Most expensive 5K ever.
Back in April, I signed up for what I intended to be my fourth running of the Chicago Half Marathon. When I upset my hamstring in the middle of last week, one of my big concerns was whether or not it would be wise for me to run a half marathon in that condition. Realistically, I knew the answer: no, it would not be. If I had planned on doing the scheduled 12 miler every one else did, I would’ve skipped it without a second thought. But I paid $93 to run 13.1 miles, and wasn’t particularly eager to throw that away if I didn’t have to. Part of the reason I went to the PT last Thursday in the first place was to ask if I could do the half marathon on Sunday, to which her answer was an outright, “No.” I tried bargaining (“What if I run/walk it?”), but she was clear that she didn’t want me running more than three or four miles at a time until further notice. Fine.
It occurred to me soon after that appointment that the Chicago Half Marathon also includes a 5K (which I’ve done before), and that a 5K is well within three to four miles. You don’t get a refund for the difference in price if you drop down, but at least then my $93 was going towards something. I swapped my half marathon bib for a 5K bib at the expo without issue.
Normally, I go all out at 5Ks. My goal is to redline the race basically from start to finish. I usually feel worse (or at least more exhausted) crossing the finish line of a 5K than I do crossing the finish line of a marathon. On Sunday, however, I had no such goals. In fact, I went into the race specifically with the goal of personal worsting. Ideally, I wanted to run close to a 33:00 5K: a far cry from the usual 25:00-or-faster standard to which I try to hold myself. I was kind of excited to find out what it would be like to run a comfortable 5K!
Honestly, I think the 5K is the way better portion of the Chicago Half events. You get to experience all of the hype associated with the race while running substantially less than half of the distance. You only run in Jackson Park, instead of killing time Jackson Park before doing your out-and-back on Lake Shore Drive, which makes the Jackson Park portion of the race feel enjoyable rather than like something you need to get out of the way. You finish before the vast majority of half marathon finishers, so you get the whole post-race party basically to yourself for a good 30 minutes or so. What’s not to like?!
The start line logistics are really the only downside of this race. You have to get to Jackson Park so early for the Chicago Half, and since the 5K starts 45 minutes later, you end up getting to there INSANELY early (because you have to get there before roads close for the half). There’s a lot of waiting around–I was there for nearly two hours before the 5K began–but since the 5K is so much later, there’s no need to rush to check your gear or wait in long portapotty lines. You can take care of all of that after the half marathoners start and still have plenty of time to get to the corrals before the 5K starts. I also think the 5K shirts and medals are almost always better than the half shirts and medals, even if they’re short sleeved and not obscenely large, respectively, if that’s something that matters to you.
Anyway, my race! The mosquito situation in Jackson Park was BONKERS, so I left my throwaways on as long as possible to attempt to ward off the bloodsuckers. The start area is completely self-seeded (and very uncrowded), so I lined up where I felt like it and had no trouble wrestling myself out of sweatpants and a sweatshirt just before getting to the start arch.
Due to the self-seeding situation, there were a bunch of walkers at the front of the pack. Since I was out for a PW, I wasn’t even half as annoyed by this as I normally would be. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so zen during a race. Nothing really mattered to me other than enjoying my tour of Jackson Park: something I was particularly excited about, given my recent reading of Devil in the White City and subsequent obsession with anything and everything related to the World’s Columbian Exposition.
I hit the first mile in 10:09, which was really a bit faster than I was hoping for. I didn’t feel like I was working hard, though–it was cooler than it’s been in months on Sunday–so I tried to slow down but didn’t get too bent out of shape about it. I thought about how awesome it would be if it could be even colder than that (“that” being 55 degrees) on marathon morning and continued down Stony Island to mile 2, which I hit in 10:12. Still too fast, but better. I didn’t really need water at the nearby aid station, but one of the volunteers was saying, “I got up at 3:00 for this! Please take water from me!” so I obliged and got a cup.
As I came up Lake Shore Drive and approached Hayes, I saw a few half marathoners coming in and heard the announcer mention that the lead female was coming up. I will admit that I started to care way too much about finishing before she did and sped up too much as a result, even though I knew that was a stupid thing to speed up over, and turned in a 9:58 last mile (and 1:02 last .11 for a 9:17 pace during that stretch. Oops). The lead female ended up beating me by a few steps (and, you know, 10 miles). It was cool to see her break the tape, even if it meant that I didn’t “win” 😛
SIGH. (I’m the one in the teal.)
I finished in 31:23, which tragically was about 30 seconds faster than my previous personal worst. Alas! But that’s okay. I didn’t break a sweat on this run and felt comfortable the entire time, so I think I accomplished my goal.
Even though this isn’t the race I signed up for (literally, I suppose), I had a wonderful time. The weather was great, my pace was great, and I am obsessed–OB.SESSED.–with both the shirt and the medal. While I like to believe I know everything about Chicago, I only recently learned that one of Chicago’s mottoes is I Will, and when I learned that, I instantly adopted it as my motto for the marathon this year. I feel like that’s ~my~ phrase these days, so to have it on my 5K shirt is awesome, but then the medal…! *heart-eyed emoji*
You see, I went to the Chicago History Museum for my birthday a mere week ago, where I learned that I Will came from a statue sculpted by Charles Holloway, winner of a contest sponsored by the Chicago Inter Ocean that tasked entrants with designing something that represented Chicago’s spirit. Holloway’s sculpture depicted a goddess-like woman with a breastplate emblazoned with the words “I WILL.” I had no idea about the sculpture until I saw it at the museum last Tuesday:
And then, what do you know, my medal was a depiction of that exact sculpture, with the added bonus of a stylized “C” and the four six-point stars!
Like I said, OB.SESSED. It all felt very serendipitous, and two weeks away from the Chicago Marathon, I’m happy to take all the marathon-related serendipity I can get.