I have had the privilege of pacing the half marathon at the Chicagoland Spring Marathon and Half Marathon for the past few years. Aside from the fact that it only takes me twenty minutes to get to Schaumburg, I enjoy pacing this event every year, getting a nice run around Busse Woods and helping people to their goals.
Anyone that has run the event in the past knows that it has a tendency to be the first really warm, sunny weekend of the year. Not the case for 2016, though. The weather was perfect for a marathon or half and, standing in the start corral, you got the feeling there could be a lot of PRs coming in the next few hours.
When the race started, you could tell that there were a good deal of people that saw the temps for the weekend and had the same thought. There were a ton of runners up towards the front of the race this year and the first two miles was just a sea of people. After that, we entered into Busse Woods and ran along the bike path. The marathoners split off from our pace group around the 5.5 mile mark. (It was a much larger group that had turned off for the 26.2 mile jaunt than in the past, which must have been a great feeling for them since they still had other people to run with.) We wished them good luck and continued on our way.
There were two of us pacing the 1:35 group and we had a nice, strong pack of about eight people for a good chunk of the race. As we ran, we did our best to keep the group together, motivated and on pace. With about three miles to go, the route crosses over the footbridge that crosses 290. At this point, our group was down to six, but they are all moving strong and made it over the ridge together. It is probably the hardest part of the course and can be mentally taxing so close to the end, but they made it over and we headed for home.
At that point, the group started to break up a bit, so the other pacer and I split up to keep running with the two, smaller groups and do some motivational speaking (ie: yelling) for the last mile and a half.
The runners we were with powered their way into the finish and ended their run with big smiles on their races. As I watched other runners and groups finish, it was more of the same. You can’t always control the conditions on race day, but when you are given a pretty flat course and a perfect day, you have to take advantage of it and it seemed like most of the runners there did just that.