and portfolio at www.aubreandrus.com or find her on Twitter @aubreandrus.