Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon

Some of the lovely ladies from the 11 min. pace group.
Instead of doing a 12-mile run on Saturday with my CARA training group, I decided it would be more fun to pay to do a 13.1 mile run on Sunday with several hundred women (and about 50 men) including four gals from my training group.

I'd been thinking about doing a half during marathon training pretty much since I decided to run the marathon again. It's nice to break up training with something different. There were a couple of places I could have slotted in a half, but I kept not getting around to it. And then a couple of weeks ago one of the ladies in the group mentioned doing this race. Then there was the whole back and forth, if you do it, I'll do it, and finally someone signed up and then the rest of us signed up and then there was no going back.

By the time I uploaded this picture
to Facebook, all the cherries were gone.
Of course I wish I had committed to this race much earlier as the $90 registration fee was a hit to the wallet. Especially when it was basically a training run that happened to come with a t-shirt and a medal. There were a few other aspects to the race that were less than appealing. The first being packet pick-up only available at the south loop Fleet Feet. I live within walking distance of a Fleet Feet, and wouldn't have even minded traveling to the Lincoln Park store if necessary. But to have to take the train or drive all the way to the south loop was a bit obnoxious - though to be fair, they did offer a morning of pick up option, but that would have just made me nervous. So I made the best of it of the trip. Since Baby H. and I both had no school/work, we took advantage of the day, rode the train (which amuses him much more than me), played on the playground that's right outside the store, and then headed over to 11 City Diner for lunch and a banana split.

The other major downer of the race was something the race director can't really control other than by scheduling the race in December - the heat. The last couple of weeks have been sweltering, and after a hellish 16-mile run last week, I was hoping for a cooler half marathon. No such luck. It was pretty warm when I left my house at 5 a.m. and stayed that way. 

Running this race was different in a couple of ways. This is the fourth half marathon race I've done, but the first time I haven't specifically trained for a race of this distance. So going into it I didn't have a goal time, only to keep within my training pace. Of course, there was part of me that wanted see how close I could get to my PR, and originally I had a plan for that. But I was loath to leave the ladies I train with, so we stuck together for the most part until the turn around at about mile 8.5. After that I sped up and dropped my pace down by a minute. But I could only keep it up for a couple of miles due to the heat, and ended up finishing just under my training pace.

The race itself was pretty par for the course. We started going North on Congress and headed down Michigan Ave. turning around at Superior. Michigan Ave. is so much nicer when there are no cars/taxis/buses on it and everyone on the sidewalk is cheering for you as you run by. Heading back south, we made our way over to the lake front path turning back north at 48th. While I was still with some of my training group, we debated the merits of an out and back course. Generally we dislike them. You kinda get bored, and if you're on the path, it can get crowded. But it is nice to do a race south of downtown since I rarely go over there. The path conditions are so nice, it makes me want to change my training location.

I've done a couple of women's races before and it's fun to not have men on the course. It's not that it's better necessarily, just different. For some reason, however, there were actually about 50 men who were signed up for the race. I'm not sure what that was about and I didn't really mind the guys who were clearly running with women (wives, partners, sisters, friends). But the fast guys, the ones actually racing, that seemed a little odd. It was funny, because those two guys in the lead, they didn't get any cheering as they ran past. But the first few women, they certainly did.

The course support was great, lots of water stops, a couple of places with water misters, one stop with a band. Unfortunately one stop had a rap song with some pretty strong language - basically every other word was bitch or fuck or n***er. To each his own on their musical choices, but not something I really enjoy while I'm running by.

In the end it was a good race and I think I'm ready to train and try for my goal of running a 10-min pace half. Pretty much everyone I know says I can do it and Mr. H. said he'd even pace me if I wanted. So now all I have to do it pick out a race and start training (after the marathon of course).

I finished in 2:21:20. That's 4/100ths of a second faster than my time at the winter half when it was basically zero degrees. Now we know that 2:21ish is my extreme temperature half marathon time. So there's that.

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