Everything about Fort2Base makes it different from just about any other race you have ever run. The uniqueness of the race is what makes it so memorable and why runners come back year after year.
Another term I like to use to describe it, is that is a “thinking person’s” race. Fort2Base is an event that you need to plan ahead for in every aspect of the race.
We’ll start with the distances of the race. The two distances to choose from are 10 Nautical Miles or three Nautical Miles. That comes out to 11.5 miles or three and a half miles, respectively. If you don’t know that going into race day, that finish line will just not arrive soon enough.
Since it is a point to point race, runners need to park at Rosalind Franklin University and then be bussed to their respective start lines. This means you have to get there early enough to park and also early enough to be bussed to your respective start line. If you are a “Lucy Latecomer,” you’ll need to change your prerace habit for this one. Running from Fort Sheridan to Naval Station Great Lakes, though, is one of the best parts about this race. As you are running north on the path, you pass through three or four different suburbs, which is different from most races, where you pass through one.
You exit the running path and head into Naval Station Great Lakes, a military base that is normally closed off to the public. If you have never been on the base, you might have a vision in your head of metal barracks, dirt fields for push-ups and camouflage painted buildings, but in actuality, it is the exact opposite. The base is covered in trees, statues and beautiful buildings that make some college campuses look like a laundromat.
The part of the course everyone talks about is Hero Hill, the giant, half mile long hill that navy recruits use during training. The original Hero Hill was not in use for the 2016 race due to construction, but the Fort2Base organizers found an equally tough replacement hill that still tried to drain whatever energy you had in your legs. You are not allowed to quit on the hill, though, as it is lined with recruits cheering for you the whole way. Many runners even get their own personal recruit that runs up the hill with them, yelling encouragement as you get closer and closer to the top. (Those recruits then turn around and head back down the hill to do it again.) The enthusiasm from all the military members along the course is electric and I try to thank as many of them as I can as I run past.
At the finish, you receive a giant medal given to you from a member of the military. The post-race snack tent has more goodies than you can hold onto and you can enjoy them on the parade field while listening to live music and talking with friends.
Though the 2016 version of the race featured the same high humidity that we have seen most of the summer, the race is still a great event to use to tune up for a longer distance in the fall. The hill at the end especially creates the need to pace yourself early on in the race and this can help teach you to control your speed at the start. Summer distance races are not always easy, but having a race like this in the area is a great way to help you to prepare for your goal race in the fall.