I would like to put in a formal request that it is always 30 degrees when I’m scheduled to run a half marathon.
The F^3 Lake Half Marathon has a pretty hit or miss history when it comes to weather, and though I didn’t run the race last year, I do believe that it was in the high 30s/low 40s on race day. I don’t think anyone–certainly not me–expected good race day weather two years in a row, but while the East Coast got buried under a blizzard, Chicago was sittin’ pretty with moderate winter weather on Saturday.
While 30 degrees is ideal as far as I’m concerned for racing, it’s not particularly ideal for standing outside for an hour waiting for the race to start. Last year, F^3 moved down to Soldier Field, and with that move came access to the United Club.
Having an indoor, temperature-controlled space for gear check and on-site vendors was AWESOME. I think I’d like this for most races, to be honest, but in the winter in particular this sort of thing is clutch. I arrived about an hour before the race began, checked my gear, and wandered over to the bathrooms, where, to everyone’s great surprise, the line for the men’s bathrooms on both ends of the United Club were out the doors, while the lines to the women’s bathrooms were barely existent. I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere before in my life, and all the other women in the bathroom commented on the odd reversal as well. ‘Bout time those boys learned what we put up with on a regular basis! :P
I ran into one of my good CARA friends and her boyfriend and chatted with them for awhile before everyone started moving outside about 10 minutes before the race officially began. I wore my warmest pullover over a short sleeve tech shirt, and while this worked perfectly for the race, I got really cold really fast standing around outside. I lined up in what I think was the 10:00 corral, and I had assumed since this was a relatively small race that we would all start at the same time. Not so! They waited about a minute in between corrals, which I’m sure helped with crowding, but man was I getting impatient to get running and warm up.
I didn’t have much of a time plan for the race, other than thinking it’d be nice to negative split if possible. I wanted to start out comfortably slow, but it took me a little while to find my groove. I had a 9:20 first mile, which I knew was WAY too fast, so I tried to slow it down to 10:00. When I hit mile two (by my watch – my watch and the mile signs weren’t lining up for most of the race, though that’s hardly a new phenomenon. I’d be much more surprised if my watch and the mile signs did match up than I am when they don’t.), I had done a 9:46. While I was hoping to hit 9:45s later on, I figured if I felt like I was holding back and doing 9:45s at that point, I’d trust that that was fine. I tucked in behind two women who, according to my watch, were running 9:45s, and figured I’d pace off them for awhile. Pretty soon, though, I decided to pass them, so I swung out to the left, ran in front of them, and then merged back right. As I was doing this (or maybe immediately after? I’m not sure.), the woman on the left side of this pair clipped my heel.
“That girl just cut me off!” the woman declared, referring, of course, to me. I ignored her, because that’s how I normally handle this sort of situation, and continued running.
“Fucker!” the woman said, referring, once again, to me.
Aw, HELL no.
I looked over my shoulder, put my hands out in the universal sign for, “What is WRONG with you?!” and said, “SERIOUSLY?! We’re on the same team!” (Which I meant in the universal, “We’re both runners doing this race” sense, not in the literal, “We signed up for this race as team members” sense.)
“You cut me off! You cut right in front of me!!” the woman said.
“WE’RE ON THE SAME TEAM!!” I reiterated, before my adrenaline kicked in and I trotted off at a nice 9:15 pace for awhile, leaving Cranky Pants in my dust.
OH, did this make me ragey. Did I get in the woman’s way? Clearly, because we had the MOST MINOR of “collisions.” Collision actually seems like a pretty strong word for what happened. Did I do it on purpose? Of course not. I did not come equipped with rearview mirrors, but, to my estimation, when I merged in front of her and her companion, I assumed I had enough space to do so. I have never, in nearly five years of running, seen anyone cut anyone else off intentionally in the middle of the pack, because DUH. Nothing we’re doing matters. Ain’t none of us going to win the race. Heck, ain’t none of us even going to place in our age group! We’re just out there for kicks! For funzies! I have never, ever in my running life seen ANY middle-of-the-pack-er taking a race so seriously that he or she would intentionally try to sabotage another person’s race by cutting them off (or doing anything else), because why on EARTH would you do that? Not to mention, in my experience (or at least in my experience prior to Saturday) runners are a pretty supportive bunch, hence: we’re on the same team.
I don’t know anything about this woman, other than that the first two numbers on her bib were 24, and she looked to be about in her 30s. Maybe she had a really bad night. Maybe she was having a really bad morning. Maybe she was really nervous about the race. Maybe she’s just a categorically shitty person. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is never a) okay or b) necessary to call someone a fucker for passing you, even if they did cut in front of you too quickly. Would I have been annoyed if the reverse had happened? Yeah, for sure. I probably would’ve muttered, “God!” or “seriously?!” under my breath, and wished ill upon the cutter-in-fronter and tried to pass them later, all of which I think are fairly acceptable courses of action. But if you want to tempt the running gods, practically begging them to give you bad running karma: be my guest. Even more so, had she not called me a fucker, had she said, “Excuse me,” or “careful” or any other socially acceptable thing to say to a stranger, I probably would’ve been QUITE inclined to apologize for my action. But you had BETTER BELIEVE I absolutely did not apologize after she acted like that.
Be nice to your fellow runners, people. Act like a grown up. Fairly simple concepts to grasp.
After that situation, the rest of the race was fairly uneventful. I had several miles in the 9:55-9:45 range, and my knee acted up, like it always does these days. I survived the hill at…whatever pedestrian overpass that is (I think it’s somewhere in the 40s? Probably?), and wondered when on earth we’d hit the turnaround. (In the mean time, I passed the 10K mark at 1:00:59, which, had this been a 10K race, would’ve been my third fastest 10K and my fastest since 2013. Heyo!) Within about a mile and a half of the turnaround or so the path got super crowded, since we had two-way traffic on not-the-widest part of the trail. It was manageable, but definitely a bit cozier than I anticipated for a race with less than 2,000 participants.
We had a nice, tiny breeze at our faces after the turnaround–enough to keep you cool without bothering you–and I was still feeling great. The view of the city heading north on the path was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, with the ice on the lake and a mix of sun and clouds in the sky. I don’t carry my phone on me when I race, and even if I did, I wouldn’t stop to take pictures (I’ve never understood people who do this, though I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. Don’t you know you’re being timed?? Though I suppose maybe not everyone cares about their time as much as I do.), but those were some seriously photo-worthy views, and I wish I could show them to you.
I tried to find groups to latch onto and pace with, or even just people if possible, but I was never able to stick with anyone for very long before feeling like I had enough in me to pass them. I spent a decent portion of my race doing mental math after each mile marker, trying to estimate my overall pace and likely finish time. I hit mile 10 at 1:37, so I knew that unless I ran MUCH slower than I had been running, I was on pace to break 2:10, which was my #1 goal. I also knew that unless I ran the remaining 5K faster than I had ever run that distance before, I wouldn’t get a PR (or break two hours, which is this long-standing dream I’ve had). I had it in my head that it’d be nice to break 2:05, but I wasn’t sure if the timing would work out.
When I got to mile 12, I gave it my all. I intend to stop running for the next month or so before gearing up for the Shamrock Shuffle, so I wanted to make the last of my running for awhile count. I ran an 8:36 last mile (wheee!) and crossed the finish line in 2:05:19, for what was FAR and away my second fastest half marathon.
I was SO happy with my time. I may or may not have cried happy/proud tears. I did not at all expect to have such a great race, and though I wanted to break 2:10, I had doubts about my ability to do that. Even though my half PR is 2:02:50, I had never come remotely close to touching that in the four half marathons I’ve run since (2:12 was the best I had done), and that 2:02 was starting to feel more and more like an anomaly, something I’d never achieve again, than something I could approach, or even break. I could not be more thrilled to have been only 2:29 off my PR on Saturday.
There wasn’t much to do outside (not that I had any interest in standing around outside for long anyway), so I headed back to the United Club, where I was able to pick up my race participant hat and shirt.
I changed into dry clothes (thank you, post-marathon training brunches, for teaching me the importance of bringing a change of dry clothes to maintain post-run warmth) and then headed over to Stan’s for a celebratory donut.
Overall, a very successful race day. I’m glad I was able to send this mini running season out on a high note.