Beyond the Shamrock Shuffle


Without a doubt, the Shamrock Shuffle successfully brings runners out of winter hibernation mode. Often recognized as the start of the outdoor running season in Chicago, the 34th annual Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K offers runners a definite spring challenge. This scenic run begins at 8:30 a.m. on April 7 and ends in Grant Park with the Post-Race Party where runners and onlookers alike will enjoy live music and good company.


“I like that Shamrock is the unofficial kickoff to the racing season and there is such a buzz in the air at this race,” Megan Sullivan, training program manager for Chicago Area Runners Association, says. “You see all the familiar faces on the Chicago racing scene and get to find out who did their training ‘homework’ over the winter.”


However, what advice can be offered to Shamrock Shuffle participants that want to continue running in the spring, summer, and beyond?


Next Steps for Runners


According to Coach Mike Norman of Chicago Endurance Sports, running consistency is the key to success.

“The first thing any endurance athlete should focus on is being consistent with their training, even if it just means running at an easy pace,” Norman says. “If they’re constantly taking more than a day off at a time, then their body has a harder time making the physiological changes necessary for improvement. Once they have a consistent routine, the next step is to provide challenges for their body by ramping up their intensity and/or duration. “


Besides consistency, Sullivan also adds that at this point, runners can begin to add speed work, tempo runs and higher mileage to kick things up to the next level. She also advises Shamrock participants to join a group of people who will help push them to their next goal.


What Distance Should Shamrock Shuffle Participants Tackle Next?


After successfully completing the Shamrock Shuffle, runners may wonder what type of race they should take on next. With so many options in the area, though, how can runners determine which distance is best?


When trying to get into good racing shape, Sullivan believes that runners should aim to do shorter races in early spring and focus on longer distances later in the season, but adds that runners should always work to maintain a good training base and have at least one long run per week regardless of what race they hope to run.


Of course, there is no real “right” answer to this question as it depends on each individual and his or her running motives. Norman believes that people need to determine what will make them happy and not simply follow what other people tell them they should do.


“If someone is looking for the next challenge, they can choose to improve on their times in the shorter events, or maybe if they weren’t able to run the entire Shuffle, they can make a goal to run their next race without walking,” Norman says.


He adds that as the Shuffle is an 8K distance, he doesn’t think it’s too big of a stretch for someone to reach for a 10K later in the season.


“The fitness they gain simply from running the Shuffle will put them in a good position for success, provided they’re being consistent with their training the rest of the time, of course,” he says.


How to Keep the Running Momentum Up


One of the best ways to stay motivated is to join a group and set another goal. After all, running with a group offers a social aspect that many people need to stay driven. Most people are more likely to continue the runs if there are people to run with and help to maintain a positive outlook.


Training programs and coached groups give athletes the support, education, planning and encouragement from seasoned coaches.


“They can help you plan your season and training sessions so that you get the most out of your time,” Norman says, “and if you get injured, sick or have life or work conflicts that interfere with your training, a good coach can help you get back on track safely and adjust your goals with you.”


Choosing to associate with people who are supportive of your running goals will also help to keep you on track. Sullivan says, “When training for an important race, try to hang out with those friends who most support your lifestyle and encourage you to do what makes you happy: run!”


Other Ways to Stay Motivated


Keeping a logbook of your training and accomplishments can also help a runner maintain motivation throughout the season. For instance, there are many online training logs that runners can readily access. Moreover, running stores often host free running events and there are multiple running related activities constantly taking place in Chicago.


“Every day of the week there are themed runs at different running stores,” Sullivan says. “CARA has a calendar of hundreds of upcoming races to plan your next goal.”


Another great way to stay committed to your running goals is to take the time to volunteer at a local race. Volunteers can see the runners from a completely different perspective while enjoying the feeling of giving back to the running community.


“I’m always incredibly energized after I see other people working so hard and putting themselves out there to reach their goals,” Norman says. “It makes me remember why I love endurance sports: for the challenge and the positive energy of the community.”


Above all else though, do not be a “one and done” racer. Instead, why not set another attainable goal and truly give the “running bug” a chance to bite?