It was the Sunday morning every runner hoped for when they registered for the Chicago Half Marathon – cool and sunny, with a slight breeze coming off the lakefront called for tons of PR’s and happy finishers.
The races, in which more than 15,000 people participated, marked the 20th Annual Chicago Half Marathon and Life Time 5K event. Runners from all 50 states and 47 countries gathered in Jackson Park early Sunday morning to prepare for the race. Lake Shore Drive was closed promptly at 6 a.m., and the wheelchair half marathon began at 6:45 a.m., with the rest of the runners following closely behind at 7 a.m. The 5K began at 7:45 a.m.
Not only was the weather perfect for the distance, but the course was ideal for all runners. Starting off near the Science and Industry Museum, runners got a historic taste of Chicago’s South Side before merging onto Lake Shore Drive. Although it’s a long out-and-back course, the views of the lake and harbors made the miles fly by. After racers hit mile eight, they turned back around and ran the remaining miles back towards Jackson Park.
While many Chicago residents may have found the closing of Lake Shore Drive to be a major inconvenience, runners felt the opposite; the accessibility of the course allowed spectators to gather wherever they wanted, resulting in a truly motivating experience with fans cheering and clapping everywhere you look. Also, every runner’s bibs had their first name printed on it, so watchers were cheering for racers they didn’t even know by their first name, which was really unique and encouraging.
I personally think this is an ideal course for beginning half-marathoners – this was only my second time doing the distance, and while I trained much better for this one than my first, I think the course really helped in my success (a 14-minute PR!). For seasoned runners, this route is definitely the place to PR, as the long straightaways are asking for a pace-pickup. I’m sure many training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon participated in this race to practice their race strategy, as it was the perfect time and place to do so.
It’s obvious why this race has been around for 20 years – the positive energy just beams off of every runner and supporter and there is not one negative thing to say. The post-race party had several vendors with delicious food and resources for runners to unwind, and was definitely the place to be on a Sunday morning.
Parking was a breeze, the start line was not overly congested with a very efficient rolling start, and the aid stations were always full and lively; all of these common race issues were avoided very fluidly by Life Time Fitness, and I am already planning on racing again next year. Plus, who wouldn’t want a medal the size of their face?