On Sunday the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K kicked off the official running season in Chicago. This race has been a tradition for many runners in the area; its attendance reaches thousands and has great crowd support ever year.
The race experience starts with the two-day expo at McCormick Place. The expo has a wide variety of brands and vendors for all your running needs. Charity booths and early bird sign-ups for this year’s races are also present. I really like the expo because you run into fellow runners, find new gear and performance improving gadgets, like my favorite expo item: compression/recovery boots. This year I went with my father, sister, brother-in-law to expo and had a fun time taking them to my favorite booths.
Race day is always great, whether it is your first time or a tradition – it has the feel of a marathon with an 8K distance. Because the race is in the heart of downtown, there are plenty of transportation options available, considering the road closures 20 to 30 minutes before the race. The flow of pre-race traffic is great and the entrances are easy to get to, with plenty of volunteers to get you to your coral quickly. One you get to your coral, you immediately feel the energy of the race from fellow runners as you stand in a sea of green running gear and Irish themed costumes. This year I even saw a cow and a shark running together.
As you work your way to the start line you get to enjoy the skyline of our beautiful city; as a big fan of architecture, I think this is one of the best start lines and races to run. Once the race starts, runners make their way north towards the Chicago River. The first mile marker is on State Street, which heads towards the Chicago Theater and over the river again.
The streets are lined with cheering squads and the casual tourist walking by in awe of this huge race. The second mile marker is near Jackson and State, where participants head west towards the financial sector of the city on LaSalle Street. This is my favorite spot because you are running on streets lined with enormous skyscrapers that tell a story of Chicago’s architecture. This continues through mile three, as the course heads south towards the mile four marker.
As runners near the finish line, they head back in the Grant Park area, running south on Michigan Avenue towards the Roosevelt “hill”. At the top of the hill, the finish line is in sight, and runners and walkers welcome the gentle downslope towards the crowds cheering them on to the finish on Columbus.
After crossing the finish line, everyone receives an assortment off fuel aid in recovery. This race also has a fun post-race party and this year’s weather was perfect to hang out and share your race experience with your crew over a complimentary cold one as you listen to the groups on the stage. I was particularly fond of Shannon Roder’s Pipe Band that plays every year.
This race has been one of my Chicago favorites and a family tradition for quite some time. I would say this is a must Chicago experience for everyone to try, from elite runners to walkers.