The Chicago Spring Half Marathon took place on Sunday morning on the Chicago Lakefront.    The 2017 edition of the Chicago Spring Half, the first part of the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series, featured a new venue in Maggie Daley Park, as well as a new course and new local beer partner, Lagunitas.

Packet pick-up took place at Fleet Feet in Old Town Friday evening and all day Saturday.  With a combined total of over 5,000 participants in the half marathon and 10K, packet pick-up was quite crowded when I arrived at Fleet Feet on Friday evening.  The packet pick-up was well organized, with several lines formed based on bib number.  However, by the time I left the store around 5:45 p.m. Friday evening a line had formed to get in the individual lines.

This year’s swag was a light blue technical t-shirt, available in gender-specific sizing-and cuts.  The women’s shirt featured a bit of a wider neck and cap sleeves, resulting in a very flattering fit.  I really appreciate when races recognize in their selection of swag that women are not simply small men!

Due to early morning road closures for the race, it was recommended that athletes choose public transportation or arrive via Divvy, bicycle or on foot.  The race venue was very easily accessible via the CTA and several Divvy stations were located near the race start.  I opted for a two-and-a-half-mile warm-up run from home to Maggie Daley Park.  Prior to leaving the house I checked the weather forecast and it showed zero chance of rain so I removed the LifeProof case from my phone so that it would fit in my back pocket while I ran.

When I began my run over to the race site, the sky told a different story; the air was thick and humid, which would make me have to work to achieve my sub-two half marathon that morning, and the sky was dark and filled with clouds that looked like they would let loose with rain at any moment.

I arrived at Maggie Daley Park around 6:15 a.m., (half an hour before corrals closed), and joined what I assumed to be the line for gear check, (there were so many people near the gear check it was hard to decipher whether an actual line had formed or just a crowd).  Checking my gear took about 10 minutes, which was longer than I anticipated, but I was still able to meet up with my Grit Endurance teammates on time for a pre-race photo and pep-talk before heading to our respective corrals.

Although I was assigned to Corral C, I moved back to Corral D to start with two of my teammates who were also pursuing sub-2 half marathons.  As we waited in the corrals, the inevitable happened—it started to rain.  Aside from worrying about the possibility of ruining yet another phone due to a run in the rain, I didn’t mind it.  In fact, I welcome a cooling rain during running races.  The race began at 7 a.m., but in order to reduce crowding going around the Shedd Aquarium, right at the one mile marker-each corral’s start was separated by four minutes.   While I’m not a big fan of standing in a crowded corral, trying not to stiffen up, for nearly half an hour, I did appreciate having some elbow room coming around that tight corner during the race.

Just before 7:15 a.m. we crossed the start line and began our pursuit of sub-2 half marathons.  I felt my pace was a little rushed as I began the race with my teammates, so in the first quarter mile or so I dropped back and settled into my own pace and watched my teammates pull away as we headed south on Columbus towards Roosevelt where we would enter the lakefront path.  I kept my teammates in sight and noted my time at the one-mile marker was 8:40, almost 30 seconds faster than a sub-2-hour pace—and they were a good five to ten seconds ahead of me at that point.  I worked to slow down a little bit over the next couple of miles and settled in to run my own race.  This was not an attempt at a PR—I was not recovered enough from my two marathons in the past month and Thursday night’s four-mile race, nor were the conditions optimal for me to pursue a sub-8:40/mile average.

Before the race even began the brief rain came to halt and within a mile or two of the start the dark rain clouds disappeared and the hot sun started to beat down the packs of runners.  My ideal running conditions are around 40 degrees and overcast, so this was definitely going to make a sub-2 more challenging.

Despite the rising temperatures, by mile five I had somehow accumulated about a minute buffer for that sub-2 finish.  I spent much of the race doing the math to see what time I needed to hit at each mile marker to stay on track for a sub-2 finish and then calculating how much of a buffer I had at each mile marker.  This worked pretty well until about mile nine, then it got a little more difficult to do the math.  Unfortunately, this was also the time that my race took a sharp turn for the worse.  I’m not sure what I had eaten in the previous 24 hours or if my stomach was reacting to the heat (and possibly a bit of dehydration), but with four miles to go my aching stomach was making it difficult to keep pace.  After a quick stop in a portapotty, (thank God for frequent aid stations-10 of them in 13.1 miles!), I reassessed my time and began to feel a bit defeated. That bout with stomach distress had eaten up most of my “buffer” towards breaking 2 hours.

When I approached the departure from the path at Randolph, I recalled a conversation my teammates and I had in the corrals about our plans to go sub-2; one of my teammates had said it’d be just her luck to end up with a finish time of 2:00:01.  Now here I was with about half a mile to finish and saw that as a very real possibility for myself if I didn’t dig deep and really push that last stretch.  I was going to be cutting it close.  When I hit the 13 mile mark I recalled the 100-meter sprints from this past week’s Grit Endurance Track Club session and tried to talk my legs into an encore.

As I ran down Columbus Drive towards the finish line with everything I had I marveled at how it seemed my legs were going in slow motion, (in reality I ran that .1 miles at around a 7:20 pace).  I crossed the finish, pressed stop on my watch and let out a sigh of relief when I saw my final time of 1:59:27.  This was my slowest half marathon of the year, but the one I had to work the hardest to achieve a sub-2 … barely.  After grabbing a cold, wet towel, a bottle of water and my medal I was quickly reunited with my two teammates, who both had great races finishing in 1:56 and 1:57.

We stretched and waited near the finish line for the rest of our Grit Endurance teammates to be done with their races before heading over to the finish line festivities.  The post-race festivities featured a hot breakfast buffet for the runners, which we were all looking forward to indulging in, as well as a round of Lagunitas for finishers over 21.  I was really looking forward to the post-race bacon, but my stomach had other ideas.  I had to abandon my post-race breakfast after one bite of bacon.

After recounting tales of our individual races and offering congratulations for races well run, my teammates headed home and I took a quick tour of the rest of the finish line festival, noting the spring flower station where athletes could take home free plants to get their spring gardens started.  I left Maggie Daley Park around 11:30 a.m. and post-race festivities were still going strong.  It had turned into a beautiful day for runners to spend hanging out and celebrating their achievements.

The Chicago Spring Half is a fun race with a unique course and great venue for pre and post-race festivities.  The second half of the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series, the Chicago Half Marathon, takes place on September 24.  Athletes who register for the series and complete both races will receive a custom 26.2 challenge finisher medal at the conclusion of the series.


Overall Half Marathon Male Winners:

  1. Alec Scheerer, 1:12:13
  2. Travis Buse, 1:13, 33
  3. John Penland, 1:16:04


Overall Half Marathon Female Winners:

  1. Fiona Carlon, 1:24:39
  2. Kalie Keenan, 1:27:19
  3. Sylvanna Toledo, 1:28:49


Overall 10K Male Winners:

  1. Kyle Flores, 35:18
  2. George Ogorek, 35:24
  3. Jon Hootman, 38:21

Overall 10K Female Winners:

  1. Briana Hungerford, 40:21
  2. Kathleen Tahk, 44:21
  3. Kristin Emery, 45:59
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Kristan Huenink has been exploring the city in her running shoes for the better part of a decade and coaching runners from beginners to marathoners nearly as long. She enjoys road racing at all distances, having completed countless short-distance races and nearly 20 marathons. When injury demanded she seek alternative physical activity, Kristan took her PT’s advice and decided to give tri a try. She has fully embraced the multi-sport lifestyle, completing multiple sprint, 70.3 and Ironman-distance races, as well as qualifying for USAT Age-Group Nationals and earning Ironman All-World Athlete Bronze status. Kristan is a USAT-Certified Coach with Grit Endurance in the West Loop, where she coaches Computrainer sessions, group run and triathlon training programs of all distances and levels, and one-on-one personal coaching. When she’s not training or coaching, Kristan can be found devouring the latest endurance sport literature and studying training data from her Garmin in pursuit of her next PR.


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