So here’s the thing: I’m not really a fan of women’s-only races. It’d be one thing if women were few and far between in the running world, but that’s not the case at all. Take the Chicago Half Marathon, for example: about 1500 more women finished the race than men, and in the 5K the numbers were skewed in women’s favor even more, where there were almost two female finishers for every male. I’m also not okay with the blatant double standard that women’s-only races create. If someone tried to put on a men’s-only race, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’d be lambasted up and down for being sexist, but when someone puts on a women’s-only race, everyone’s all, “Yeah! Girl power!”
Regardless, on Sunday I found myself at Diversey Harbor in Lincoln Park for my first women’s-only race, the Title 9K. Despite my hesitations and moral qualms about the race, I’ve got to hand it to Title Nine. This race was easily the best all-around running event that I’ve run.
Things started off on a fantastic note with packet pick-up on Friday, which was extremely efficient and included baked goods. My affections can easily be bought with sweets, so this alone would have been enough to make this my favorite packet pick-up of all time. Things continued to improve when I got home and dove into my goodie bag.
Have you ever seen anything like it?! This 9K was my ninth race (how appropriate!), and never once have I had this fantastic of a goodie bag. There was not one single advertisement or promo for a future race in the bag. Instead it was filled with freebies, which I am all about.
I arrived at the race about 45 minutes before the start on Sunday morning. The weather was picture-perfect with a cloudless sky and temperatures in the low 40s. The pre-race atmosphere was also incredible. There was music, there were tons of booths giving away even more free things, and the overall energy was really positive and upbeat. Despite the fact that my standard pre-run breakfast of toast with peanut butter was not sitting as well as I would have hoped, I was still really pumped for the run.
The race started at 9 a.m. and featured a lovely, flat-ish out-and-back course. We started just north of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park and took the gravel path through the park north to where it connects with the paved Lake Front Trail immediately south of Belmont. We stayed on the path for most of the run (which I’m sure thrilled the Sunday morning long runners that encountered the 1000+ of us), though we did veer off at Waveland to go around the east side of the tennis courts and fields. We continued north to Montrose, took a little loop, and then headed back right where we came from (minus the Waveland detour).
I wanted to run fast (for me) on Sunday and managed to keep up a pretty steady 9:40ish pace throughout the run. My legs were really feeling it already by the second mile, which is not something I’m used to since I generally run for distance and completion, not speed. A little while after I got out of the Waveland area the lead women started passing us heading in the other direction, which really motivated me to keep pushing even though my quads were more than ready to call it a day.
I actually got a little acid reflux-y out of nowhere right after the 4 mile mark, so I slowed down a tiny bit for half a mile or so. Around that point we got back into Lincoln Park and the crowd started to pick up a little. Then, for the first time since I started running last year, I got competitive and actually started racing, not simply running. Something about the crowd and all the, “Keep pushing! You’re almost there!” stirred up memories of my failed middle school cross country career and I wanted to race. I no longer was running simply to get the best time I could: I was running to finish as high in the standings as possible. I stepped up my game and ran the last half-ish mile at a steadily increasing pace.
I crossed the finish line in 52:47 for an overall 9:27 pace. Since this was my first 9K, this was technically a PR, but first-time distance PRs don’t have the same thrill of a “real” PR to me. However, a 9:27 is significantly faster than I’ve run any other race of close to this distance (my previous two 10Ks were run at a 10:31 and 9:44 paces), so it still felt like a real PR.
After catching my breath, I reclaimed my gear and then wandered around the booths to see what kind of samples I could snag 😉 . I tried a lot of healthified, HLB-friendly baked goods (you know, the standard gluten free, vegan, allergy friendly fare) and walked away with some more samples. I think I’m now set in the snack bar department for quite some time.
I also got a water bottle for finishing the race, which was a first for me. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will hang well on my corkboard like my other finisher’s awards (mostly medals, a rally towel, and one bracelet), but I like it nevertheless.
I can’t say the Title 9K necessarily changed my opinion about women’s races, but I will say that it was a fantastic time. This race definitely tied with the BTN Big 10K for my favorite race I’ve run thus far. I was extremely impressed with how well the entire event went, and I’d highly recommend the race to anyone.
Have you ever run a women’s-only race?
What’s the best race you’ve ever participated in, and what made it so great?