BTN Big 10K Race Recap

The streak lives on! For the fourth year in a row, I pretended to be a Big 10 alum and ran my only 10K of the year: the BTN Big 10K.

This year, the race (10K and 5K) had 12,105 finishers – which, fun fact, is more finishers than the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half had last Sunday (12,031, though with the 10K, the overall Rock ‘n’ Roll event had 13,961). Despite now easily being one of the five biggest running events in Chicago (with the Chicago Marathon, Shamrock Shuffle, Hot Chocolate and Rock ‘n’ Roll as events one through four, respectively), for reasons far beyond my comprehension, the race still insisted on holding packet pickup at exactly one Fleet Feet location. That went about as well as you would expect a small store hosting packet pickup for 12,000+ runners to go.

That is to say, not well.


Now, I will admit that I went to packet pickup at about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, which was probably a pretty popular time to go to packet pickup. HOWEVER. I have never, in my four years and 30+ events of racing, seen packet pickup this disastrous (then again, I’ve also never run Hot Chocolate, so maybe that’s why 😉 ). For those of you familiar with Fleet Feet Old Town, the line for packet pickup began in the Piper’s Alley lobby, snaked down the hall that goes past Chipotle and Starbucks, out onto the sidewalk on Wells in front of Adobo Grill and Fleet Feet, beyond the gated houses next to Fleet Feet, and down to the hair salon to the north of those homes – when I got there. I have no idea how much longer the line got later. All told, packet pickup, which involved getting my bib and participant bag–a task that should, AT MOST, take five minutes–took 40 minutes. The line moved along at a decent clip, but that is ABSURD. The Big 10K has, without question, outgrown Fleet Feet as a packet pickup location, and it’s time to look into other options – especially since this is now a Top Five race in the city.

If only everyone consulted with me before organizing their races, eh? 😉

Continuing with this year’s trend of bare bones packets, there was next to nothing in this year’s for the Big 10K.


Which is fine. I only need to throw away so many Chicago Endurance Sports advertisements, you know?


I’m starting to feel silly for having four Michigan Big 10K shirts, and I’m thinking of getting shirts for random schools if I continue to run this race – maybe see if I can collect the entire conference? (Except Ohio State. I may not be a Michigan alum, but that doesn’t mean I want any scarlet and grey shirts in my wardrobe.)


In my opinion/experience, this year’s start line was the most organized of them yet. I was in an appropriate corral (unlike 2013), and I thought they did a good job of spacing us out as started the race. In the weeks leading up to the race, we kept getting emails touting the new course (as if changing the course were a new concept: this race has changed the course literally every year – not that I’m complaining!). This year’s race took us under McCormick Place TWICE (kill me), which threw my watch into a tizzy. And while the race didn’t read my Rock ‘n’ Roll recap and provide me with a club atmosphere inside McCormick Place, they did play music inside the tunnels, which I really appreciated. Let’s make this a permanent thing, shall we? McCormick Place tunnels are so much more tolerable with music.

After such a lousy week of running, I really wanted to keep myself under control during the race and not bonk no matter what. I hit the first mile in 9:30, which was just about a full minute faster than I wanted, but I had a really hard time slowing down. I eventually got more into the 10s, though the heat certainly helped with that. It was mercifully overcast on Saturday, but it was hot hot hot and humid humid humid, making conditions less than enjoyable for the heat-averse like me. Also, there were only three aid stations on-course, which was about three fewer than I would have liked. I really, really needed more water out there on a day like Saturday.

The last mile of the course was super weird, with us winding all around the area of McCormick Place before going into a tunnel that lasted (and caused my watch to think I ran a 12:02 last mile. Lulz. I guarantee you that is NOT true.). I actually felt pretty good and able to push it towards the end, which made me so happy. Aside from Rock ‘n’ Roll, I’ve been so spent at the end of most of my races lately that it’s been a struggle to make it to the finish line. While I suppose that’s a somewhat effective way to race, at least in the sense that it means I’ve given it my all, I much prefer to not feel like death for the last mile.

I ended up finishing in 1:03:01, which ranks as my #3 (out of five) 10K time. No complaints from me! Though I would like to break an hour in the 10K again sometime, ideally sooner rather than later, Saturday was not the day that was going to happen. If I want to run a fast 10K, it’s going to have to be in the spring or fall, no question about that.

I met up with my CARA BFF after the race and hung out with her and a couple of her friends for quite some time. She hasn’t been to training at all yet this summer, so it was SUPER great to see her and catch up. And eat those delicious chicken sausages they serve post-race, which in and of itself is pretty much enough to keep me doing this race 😛


I feel oddly loyal to the Big 10K since I’ve done it every year since its inception, but I’m also starting to feel weirder and weirder about doing it, since I didn’t go to a Big 10 school. Obviously no one at the race knows that, but I still feel like I’m not ~supposed~ to be there since I don’t have a Big 10 degree to my name (would just like to reiterate that I did get into Michigan and could have gone to Michigan but chose not to go to Michigan. Sorry not sorry.). Big 10 alum are so oddly possessive about their schools, and I get sick of justifying my presence there to people who ask why I’m running if I didn’t go to a Big 10 school. But it’s a fun event, and the post-race party is honestly my favorite out of all of the post-race parties, so…yeah. We’ll see.


13 thoughts on “BTN Big 10K Race Recap

  1. You are absolutely right about Big 10 alums being possessive of their schools. 😉 Yikes on the packet pickup disaster on Friday night! I went on Wednesday night around 7:00 and already the lines were pretty long. It was very interesting to hear that there were more folks at the BTN Big 10K than at Rock N Roll! Rock N Roll FEELS so much larger since it’s set up in Grant Park and has packet pickup at McCormick Place. I’m right there with you on them outgrowing Fleet Feet’s facilities!

    In any event – great job and way to push through! It was a sauna out there and the double trip through the McCormick Place Tunnel was challenging, to say the least. That post-race party, though – WOW!!! So fun!!! I wish I had known that you were there so I could have come by to say hi!

    • To be clear, there are more OVERALL finishers for Rock ‘n’ Roll when you include the 10K in the mix, but for just half marathon numbers, this year’s Big 10K and 5K combined had more finishers than the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half. Though the weather was also horrific on Rock ‘n’ Roll day, which could’ve affected their numbers this year. One of my CARA BFF’s friends said he went to packet pickup on Tuesday after work and waited a long time to get his, too, so this must’ve been a serious issue for them this year. Hopefully they adjust accordingly next year! Though in my experience, every time something has gone poorly with the race, they’ve been very good about fixing the problem the following year.

      Isn’t the post-race party great? I think it’s the best one out of any race I’ve run, and is really my biggest motivation for coming back each year. Sorry we missed each other! (Also: I’ve been having trouble trying to comment on your blog, but I’m so happy to see you back at it!)

  2. My graduate degree is from a Big 10 school and my stepdad works for the same university (Illinois) but I’d still feel like a poser because I….just don’t care. In fact, I have thought that if I ever did randomly decide to do this race I’d get the Ohio State shirt and give it to my stepbrother…who loves Ohio State even though he didn’t go there (my stepdad did, though, for all three of his degrees).

    • That’s actually not a bad idea – my brother is a HUGE Michigan fan (although he doesn’t go there), and sometimes I’ve picked up Michigan swag for him. If I keep doing the race, I should get a men’s shirt in his size and give it to him instead of getting one for myself. After all, goodness knows the last thing I need is another race shirt!

    • You know, I actually saw a handful of Maryland shirts! They were really easy to pick out in the crowd because theirs were yellow, while most of the other schools had darker shirts this year. Rutgers was harder to find, since their shirts were black and blended in with the sea of navy blue Illinois and Michigan shirts. Though on the participant emails that had a bar graph of school participation, Maryland and Rutgers were pretty close to the bottom, unsurprisingly!

  3. I’ve never done this race but I did volunteer at packet pickup on Friday. I left after 5:30pm and saw the long line and could not believe it. I went to NIU so my school is not a BTN Big 10 of whatever it is called.

    Kudos on a great race despite the crappy weather.

      • I started off in the back in bag and shirt pickup. Then I moved to the side to make the bags – easy job, get bag, add Cliff Bar, safety pins, and plastic thingie for gear check. Boy, I was definitely sore at the end of my shift!!

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