Illinois (2010 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon)

While training for last year’s marathon, I made a conscious decision to not run the Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon, which up until last year was known as the Chicago Distance Classic. After all, why would anyone want to run 13.1 miles in the middle of summer? Isn’t Chicago always a scorching wasteland during Lollapalooza? So in the interest of sanity, I abstained from running only to experience cool temperatures and soft lake breezes during the entire weekend. Fair enough, life can be surprising, so I would wait until next year.

That, however, was during the decade’s mildest Chicago summer. With the predictable exception of Lollapalooza, which never fails to attract insufferable highs, there were very few nasty days. In other words, it was a very distant relative of this current summer. I know I’m always in the minority when I complain about the heat, but really, this hasn’t been the best summer to run. As the heat goes up, so does my frustration, my pace and the amount of detergent I douse on my laundry, so it was only natural that I expected to run this year’s race with a more conservative pace.

The morning of August 1 wasn’t too bad. Temperatures were in the upper 60’s, with faint signs of cooler airs drifting about and the sky couldn’t decide between sunny and just barely cloudy. I arrived at my start corral with Jason, who had to sneak into mine because he had been grossly under-seeded at registration. If Competitor was as strict about their packet pickup policy as they were enforcing their corrals, then he would have been the ideal target for a zealous rejection from a volunteer. But that didn’t happen. Not long after the national anthem, Brandon Conrad joined us and minutes later, we were off, running up Columbus Drive, just like most every race that starts in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Although the Chicago Half Marathon, a different race held in September, claims to be “the hometown race”, I believe that name more accurately describes Rock ‘n Roll. The closest the former gets to the city is 31st street, while the latter begins in the heart of downtown, traversing Grand Avenue, State Street, and Michigan Avenue. By mile 7, runners have passed many famous landmarks, crossed the Chicago River four times and scaled the infamous Roosevelt Road Bridge. It was also around this time that I realized how confidently I was running. Maybe I would register a formidable time in the low 1:40’s after all.

However, overconfidence in any race can crash into you like a ton of bricks. For although the sun had become obscured by thin cloud coverage, I began to feel my energy drain a mile later. Once out of the city, the race turns onto Lakeshore Drive before detouring on 18th Street and onto Fort Dearborn Drive. After passing a misting station, the course shoots through a tunnel next to McCormick Center. What seemed like a bit of reprieve from the sun turned out to be the opposite. It was dark, damp and started the process that would result in many runners hitting the figurative wall. Nobody liked that tunnel.

Once out, the course continues on the Access Road until about 39th street, where it turns around, giving runners a hazy view of the city. It was here that the day’s humidity became depressingly apparent. With energy levels spiraling downward and temperatures slowly creeping up, I had to brace myself for the remaining 5K. From here on, the course follows the lakeshore running path, passing McCormick Center, Soldier Field and rounding Shedd Aquarium before merging back with Columbus Drive for the final stretch. Although the ice cold sponges at mile 10.5 were a godsend, I could not forgive the fact that their last water station was at mile 11. I was lucky to have known this, so I crumpled a second cup of water and ran with it for a mile. By mile 12, the water was warm and not very refreshing but hydrated me nonetheless while many other runners kept struggling, searching for the next water station in vain.

Liz, Me, Jayne, Jason, Otter

At the end of the day, the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon was a bit of a letdown and not just because I finished in a less-than-stellar time compared to my previous efforts (1:49:06). For all the sparkle and hype, I didn’t feel the palpable energy in the air. The organization’s intense focus on celebrity participation was a bit irritating, the price tag exorbitant, and when will they learn that nobody likes Cytomax? The crowd support was great while in the city, but once out there were very few people to mention. And the bands? I guess they were good, but since you only hear them for 10-25 seconds at a time, they don’t really add to the experience that much. The best part of the race (besides the first four miles) was probably the heavy hunk of metal you get to flaunt upon finishing.

I’d almost guess that many people resent Competitor for taking away their Chicago Distance Classic. The race still sells out because people love to run, but in clichéd terms, it’s just not the same. I have very little to support this theory, especially since I never ran the Distance Classic. I could be wrong. Maybe it was the 6:30 AM start time that had runners in such subdued spirits. Who knows?

As for next year, the race will be held three weeks later on August 21. Whether I run it will depend on peer pressure – if as many of my friends run it again in 2011, then so be it, so will I.

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About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

3 Responses to Illinois (2010 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon)

  1. Pingback: Race Schedule & Results « Dan's Marathon

  2. Pingback: Race Medals « Dan's Marathon

  3. Pingback: Coach Dan (2014 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon) | Dan's Marathon

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