Saturday provided perfect racing conditions for the 10th Annual Prairie State Half Marathon, 10K & 3.5 Mile Races in picturesque Long Grove. This race is a fantastic way to start the fall running season in Chicagoland and has become a staple in my race calendar.
Unfortunately, a nagging back issue forced me to cut my half marathon to the 10k event earlier in the week. Luckily, this was an option until just a few days before the race, as was the opportunity to switch to another upcoming All Community Events race. This is an unusual and welcome advantage as there is nothing worse than having to add insult of losing your entry fee to the injury of actually being injured! I wish more organizations provided such choices.
I arrived early on race morning since the parking lots often fill up quickly for the event. I wandered around the small expo for a bit and then did a quick warmup loop through town before lining up with the other 3.5 mile, 10k and half marathon racers to await the starting horn.
Area roads have been under major re-construction the last few years and typically the start of the race is heavily congested as runners have been forced to the shoulder for the first half mile of the course. This year, they shut down Old McHenry Road, allowing everyone to find their pace and settle in before making the left turn to the canopied rolling hills of Cuba Road. If you are not prepared for the elevation changes, these are the most challenging miles of the course. Jenelle Silva, the 1:55 half marathon pacer concurred with that analysis after the race!
I was a bit concerned there would be congestion coming back into town as everyone stayed to the left side of the two lane road to allow traffic down the right; but, everything seemed to work itself out by the aid station at the first turn-around.
A welcome change from previous years was the absence of the cross country section which in previous years traversed a small park. I was glad to detour this portion, as during my warmup loop I had checked the area out and found it to be once again be saturated from the rains earlier in the week! Instead, we parted ways with the 3.5 mile runners and headed to the back segment of the 13.1 half marathon course.
Another notable feature this year was the absence of the historic covered bridge which sadly was struck by a box truck a few years ago and is undergoing structural repairs.
After running down Schaeffer Rd we wished the half marathoners well and traversed a narrow path before finding the second aid station and turning around to head uphill towards home. You barely notice the gradual incline on the way back because you cut through some side trails that run along the main road. After crossing the “uncovered” bridge for the second time, it was a little more than a quarter mile to the finish where a nice selection of post race snacks and a cold adult beverage from Buffalo Creek Brewing awaited.
The Prairie State race put on by All Community Events is big time race with a small town feel that attracts both the elite and beginner athlete alike. Congratulations to overall victors Ryan Richert (1:14:13) and Kathleen Cavanaugh (1:27:57)