Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K Race Recap

As I am now just over two months out from my fifth anniversary of living in Chicago, this year will mark my fifth iteration of most of my annual events, including the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K.


Though I didn’t particularly consider this going into the race, I think Shamrock gives me the ideal opportunity to test my running fitness for the spring season. Shamrock has never been my goal race for the spring, but regardless tends to be my first race of the spring, and since the weather is fairly similar year to year, and the course hasn’t changed at all since 2014, it gives me a really great chance to see how my winter training has paid off thus far and compare my current fitness level to where I was around this time in previous years.

We really couldn’t have hoped for better weather for the race this year, with temperatures in the 50s, overcast skies, and barely any wind. It did spit on us for a couple minutes during the race, but the rain was so light and lasted for such a short period of time that I wasn’t even entirely sure it rained at all until I checked with others who ran the race afterwards, who confirmed feeling drops as well.


I got the race around 7:50 and, after a much needed portapotty trip, headed into my corral to wait around for the start. I have to say, my least favorite part about large races continues to be the necessity to get to your corral so long before a race actually takes off. I understand why we have to be in our corrals early, because having 20,000 people try to get into their corrals with two minutes until the starting gun would be a nightmare, but all that standing around time waiting for the race to begin always drives me crazy.

Anyway, I started about 10 minutes after the elites took off. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect out of the race this year. A PR seemed unlikely, given my training and grave lack of speed work. I did a four mile pace run on Wednesday at my ideal half marathon pace (emphasis on “ideal,”) where I averaged a 9:02 mile and basically felt like I would fall over dead when I finished. I hoped the pack mentality of running a large race would pull me along on Sunday, since historically I’ve run Shamrock at well under a 9:00 pace.

I hit the first mile in 8:34, which seemed reasonable to me, and tried to hold onto that pace for the next 3.97 miles. I came through mile two a little quicker but was right back to where I hoped to be by mile three. Soon after I crossed mile three, the wheels threatened to fall off. I’ve never bonked anything shorter than 10 miles, but I felt dangerously close to bonking on the stretch down Franklin and, even more so, after coming up the hill and turning onto Roosevelt. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, my legs didn’t seem to want to move, and I had a feeling I was going to log my first ever 9:xx mile during Shamrock.

Well, somehow I managed to avoid that, and came through mile four at just about the same pace I had run all along. Up to that point, I had only looked at my mile splits on my watch (I manually lapped my watch at the mile markers, since I know my watch gets all confused running downtown). I had a bad feeling I would log a personal worse at Shamrock and was almost positive I’d run a 43:xx this year, until I glanced at my overall time near the end of the course’s path down Michigan Ave. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see that my watch read 38:xx, and, given that I only had a small stretch of Michigan left, figured I could certainly finish in less than five minutes, and could possibly break 42:00 as well.

I ended up running at 42:01, which I think is the smallest margin by which I’ve ever missed a time goal I established for myself. While this was 30 seconds off my PR, it was also almost an entire minute faster than my personal worst (established, to be fair, on the day when it was SO WINDY) and ranks as #3 out of my Shamrock times. Not too shabby!

Overall, I’m fairly happy with how everything went at Shamrock, and I stand by my claim that this race is the ideal way to measure my current fitness level. I ran my fastest two Shamrocks in 41:3x, and at both of those races, I had 1) been training hard for six weeks or so and 2) was doing consistent speed work during my training. While I think this means my sub-2:00 goal for my half marathon in a few weeks is all but dead (I set my half marathon PR of 2:02:50 the week after running one of those 41:3x Shamrocks), I think I may be in better shape than I suspected, which is nice to know. Of course, the weather could change dramatically between now and three weeks from now, and that could have a major impact on my speed as well, but I’m hopeful that even though sub-2:00 may be out of my reach, I could possibly run a sub-2:10 half marathon. I’ve only done that twice before, so even if I can’t break 2:00, I’d be quite happy to run a sub-2:10 half as well.

I really enjoy Shamrock, and I hope the race continues on. I was floored to look up my results on Monday morning and see that the race only had 19,995 finishers this year :/ While they did add an untimed walk this year (untimed meaning no results, meaning I don’t know how many people participated in that), that’s such a dramatic decrease in finishers from past years. When I ran in 2013, there were 33,257 finishers – 40% more people. I assume the race must still be profitable, because I sincerely doubt it would still exist if it weren’t, but YIKES. I mean, I don’t care at all if there are fewer people running the race. It makes it less crowded and less of a headache. I just hope the Bank of America agrees with me!


18 thoughts on “Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K Race Recap

  1. Awesome job! That is great you didn’t bonk and rallied through! I hope it does mean you’re ready for that half. And I hope you have good half weather!

    That surprises me about the amount of runners! Everyone RAVES about this race. I guess the people who don’t are the ones not going anymore.

    • Thanks! I haven’t had very many (by which I mean…any. Haha) fast long runs this training cycle, but I do feel like my endurance is where it needs to be for a half, so that’s good. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to running a race where I don’t feel like I’m pushing my heart and legs to their absolute limit the whole time!

      I guess so. There’s been a pretty consistent downward trend every consecutive year that I’ve run it (maybe it’s me?! Hahaha 😛 ), but I was SHOCKED to see less than 20K finisher (although I suppose 19,995 is basically 20K haha). I remember when the race used to sell out at 40K registrants!

  2. Sometimes having zero expectations are the best 🙂 Then you get to be surprised! Nice job out there.

    Do you think that the race market in Chicago and the surrounding area is becoming over-saturated? Or do you think people are just tired of running in this cruddy weather?

    • Thanks!

      I DEFINITELY think the market is saturated, for sure. That’s something the RDs in the area have been talking/worrying about for years. And even though the Shuffle is reasonably priced (I think registration opened at like $45 this year? It was definitely under $50, at least when I signed up.), it’s not like that’s your only option to run a spring race around here. And you could say that about most races, really. If you’ve got 250,000 runners in the area and 1,000 events to accommodate them, obviously you’re not going to get the same numbers at events as you would if you spread those 250,000 runners among 100 events, or even 500 events. So why would you go out of your way to run downtown when you could stay in your suburb and run a race the following weekend, sleep in a lot later and pay less (if anything) for parking/transportation? Granted, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the Shuffle to St. John’s Charity 5K in Schaumburg or whatever (that’s not a real race, as far as I know haha), but if running on closed downtown streets isn’t that big of a deal to you, why would you come into the city for the race? People blame the weather all the time, but I don’t think that’s a particularly fair argument. It’s not like a cold, grey, icy, snowy winter is exactly an anomaly in Chicago. If the weather was what kept people from running, spring races would always have a poor turnout. Plus, I think dedicated runners will run through anything. Bad weather may weed out the half-hearted, but people who take training seriously are either going to brave the conditions or are going to find an alternative (an indoor track or treadmill) to get their run in. So I think saturation is definitely an issue, but I also think changing priorities are an issue as well. If you think about the fitness climate when the second running boom happened in the late ’00s/early ’10s, studio fitness wasn’t a thing. I think CrossFit really prompted the one-workout-style-per-gym trend, and that didn’t really explode until the 2010s. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if studio fitness siphoned off a lot of race participants. That’s not to say people who work out at studios would never race, but studios are EXPENSIVE (less money to spend on races) and often have small classes (replicates the sense of community you might feel running a race). So I’d be willing to bet that’s contributed to it as well. I imagine we’re moving into more of a 1990s sort of period of running, where it wasn’t something it seemed like everyone did. And, considering how race participation has cycled over the past 40ish years, I’d be willing to bet that eventually, running will go through a boom again.

      And that’s my thesis on what’s going on with the running world. Hahaha.

      • I enjoyed this thesis! I honestly never even considered the boutique gym having an affect on race participation. I know that I run fewer races now because I’m more focused on strength and doing quality over quantity (plus, like you said, races + gym membership = $$) but I didn’t make the connection that things like Soul Cycle or CrossFit would impact race numbers.

  3. Congrats on your 3rd fastest Shamrock. You seem to run pretty consistently (1.5 minutes difference between PR and PW) over five years! I was also surprised at how few finishers there were. This used to be one of the largest races in North America. It would be interesting to know how many walkers there were and if that explains a large part of the difference vs. last year.

    • Shamrock is one of the few races that I run year after year, and it’s DEFINITELY been my most consistent in terms of finishing time. Maybe I’m just always in roughly the same shape at the end of March/beginning of April! Haha.

      I’m really curious how many people did the walk as well! It’s too bad it wasn’t timed so I can’t find those numbers!

      • Yes, too bad the walk wasn’t timed. I’m going to guess that specifically, the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k in November is Shamrock’s biggest competitor. They had 31,000 total finishers last November. The course is essentially the same (Grant Park start/finish) with a little less course for the 5k and a few South Loop streets added for the 15k. They incentivize runners with a hoodie as well as serving chocolate on course and fondue at the finish (which for whatever reason drives some runners wild with excitement) instead of Michelob Ultra. Both races have the risk of having non-ideal weather conditions (i.e. cold and rainy), yet they get a 50% larger turnout than Shamrock. In the old days (pre-Hot Chocolate) there was only one downtown short race which was the Shuffle. Now casual runners who want to do one short downtown race per year seem to be choosing the Hot Chocolate over the Shamrock Shuffle.

  4. That’s great, It looks like it was a fun event. I think you also did it with a great time. I have only ran mostly 5ks and I did my first 10k last year but that was a little too challenging for me. Perhaps I should try to do an 8k

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  6. Great job! Missing a goal by 2 seconds is rough. I think my record was a 5 miler last fall when I missed my goal by 19 seconds.

    Wow, that’s a huge difference in finishers! Did you look at several other years to see if there’s a declining trend? Maybe this was just a freak off year? I saw an article recently about how the variety of new fitness classes is contributing to a decline in the racing boom, particularly for our generation. It does seem like interest in shorter distances in particular is starting to wane, especially as the novelty of “gateway” races like Color Runs is wearing off. Interestingly the trend seems to be going the opposite direction with the marathon: look at NYCM which I think just had a record breaking year, and the fact that BQers now have to run at least 2:00 faster than the standard to get in, and all the races that now have to switch to lottery systems for entry. I think this is due to the marathon’s appeal to runners and non runners alike as a bucket list/life milestone item and all the bragging rights that come with it.

    Good luck on your half! I’m glad to hear your training is going so well!

    • I only looked at finisher data from the years I’ve run the race (2013-2017), and every year had fewer finishers than the previous, except 2016, which was up from 2015 (not surprising, really, because the weather in 2015 was HORRIBLE. It was the first time I’ve ever run a race that was flagged yellow due to wind speeds, not temperature!). So I think they are certainly trending downward overall, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few years – if it levels off, keeps going, or if the race changes as a result of having so many fewer finishers.

  7. Congratulations on a great time! Although not a PR (but so close!), I would be thrilled with that time. You know your potential and I have no doubts you can crush your goal next time. This is definitely encouraging for your half marathon, so I wouldn’t give up hope yet. Btw remind me, which half marathon are you registered for? Did you end up registering for the May 21 Spring Half? I saw that they were offering discounted entrance for that race at the Shamrock Shuffle Expo, I wish I waited to register.

    I had no clue the race has lost so many participants in the last few years! That’s wild. I wonder if it’s still considered the largest 8K in the country? Because I know it certainly was when I last ran it in 2012. I wonder why…

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