I like “friendly” races. I like races that have a sense of community. Sometimes that comes from the town that is hosting the event and sometimes it comes from the runners that are out on the course. Races where, if you are standing at the start, look at the people around you, and yell, “Ok, we are all in this together so let’s do our best, run hard, compete, and have fun,” you’d get a loud, “here, here.”
The F^3 Lake Half Marathon is that kind of race.
I have done this race twice and there never seems to be any pressure or nervousness that fills the United Club or the start line. It is a bunch if people that actually want to run a half marathon in the middle of January along the lakefront, usually having zero clue what the race day conditions will be like when race day comes along, which I think is what makes the event’s popularity grow. It is a bunch of runners out there to have fun, run hard, and enjoy every second of it.
When it is a beautiful day like we had this weekend, it doesn’t hurt either. I had several friends that race this for the first time and not only were their smiles a-plenty, but there were fast times. Even some PRs in January!
I also like out-and-back courses. Not only do you know exactly how far you have to go and can visualize landmarks but you can see the race unfolding. I was able to see the lead runners coming back, pretty close to each other and got to wondering how it would unfold at the finish. I was able to see friends coming from the other direction, seeing how good they were looking and giving them a good cheer (if I could muster the energy to get the air through my lips). I got some of those cheers for me, too, which is always a plus.
The F^3 Half is a great community race. Not “community” meaning “people that live in the area,” but the running community. The heartiest of the hearty. The running-geekiest of the running-geeky. It shows the personality of Chicago area runners.
I ended up running my fifth fastest half marathon that day (not bad for January, right?), but that wasn’t the part of the 2016 race I’ll remember. It is the sun shining and smiling faces along the way that made for a wonderful morning of carefree running.