The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women’s Half Marathon Race Recap

You know you’re deep in the throes of marathon training when you can essentially forget that you have a half marathon on your calendar, and, upon realizing that you have said half marathon your calendar, find it incomprehensible how many people scoff at you scoffing your half marathon as “just” a half marathon.

Over the course of last week, my enthusiasm for the Chicago Women’s Half waned substantially. Though I do feel a little bad for Fleet Feet in the way the city surely screwed them over–I know the city’s next to impossible to work with, especially for smaller races like the Chicago Women’s Half (3,609 total finishers across both races: not at ALL on par with the few races that actually do close downtown streets [the Shuffle, the Marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Hot Chocolate])–and their having to deal with all sorts of hate from the hilariously ignorant peanut gallery (I love reading the vitriol on the race’s Facebook page solely for the purpose of seeing just how little runners in Chicago know about putting on races in Chicago, and/or about the world in general. It’s infinitely more complicated than you can even fathom, Know-It-All Weekend Warriors.), I also don’t feel bad for Fleet Feet, because honestly, they should have known better. They’re not some out-of-town Mega Corporation, and they’ve put on races in Chicago for long enough that the should have known 1) they are not the Bank of America, nor do they have the power or clout of the Bank of America, and therefore cannot and should not expect the City of Chicago to cater to them like it does to the Bank of America (which, in case you missed it by the branding, owns [and quite certainly profits off] both the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon) 2) if you put information on your website about race swag and the course before registration and then hype these things to high heaven as a reason to register, people are going to look at the course and swag and expect you to deliver what you advertised 3) though you can apply for permits well in advance of your race date, you rarely get course approval from the city until soon before your race date, and therefore if you have ANY concerns that you will have to make course changes, it’s probably best to not advertise your course months in advance, or at the very LEAST advertise a course you know you can get with the whole “*subject to change” shtick and then improve said course, not downgrade it. And, goodness gracious, if you ARE going to have the hubris to advertise your there-is-no-way-in-Hell-the-city-will-approve-this-unless-we-literally-see-no-less-than-a-350%-increase-in-registration-over-last-year course, AT LEAST have the wherewithal to go through your entire website to make sure you’ve taken down all the course maps. But, I suppose, when you’re too busy buying property in the Southport Corridor in an obvious attempt to strong arm Universal Sole out of business, it’s easy to overlook things.

ANYWAY. Moving on from my frustration with Fleet Feet’s recent decisions and my schadenfreude that karma in the form of DCASE bit them and their inflated sense of self in the butt…

I was not excited to run the Women’s Half. The weather looked lousy, and I, like everyone else, was annoyed to not be getting what I thought I paid for when I registered, and to top it ALL off I had to haul myself down to the South Loop to get my packet. #firstworldproblems

Packet pickup, by the way, was in a yet-undeveloped store next door to Fleet Feet’s South Loop location in the Roosevelt Collection. Classy. (And, I imagine, misery for the volunteers, since it definitely was not air conditioned in there, and it definitely was not comfortably cool this weekend.)


I laid low Saturday afternoon, making plans with my CARA group members that also planned to run the race on when and where to meet up so we could run together, and attempted to go to bed around 8:45 in advance of my 4:45 a.m. alarm. WELL. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this or not, but at my new apartment, I have neighbors that, as far as I can tell, have get-togethers in their garage/man cave every Friday and Saturday night, where they drink beer at the makeshift bar in said garage, talk, laugh, and blast loud music.

My neighbors, by the way, are in their mid-fifties.

I put up with the noise over the past two Fridays, because I realize I am certainly the exception, not the rule, when it comes to weekend bed times (also, people are allowed to be noisy until 10 p.m. Trust me: I looked up the local noise ordinances.). But by Saturday night, I had HAD IT. Their voices and/or music woke me up at least once every hour between when I tried to go to bed and past midnight, at which point I did have legal ground to stand on, and called 311, who connected me to the police to make my noise complaint.

I’d like to pause for a moment so we can all appreciate the irony of a 23 year old calling the cops on 55 year olds because the 55 year olds were playing “Heard it Through the Grapevine” so loud it was preventing the 23 year old from sleeping.

So now, in addition to already not *really* wanting to run the race, I had a miserable night of sleep. I probably could not have been less excited to run, but, not about to earn my first DNS simply because I “didn’t feel like it,” I went through my morning routine and made my way to Grant Park to meet up with my CARA friends.

The lines for the portapotties were massive, so we ended up not even heading towards the start line until less than 10 minutes before the race began. As a result, by the time we got there the corrals had already closed…ish. You could no longer technically get *in* the corrals, but people lined up next to the corrals and they funneled us all in at the proper time, so fortunately my friends and I didn’t have to start too far back.


The race took us up Columbus out of Grant Park and down Randolph to Michigan for the requisite stretch on the Magnificent Mile before dumping us out on the Lakefront Trail. My heel hurt for the first mile or so, which made me nervous for the remaining 12, but fortunately got its act together and didn’t give me any more trouble for the duration of my run. I found the race to be a bit crowded, especially for the first few miles, but my friends and I had started farther back than we probably should have, so I guess that’s to be expected.

When we began the race, we had a green alert, which means race day conditions are ideal. By the time I reached mile 6.5, I believe, they had raised the alert level to yellow, or moderate, making this my first-ever yellow-flaged race. It was so warm, and while the shade and a bit of a breeze offered some relief, I definitely think this was the hottest race I’ve ever run. My CARA friends and I had every intention of treating the half like a training run, so we logged pretty consistent 10:20/10:30ish miles. While I didn’t struggle to maintain that pace at the race, I commented to one of the girls that it felt much more like a tempo run than an easy long run, and I’m sure the heat had just about everything to do with that.


Nevertheless, we kept chugging along, and soon enough made our way back into Grant Park. The finish line for the half was close to where the finish line for the marathon will be, so I tried to enjoy the moment and asked if anyone wanted to kick. One of my friends was game, so we flew down Columbus (by my Garmin, I ran a 7:40 last .19 miles [my watch measured the course at 13.19 miles]) and crossed the finish line together in 2:16:51. Not my best half time by a long shot, but also not my worst. I definitely wanted a sub-2:20 and had absolutely no intentions or expectations of PR-ing, so I’m perfectly content with my time.

They had the same amazing towels soaked in cool water at the finish line as they had at the BTN Big 10K in July, and my volunteer–bless his heart–gave me three. Best day ever! I collected my medal, grabbed some food (which, of course, was basically all chocolate something-or-other, because women *reminds inner feminist of chocoholic tendencies and urges her to to calm down*. They didn’t even have regular bananas — just frozen, chocolate-covered ones. Not that I minded frozen, chocolate-covered bananas after running a half marathon in 80+ degrees…). My friends and I hung out in the shade for awhile, talked shop, as runners tend to do when gathered in groups, and watched them raise the alert level to red, which is the highest I’ve ever even seen any race have, never mind a race I ran, before finally going our separate ways to continue our Labor Day weekends.

Overall, I enjoyed the race on Sunday. Would I run it again? Mehhh, maybe, if I were training for Chicago again and the timing lined up well. Honestly, my biggest complaint about the entire race was the weather, and I knew full well when I signed up that it was a HUGE risk to register for a half marathon on August 31. August 31 just sounds like a miserably hot and humid day, you know? That in and of itself would be enough to keep me from running the race as a stand-alone event, but as a complement to my marathon training, I thought the Chicago Women’s Half accomplished everything I needed it to.



19 thoughts on “The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women’s Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. Great recap! I had the same feelings about Zooma that you had about this one. Having run a lot of races in Chicago, I just knew that the city didn’t cooperate at all with Zooma when they planned this race. Seriously, we had to take shuttles to Burnham park to run? And like you, never again to an August half. Anyways, I’m glad you were able to enjoy what had to be a hot half.

    I won’t even comment on those 50-something neighbors of yours…ahem…

    ~Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home

    • I ran Zooma last year, and my justification for that, just like my justification with this race, was that I had to run basically that distance anyway for marathon training in the same weather, so I may as well get a medal for doing it 😛 The people who sign up for this as a goal race, though…you guys! There are so many other options where it’s so much less likely to be horrible weather! Why do you do this to yourself?? Haha.

  2. From what I recently learned about FF they apparently believe they can just throw money at things and they will happen the way they want. You’d think they’d know better after being in Chicago for decades!

    Still, you got in your long run and…uh…practiced pacing in the heat in a race atmosphere?

  3. Congrats on breaking 2:20 despite the warm temps. Yes, a half in late August is not ideal. I am nervous about the weather for mine this weekend. Anyway, I assume that FF did not get permits in time for their very cool original course? Here’s another idea to boost attendance, open the race up to men as well (okay technically it was, but no age group awards/breakdowns for men). I would have seriously considered running it with the original course layout in lieu of the Chicago Half I’m running seven days later. I heard that guys running it were taunted during the race and then given the silent treatment at the finish line! Oh well, maybe FF will get their dream course next year.

    • From the forecasts I’ve seen, the weather this weekend looks PERFECT (a little warmer on Sunday than Saturday, but still pretty great), so hopefully things will work out well for you!

      Yeah, I think if Fleet Feet *really* wanted to increase their registration to the point of making this one of Chicago’s premiere events, they’d have to not make it a women’s-only event. Personally, I think women’s-only events are silly, anyway (not that that kept me from doing it, obviously, but I’ve never had a better experience at a women’s-only event than I’ve had at a regular event), and you’re excluding like half of your potential market by making it a women’s event.

  4. Oh my gosh the first part of this post – so much sass! You are definitely a writer. Bravo! I’m glad that it was still an enjoyable day even though the days leading up to it sound pretty stressful for just another 13 mile run. Also I’m laughing out loud at you calling in a noise complaint on 50 year olds. I would freak out too, if that makes you feel better. 10pm is one thing. 11pm is one thing. Midnight and beyond, you’re going to get a noise complaint. Go to a bar or go to bed, people.

  5. Aww, the medal is neat this year! That race had my favorite medal from last y year. Great time in the heat!

    But ugh, it sounds like they changed all the things I liked about it from last year. WTF. The whole course situation is just funny to me. And yeah, when they moved the date to August I was all WTF?! Yuck yuck yuck too hot (says the person who ran a half on Sept 1).

    • I do really like the medal — it’s a pretty solid piece of hardware! Plus it’s cute, and they even had space on the back for engraving (which I didn’t take advantage of, since this wasn’t a particularly special race for me, but I thought that was a nice touch).

      Hahahahaha it’s funny you mention a Sept. 1 half, because I don’t know how many times this past summer I said, “I know the Women’s Half is going to be hot, because August 31 just *sounds* hot, you know? There’s just something mental about it. If it were even September 1, I wouldn’t be so worried about the heat.” Ha!

  6. Congrats on finishing the race in that awful weather. Yikes!!

    So I read about the course change but you also mentioned the swag. You did not get what you were promised? Did I miss it somewhere?

    And sorry to burst your bubble but I am not a fan of the medal. Sorry.

    • I feel like originally we were promised Nike tanks? I could be making that up, though. They ended up being some off-brand tank, which works just fine, but they were all “high quality workout apparel” and then gave us some nobody brand, which irked a lot of people. (Personally, I’m kind of of the mindset that I’m just going to sweat in it anyway, so it’s not the end of the world if it’s not name brand. This is why I don’t buy Lululemon, for example 😛 ).

  7. Haha I said the exact same thing about my half marathon last weekend. People were asking me if I was ready and carbo loading and I looked at them like they were crazy because I was only running a half marathon. No big deal. I love the tanks they gave out as swag. I never wear t-shirts when I run so I would rather get tank! I am SO sick of running in the hot weather it makes everything so much harder. Congrats on finishing strong!!

    • Haha, funnily enough, I never wear tanks (mostly because I pretty much never buy workout tops — I just wear what I get from races, which generally has sleeves), so I’m pretty excited to finally have one! I can only imagine how miserable your weather must be in NC :/ Fortunately the heat has broken here a bit, and I’m hoping this cool weather sticks around!

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