I crossed the last race off my pre-move city races bucket list on Sunday at the Byline Bank Chicago Spring 10K. I’ve done this race twice before, running the half marathon once and the 10K once. I’m a HUGE fan of this event’s post-race party, so I wanted to do the race again. I waffled between the half and the 10K, but ultimately decided to do the 10K for a few reasons:
Reason #1: I didn’t think I’d be up to half marathon shape that quickly after my Europe trip.
Reason #2: I’ve never had good weather for this race (by which I mean it’s always been hotter and/or more humid than I’d like for a long distance run), and I’d rather run fewer miles in hot/humid conditions given the option.
Reason #3: The two times I’ve accidentally run the 5K of the Chicago Half in September rather than the half marathon (“accidentally” because in both instances I registered for the half, but extenuating circumstances [running a marathon seven days earlier; a bum hamstring] made me drop down to the 5K) have taught me that, given the option between the long distance and the short distance event offered at a Lifetime race, you should always pick the short distance event. You get all the benefits of running a Lifetime race, of which there are many–I firmly believe Lifetime is the best race organizer in the area–and you don’t have to do as much work to enjoy those benefits. Plus, the shirt and medal 5K at the Chicago Half are always way better than the shirt and medal for the half marathon, but that’s not really relevant to this race 😛
Reason #4: I hadn’t run a 10K since the last time I ran this 10K, and that was three years ago. It seemed like it was time to do one again.
I didn’t have any particular goals for this race, though I did hope to break an hour. Had this race been closer to my previous spring races (and had the weather been much cooler and drier), I would’ve gone for a PR–I unofficially PRed my 10K during the Lakefront 10 Miler, and most likely unofficially PRed it during the Chi Town Half as well–but I knew I wasn’t in PR shape and neither was the atmosphere, so I didn’t want to put undue pressure on myself from a performance standpoint. Plus, I was really only interested in doing this race for the finish line breakfast and flower, and I’d get those regardless of how fast I ran.
(If you go to the Bean at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, you get it all to yourself! Who knew!)
The logistics of this race changed since I ran it in 2016. Instead of being based in Lakeshore East and starting on the Lakefront Trail right outside Lakeshore East, it’s now based in Maggie Daley Park and starts on a completely-closed-to-traffic Columbus Drive. The half marathon started at 7 a.m., but the 10K didn’t start (“start”) until 7:45, so I got there a little after 7:00 and had ample time to linger around before getting to the corrals. The corrals were a BILLION times better organized than when I did the 10K in 2016. In 2016, we lined up behind the half marathoners and just waited around forever. This time, they sent all the half marathoners on their way before even organizing us into our corrals, which I thought worked a lot better.
However, I don’t think the corrals themselves made a whole lot of sense. I don’t know what I put down as my estimated finish time when I registered, though I’ve got to imagine it was awfully close to 1:00. Despite this, I somehow was assigned to what appeared to be the last corral of the 10K. While waiting to start, two women who clearly were friends were next to me chatting, and one said to the other, “Just remember: only an hour and a half until brunch.” I didn’t ask her to clarify what exactly she meant by that (did that hour and a half account for the fact that we hadn’t started yet? Did that account for travel time to brunch? Did “brunch” mean “at a restaurant somewhere” or “at the finish line”?), but if she was planning to run the 10K in 1:30, obviously we had very different expectations for how our race days would pan out, and she didn’t seem to be someone who should be standing next to me.
The race was supposed to start at 7:45, but the pre-race stuff started at 7:45 instead (God Bless America, announcements, etc.), so no one got moving until 7:47. They waited FOUR MINUTES between corrals, which meant I didn’t start running until 7:55. The point of waiting that long was to alleviate course congestion, but I really don’t think it made a difference, as I’ll get into later.
I started the race behind someone in JEANS who took off at a casual stroll across the timing mats, which further confirmed I was not in the right corral. I don’t have any problem with people who sign up for races with the intention of walking them, but it seems to me that someone who plans to walk the race, as this person clearly did given their wardrobe, and someone who hopes to finish the race in under an hour shouldn’t be starting right by each other.
Anyway, we ran down Columbus, making this the only time I’ve run that road going south rather than north, and at Roosevelt turned into Grant Park. We went under Lakeshore Drive and headed to the Lakefront Trail, which is where things got a bit sticky.
The Lakefront Trail going around the Shedd Aquarium is too narrow, period. It’s really only wide enough to comfortably accommodate one person in a northbound lane and one person in a southbound lane at a time. It is NOT wide enough to accommodate a bit over 1000 10K runners, three different on-course race photographers, AND homeward bound speedy half marathoners all at once, but that’s the situation we were in. I felt really bad for the half marathoners who had to deal with all of us 10Kers going south, because we were very clearly in their way, and those were not the sort of runners who seemed…unbothered…by having other runners get in their way. I’m sure the long intervals between 10K corrals helped, but I think if they really want to alleviate crowding on this course, they have to make the Shedd Aquarium curve a one-way deal. I think the course would be vastly improved by routing outbound runners around the Field Museum and Soldier Field and then having them merge on to the Lakefront Trail and limiting the Shedd Aquarium curve to inbound runners, similar to the way the Hot Chocolate 15K finishes.
There was a pretty aggressive (16 mph) wind coming out of the south during the run, which helped keep me cool for the first three-ish miles of the race but certainly didn’t make running particularly easy. Sunday was definitely my hottest and most humid run of the year thus far (it was in the low 70s, with a dew point in the low-mid 60s), and I wasn’t very prepared for that. Drafting wasn’t an option for me because I spent the first four miles passing people, thanks to my bizarro corral assignment.
For all my criticisms of the beginning of the course, I have to give credit where credit is due, and credit is VERY much due for how the race handled the 10K turnaround. I spent most of the southbound portion of the race wondering how on earth they were going to accomplish having all of us 10K runners make a hairpin turn to head north in the middle of the half marathon course, what with all the northbound half marathoners we’d have to disrupt and all. What they ended up doing was routing the 10K runners off to an auxiliary trail just south of McCormick for like maybe 50 meters and having us do our hairpin there, which allowed us to seamlessly merge back into the half marathon course from the left. Genius!! I was so amazed by how smoothly it worked! Like, I spent a good couple of minutes marveling over how smart of a course design that was. Good work, Lifetime!
Turning around meant we had the wind at our back, but I’ve found that’s almost never as pleasant as it sounds like it should be. I got really warm, and, courtesy of my over-enthusiasm at the start, was getting quite tired as well. I alternated between reminding myself that I was only in this for the breakfast and thinking about how annoyed I’d be if I ran a 1:00:xx, so I did my best to keep pushing. It started to rain a little around mile five, but not enough to cool me down as much as I could’ve used.
I ended up finishing in 58:34, which is my third fastest 10K time. I averaged a 9:26 pace, which makes me really happy! Obviously if I was going to break an hour, I needed to average sub-10:00 miles, but given how much my training has nosedived since I ran my half six weeks ago (which I don’t say to be critical of myself – I wanted to back off my training after working so hard for 12 weeks), I was quite surprised that I managed to hold an average 9:26 pace over 6.2 miles. Anything faster than a 10:00 is fast to me, so I’m really proud that I managed to pull that off.
The rain tapered off during the post-race party, giving me time to enjoy the breakfast I was so interested in and to get a begonia to kick off my 2019 gardening. This was my last Chicago race as a Chicago resident, and I’m glad I ended with strong finish at one of my favorite races.