Chi Half: Round 3
♪♫♪ Are you staring at me ‘cause we’re having a contest / You’re making my heart stop and I ran…
For better or worse, I did it! I survived my third round with the Chicago Half Marathon. This has become an informal tradition for me since I started running more three years ago. Last year, I even made my goal of a sub-2-hour half marathon with just a minute to spare! But this year? Well, I really didn’t have any excuse not to properly train for this summer…but I just didn’t do it. I spent the majority of my exercise time dancing or taking leisurely strolls when I was dogsitting, and when September came around, I finally came to realize that I wasn’t prepared to run 13 miles after my three months of casual running. In a hasty preparation, I spent the two weeks leading up to the marathon doing a few long runs (about 7-8 miles apiece) and just prayed adrenaline would make up the distance.
As it’s a very well-organized race, I would definitely recommend the Chicago Half Marathon to any runner who wants a good challenge! And since it takes place in late September, I’ve always found the weather to be ideal for running. The event takes place on the South Side near Jackson Park (right next to the University of Chicago), and there are free shuttle buses for runners from Millennium Park to make it more accessible.
What made the situation slightly more difficult for me this year is that I had to commute from Naperville to the race, which meant I had to wake up at 4 AM! I decided to go home last weekend because I wanted to dogsit my favorite dog, Charlie, for my neighbors. Although it would be a difficult commute to make it to the race course by 6 AM, I was willing to do it because I had missed Charlie so much since coming back to school. On Friday, after picking up my packet downtown, I took a late train home to Naperville. I got to spend Saturday playing with Charlie, a big friendly dog I love so much, and doing some studying at home with my family nearby. My mom even made me pasta to help me “carboload” for the race! Knowing I need to wake at an ungodly hour, I tried my best to sleep early, but of course laid awake for an indefinite amount of time. I felt I had barely slept at all when my alarm went off!
My dad, who is definitely a morning person (he gets up at 4 AM almost regularly!), generously offered to drop me off at the race course. Sluggish and a little grumpy, I did make it to the race corrals on time — even early — but I definitely didn’t feel prepared to run the most I was supposed to run in several months! I slowly perked up as the sun rose and the loud speakers blared the typical pump-up music. It’s hard not to get excited in the midst of so many hyped up runners! There’s a big ball of crazy energy in the air all smashed together in tight start corrals…everyone is just waiting for the kick-off to START!
I knew that this race was going to be a serious mind game of pacing. Admittedly, I really should have started myself in a later corral than I was initially placed, after all, I was not nearly as prepared as I should have been. But I managed to keep a somewhat steady pace for the first five miles, chugging along at a steadfast speed despite many faster runners passing me…some of which I saw again about five miles later because they perhaps forgot the importance of pacing!
I easily fell into my running trance, losing myself into my music and daydreams as the mile markers passed one by one and I made my way down Lakeshore Drive. At the turnaround point around mile 8, I felt the fatigue beginning to wear on me…but to my absolute delight, that’s when the majority of volunteers showed up! This was a huge benefit to my personal morale and truly kept me going. I recalled how in years past there always seemed to be a dearth of volunteers or supporters after mile 5, which made it that much more difficult to slog through the next 7 miles or so until the final stretch. It seemed like the race organizers had taken steps to change that this year by strategically placing volunteers at the most challenging stretch of the race — the middle to late portion — and I definitely felt my energy refuel when I saw huge crowds of people holding up hilarious, creative posters and cheering while ringing their cowbells. Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line! In the end, my time was 2 hours and 7 minutes — quite a bit slower than last year, but I’m no less proud because I did it! Not to mention that the medals this year were a huge step up…it was as big as my face! I couldn’t believe it when a volunteer put one around my neck at the finish line!
After spending some time relaxing at the Post-Race Party, I took the shuttle back downtown to catch a train back to Naperville. On the way there, I was even stopped by a French family on vacation who asked to take a photo with me…they thought I was a big race winner because of the size of my medal! They laughed when I explained to them I was just another finisher, and they still posed for a couple of photos with me. It was cool to feel like a mini-celebrity!
When I finally got home, I was greeted by a big, happy dog and a huge, delicious meal with my loving family. Exhausted and sore, I was in better spirits than I had been in a long time. There’s a sense of pride I get after a great race that I don’t feel from doing anything else, and it’s what’s going to keep my running and signing up for races like these for years to come.
It’s all about you, I’m wild about you / Eye to eye, it’s a game, it’s a contest… ♪♫♪
(Staring Contest – Mates of State)
Sarah Lee is a senior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.