Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

After running my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon two years ago, I swore up and down that I would never do that race again. I didn’t have a particularly bad experience with Rock ‘n’ Roll or the race as an entity, but the race as a concept–that is, a half marathon in the middle of July in Chicago–just seemed like a stupid idea. While, admittedly, this is about the time in marathon season where I’d need to run that distance anyway regardless of whether a medal awaited me at the end or not, there are so many better times of the year to run a half marathon in Chicago, I felt, and since I had done the race once, I really didn’t think I’d need to do it again.

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Well, things change, and once again I found myself registered for this race. Fortunately, the weather on Sunday could not have been less mid-July-like, with temperatures in the low 70s, a dew point of 64 degrees (a vast improvement from the 72 degree dew points we had more than once last week), mostly overcast conditions, and a cooling breeze out of the north *praise hands emoji*.

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I got to the race a bit later than I expected and panicked while waiting in a portapotty line that I wouldn’t make it into my corral in time (a stupid worry, in hindsight, given that Rock ‘n’ Roll’s “policing” of its corral is nonexistent), but I got through quickly and managed to get into Corral 10 with time to spare. (A perhaps interesting side note: I was in Corral 10 of 20 at this year’s race. In 2015, I was in Corral 20 of 36. In 2015, there were 14,060 finishers between the 10K and half marathon; this year, there were 12,002 finishers between the two races. The downward trend in finishers continues!).

Despite favorable-for-mid-July conditions, I didn’t have any goals/hopes/dreams for this race other than to finish. I had some hamstring soreness Saturday evening that continued Sunday morning (but fortunately has now cleared up) that I didn’t want to aggravate during the race, which was all the more reason to hang back, at least in the early miles. My soreness didn’t bother me at all while running, which was a nice surprise.

I’ve run downtown enough times to know that my watch can’t make sense of all the tall buildings, so I manually lapped my watch at each mile marker I saw. I missed mile two, so I didn’t get any splits for that mile, but from what I could see, it looked like I was running fairly consistently in the 10:35-10:45 range. That’s about what I expected out of myself for this race, so I didn’t have any complaints.

The forecast leading up to the race had consistently called for morning thunderstorms, so when I turned onto Michigan Ave. a little bit before the halfway point and saw dark clouds looming in the north, I panicked. My worst fear heading into Sunday was that a thunderstorm would pop up while I was on the south portion of Michigan Ave. with no nearby place to shelter, and it looked to me like that was becoming a possibility. I picked up my pace and started doing 10:2x miles, somehow thinking that I’d be able to outrun a storm at that clip. It ended up not even raining, so my speed was unnecessary, but I suppose better safe than sorry?

Rock ‘n’ Roll went WELL above and beyond the call of duty in the on-course cooling department. I assume the race assumes the weather is going to be miserable during Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, given that it’s always in the middle of July, but the cooling mechanisms available were borderline excessive, given the not-steamy conditions. I didn’t mind them, necessarily, but it seemed to me like there were more open fire hydrants this year than in 2015, when it was extremely steamy. On the other hand, the water stations weren’t running on empty by the time I got to them this year, either, which was a nice change from my 2015 experience with this event.

My usual, not-trying-to-do-anything-spectacular goal for a half marathon is 2:15, and coming up Columbus, I thought I had a decent chance at, if not hitting 2:15, at least finishing in the 2:17 minute. I crossed the finish line in 2:17:15, so self-high five for my last minute accurate prediction 😛 Also, I continued to loathe how much of Columbus we had to run for the final stretch of this course. It seriously feels like you will never, ever get to the finish line since it is SO. FAR. AWAY. compared to other Columbus finish lines (i.e.: those of the Shamrock Shuffle and the Chicago Marathon).

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I collected my medal (which, along with the t-shirt, I am not a fan of. The t-shirt design seems wildly uninspired to me, especially compared to what I got in Nashville and at RnR Chicago two years ago, and I really think we should ban race medal interpretations of the Bean. I hated it on the Chicago Marathon medal in 2015 and I hate it on this medal, too. It looks like a manatee in both instances, and, with so many other, easier-to-represent Chicago icons, I wish races would go with anything else.) and proceeded to the post-race party, where I stretched out a particularly grumpy right hip and relaxed for a bit. All things considered, I’m pretty satisfied with this race. We really couldn’t have hoped for better weather this time of year, and I’m so glad it didn’t storm on us!

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8 thoughts on “Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. Congrats on a good race and getting close to your goal time! I’ve done that before too, where during the race I envision a time on the clock and end up running within the minute. I give anyone who runs this race kudos. I can’t for the life of me see the logic behind holding a half marathon in July in the Midwest. I do a 10 miler at the end of the month each year and I kick myself for it every year. If it weren’t for the marathon I would probably just swear off summer racing entirely.

    The bean on the bottom of the medal is ugly, I agree, but I think the medal would be cool without it – I like the red CHICAGO part. I get oddly excited about marathon race shirts. Like I’m already dreaming about the Chicago one. Is that weird? During my last marathon one of the things I thought about when I was suffering in the later miles was getting to the finish so I could put on the race shirt and relax about it. Is that weird? Not the medal, the SHIRT is what got me through!

    • Hahaha if it makes you feel any better, one of my favorite parts about the Chicago Marathon is the day Nike releases all the for-purchase gear online. Even though I wait to buy it at the expo, I can’t wait to see what the designs are! And waiting to find out what the shirt looks like is also one of the hardest parts about that race hahaha. So I feel you, and you’re definitely not weird (or we’re both weird 😛 ) 🙂

  2. Congrats on the finish! Yes, it kept looking like it was going to storm, but luckily that didn’t happen (thankfully). I long for the days that they used to give out cotton t-shirts. The material they use for those race shirts is too thick to wear in the summer, and really not comfortable fabric to wear as an everyday shirt. As for the medal, if they insist on the Bean, why not have an actual miniature (3D) Bean in the middle of the medal, complete with mini tourists snapping pictures of it with their little iPhones!

    • The Jingle Bell Run in December gives out long sleeve cotton shirts! I LOVE them. They’re my winter pajamas – so comfy! And that idea for a Bean representation on a medal is AMAZING. I’d be a much bigger fan of it if it had all the little tourists on it!

  3. I felt the same as you did about that finish stretch–it seemed like I would never cross the finish line, ever! I didn’t love the course–that zig zag down Michigan and MLK and up Columbus…really? Anyhoo, congrats and great recap!

  4. I totally agree that the Bean looks stupid on race medals (and lots of other things) and that the long stretch at the end of the RnR Half feels sooooooo looooooonnnnnnggggg. It is like a mile long. Whereas with the marathon and the Shamrock Shuffle, you’re on Columbus for a block.

    • Exactly! Maybe the stretch on Columbus wouldn’t feel quite so awful if I weren’t used to the finish line location of the marathon and Shuffle? Though I feel like the last stretch of the Chicago Half Marathon goes on forever, too, so maybe I just don’t like any race ending with a (more or less) straightaway haha.

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