November 25, 2010 2 Comments
I ran my first ever half marathon last year. It was the inaugural Magellan Developments Spring Half Marathon and it was a two-loop course along the lakefront running path from Monroe Harbor to past McCormick Center. I had no idea what to expect time-wise, so although I ran it at a consistent, yet conservative pace, I felt like collapsing at the finish line. A month later, I would try and improve my time at the inaugural 13.1 Marathon on the same lakefront path but several miles south, beginning at the South Shore Cultural Center. I did improve my time and I felt the momentum of summer training pick up.
So when I ran the so-named “Hometown Race” in September, I thought, pshaw, a PR is in the bag.
But for some reason – the choices are many – I couldn’t pull off an improvement. I shuffled the last four miles and crossed the finish line four minutes slower than my previous time. I begrudgingly took my medal, scarfed down the requisite energy bars and hopped on the shuttles to go back to the city, my head swimming with questions about my performance.
A year later, I was back at the start of the Chicago Half Marathon, ready to tackle its flat course, which begins in Jackson Park, home of the 1893 Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World Fair), and then continues on a Lake Shore Drive devoid of all vehicular traffic. With nine of 2010’s half marathons under my belt, I had a much better idea of what makes or breaks a race and I was feeling confident at the start line. It helped that the temperature was hovering gloriously in the upper 50’s, complimented by a refreshing breeze under a cloudless sky. It was time for vengeance!
The race began at 7:00 AM, thirty minutes earlier than in previous years. The course runs north on S Cornell Avenue, reaching the Museum of Science and Industry before making a U-turn on S Stony Island Avenue. After running the perimeter of scenic and tree-lined Jackson Park, runners enter Lake Shore Drive and begin the five-mile trek to the turnaround at 31st street. Someone – likely yours truly – had managed to convince my ex-roommate Jason to sign up for this race as an excuse to improve his time. I deliberately refused to comment on the actual course until his medal hung proudly around his neck. Because honestly, the novelty of running nine miles on a highway wears off very quickly. Even at its northernmost point, the race is still very far from the city, so your vistas are limited to the lake, highway and more highway. To make matters worse, once you make the turnaround, your options for shade are very limited.
Last year, it was at precisely this turnaround that I began to lose energy and confidence. I’m blaming it on my lack of a visor and a Redamak’s trip I made the day before with Ryan Pollyea, Louis Levine and Kristin Mays (“Bite Into a Legend – Bonk at Mile 9”). But no such delicious burger trip had been made prior to this year’s race, so I felt great upon beginning my southbound trek. With last week’s PR dangling like Crab Rangoon on a fishhook in front of me, I decided to floor it for the rest of the course.
In every race I’ve done, by mile 10 the outcome is certain: I’m either going to PR by a lot or my wheezing makes it clear that I won’t. This time, however, I was definitely running against myself, either seconds ahead of or right behind my Disneyland time. For the remaining three miles, I felt like I was being chased by the “ghost” of my previous time. Yeah, that was a video game reference, get over it.
What I like most about this race is that the crowds of spectators get thicker and louder as you approach the finish line. The last two miles are lined with many signs and cheers, which only make it easier to finish strong. However, no amount of cheering could get me to run that last 0.1 miles any faster than a controlled stumble. I would later check my time to learn that I had come within three seconds of my PR, having finished in 1:38:43.
And so came to a close my circuit of ten half marathons to commemorate 2010. It was a great experience, one in which I was given many a chance to see old friends, see new sights and eat a ton of delicious fuel (read: food). I wasn’t intending to duplicate this experience in 2011 but I’ve been known to make crazy impulse decisions, so who knows. That said, the stars won’t have to align for me should a compelling local recommendation come up. And with that, I had the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in my sights, all training aimed squarely at the mythical date: 10.10.10.
A special shout-out to the members of Team Trisha who ran this race in memory of Trisha Apte. For more information, please visit the group’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2200445849.
Random Stats and “Awards”
Fastest: Disneyland Half – 1:38:40 (7:31 pace)
Slowest: ING Miami Half Marathon – 1:57:09 (8:56 pace)
Biggest: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon – 30,994 finishers
Smallest: Wisconsin Half Marathon – 1,945 finishers
Warmest: ING Miami Half Marathon – 73º, 97% humidity
Coldest: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon – 46º, 65% humidity
Flattest: Tie, Chicago Half Marathon, OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon
Hilliest: Go! St. Louis Half Marathon
Best SWAG: North Shore Half Marathon – Backpack, towel, wristbands, flip flops for everyone!
Worst SWAG: Wisconsin Half Marathon
Best Medal: ING Miami Half Marathon – Awesome, golden double-spinner with palm trees!
Worst Medal: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon – Thin, bland grey slab of boredom
Best On-Course Entertainment: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon
Best Expo / Packet Pickup: Disneyland Half Marathon
Most Enjoyable Course: Boston’s Run to Remember
Most Scenic Course: Tie, Madison Mini-Marathon and North Shore Half Marathon
Best Post-Race Snacks: Tie, Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon and Madison Mini-Marathon
Race with Most Friends: Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon – 11
Race with Fewest Friends: Wisconsin Half Marathon – 0