After years of having the Good Life Race (or The Race That’s Good For Life, as I still tend to accidentally call it), I finally bit the bullet and registered this year. The fact that the race takes place in Oak Park has, historically, been enough to keep my carless self from wanting to haul it all the way to the ‘burbs on a Sunday morning, but I care more about getting into the Chicago Marathon in 2017 via CARA’s Marathon Incentive Program than I cared about the race’s location, so the Good Life Race it was!
I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Good Life Race, and man, now I understand why it often wins CARA’s Race of the Year Award. From top to bottom, I could not have been more impressed with this event.
I waited until race morning to pick up my packet, and I’m glad I did. The race used a virtual goodie bag this year, so the only items you received at packet pickup were your bib, pins, and your race shirt. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to go all the way out to Oak Park twice just to get those things, so having day-of packet pickup was fantastic.
Also fantastic: the fact that the race starts and ends at Oak Park River Forest High School. The race takes over the high school’s…I don’t know what it’s called. At my high school, we called it the commons. Basically the main entryway area. Anyway, the weather was absolutely vile on Sunday, with temperatures in the mid-30s and precipitation of whatever variety the sky felt like spitting out at that particular moment (either sleet or rain), so having all of the usual non-running-part-of-the-race stuff (gear check, info, packet pickup, almost all of the sponsor tents, post-race refreshments, etc.) inside was clutch.
The Good Life Race has two separate races for men and women–a first for me–and the women’s race started at 9:10. I hung around inside until 9:00, and didn’t get nearly as cold as a feared I would standing around. The race started with a gunshot (like from a starter’s gun, not an actual, literal, bullet-included gunshot haha), which was also a first for me to my memory outside of cross country and track meets, and off we went!
The start line area didn’t have any signs directing people where to line up by expected pace, so I just guessed based on how serious other women looked where I should be. I didn’t feel like I was getting passed a lot nor was I passing a lot of people at the beginning, so I must’ve guessed fairly accurately. The first mile dragged on and on forever, as the first mile of a 5K is apt to do, and I was equally stunned and concerned when I went through mile one in 7:50. I have run a 7:xx mile maybe once or twice during a race over the course of my entire running career, and it was always at the end of the race. I did not have any sort of hope that I could maintain a 7:50 pace for the remainder of the run (though if I had, I would’ve only been three seconds off my PR), so I tried to rein myself in a bit.
We continued through the streets of Oak Park–which, side note: I thought this course was BEAUTIFUL. Oh my goodness. Love me some old houses, and the streets were just lined with them for all 3.1 miles. I was a huge fan.–and once we made our first turn south, I realized both why I had gotten so warm in the first mile that I took my gloves and headband off before we even hit the Mile 1 sign and why I had run a 7:50 mile to start: the wind was coming in hard from the south, and I’d have to fight it for almost the rest of the entire race. Fabulous.
I did my best to hang on for dear life, turning in an 8:09 mile and an 8:03 mile as things went on. The final stretch of the race was this long straightaway, which I personally loved, because for me, seeing the finish line makes a big difference. I was giving it everything I had, and honestly felt like I was going to throw up (see: reasons why I hate 5Ks). I glanced at my watch far enough away from the finish line to know I wouldn’t PR, but I did still hope I’d log another sub-25 5K–and I did, just barely, at 24:59.
I huffed and puffed through the finish line area, grabbing a cup of Gatorade, a banana, and my carnation as I tried to regain some semblance of composure. I eventually made it back into the school, collected my belongings from gear check, and wandered over to the cafeteria, where a treasure trove of goodies awaited me.
Whaaaaaaat is this real life?!
I’ve never seen such a post-race spread! Gatorade and water and crackers and hummus and Jimmy John’s and pizza and bagels and rolls and bread, all for ME! (And everyone else who ran the race). And all for FREE! I was flabbergasted.
The race (or, more specifically, Erin) posted printed out race results outside the cafeteria, so I was able to verify that I did, in fact, run a 24:59, and it wasn’t just my watch being generous and saying that. I finished within the top 100 of the 500+ women who ran the race, which I was pretty proud of, considering that this was a CARA Circuit race, and I tend to finish…definitely not within the top 100 at those sorts of events. We won’t talk about how poorly I did in my age group, however. #25to29problems
Honestly, I cannot say enough good things about this event. When your only complaint is the weather, which the race obviously cannot control, I think you’re in a pretty good position. This very much felt like a run by the runners for the runners, and I would recommend it to anyone in the Chicago area.