Today was the Soldier Field 10 Mile. I've never done this one before (this year was the 11th running), but I've heard good things so I figured what the hell. Chicago is generally an easy drive from here, and the registration fee for early birds was quite low. The same day I registered, I booked a hotel room on Michigan Ave, just off Grant Park. I did NOT want to deal with parking pre-race. It wasn't "cheap", but it wasn't super pricey, and if you're travelling with a friend or three it would be more than reasonable.
Last night I drove down to our urban neighbor to the south. That shit should take 3 hours maximum with the way I drive (I've made O'Hare from my house in under 2:20). It took over FOUR HOURS. The entire stretch of I-94 between Milwaukee and Half Day Road should be napalmed into non-existence. That is the most horrible concrete wasteland on the planet. Constantly torn to shit, crashes left and right, and absolutely nothing to fucking look at while you sit in bumper to bumper traffic. Grrrrrrrr.
Upon finally reaching Chicago, the Edens Expressway was the Edens Crawlway so I said fuck it and just got off on a random street and found my way to Lakeshore Drive. I made it to Fleet Feet for packet pick-up with 40 minutes to spare. Fortunately it was very organized and trouble free and I was in my hotel room stuffing my face with dinner about 20 minutes later.
So enough about the traffic. The race. It was, in a word: Awesome. Seriously, it was extraordinarily orderly. Everything was laid out for the participant in the emails leading up to the race, the guide provided at packet pickup and by helpful announcements at the start. There are a billion corrals and 2 distinct waves of runners that are sent out onto the course, but it was done so smoothly you'd never realize there were 10,000-odd runners involved.
Pre-race selfie. It was bright.
I had a Ragnar teammate text me before the corrals closed so I walked down to chat with him before the start. It was nice to see a familiar face. I have no problem doing races alone, but it's cool to see your runner friends. On the way down to meet him I swear on a stack of fucking Bibles that I saw John Oliver run by. If it wasn't him then it was his evil twin because that dude was dead on right down to the glasses and teeth. I wish I'd yelled out "Hey! John!" to see if he turned, because then this selfie would be me and motherfucking John Oliver.
Museum Campus was lined with these.
My corral. Shit was bright.
They do shit up big for Memorial Day at this one. They presented a flag to a war widow (who subsequently jumped into a corral and ran the race), they played Taps for the fallen (on the trumpet, real-like), and gave a nice speech about service and freedom. All of the vets and active duty military were asked to raise their hands in the corrals. There were a LOT of them. It was pretty cool.
One thing I really liked about this set up was that each corral was released onto the course separately, 2-5 minutes apart. That meant each corral got to be up front at the start line, and each corral got it's own start horn. Being a back-of-the-packer I never get to be on the start line, and that press of people shoving for the front is a real downer. None of that here. We all proceeded to the start line in a friendly, orderly way and got our moment in the sun.
I could almost touch it!!
The race director kept up some chatter during all these starts. It was funny and friendly. I dug it. He gave each corral a countdown, too. The other bonus of this stagger-start was no jockeying for position after you start running. Plenty of room for everyone, zero dodging.
You take off out of the Soldier Field parking lot and run down Lakeshore drive for 4.8ish miles before turning back onto the Lakefront Trail. I'm not a fan of out and back, but this wasn't really as you are running two separate routes, even if you can see the leaders. The trip down on Lakeshore wasn't super thrilling scenery-wise, but it was pretty damn thrilling for me as my first 3 mile splits were 9:38, 9:18, and 9:25. I PR'd my goddamn 5k during a 10 mile race!
The turnaround and trip back is where this race really shines. It is WOW from the turn until the finish.
Say it with me: WOOOOOOOOOOOOW
It was a perfect, perfect day. 50ish at the start and sunny with a lovely cool breeze off the lake. I did the first 6 miles super fast (for me, probably not for you) and PR'd my 10k. Then I blew up. Not exactly sure why. I ate as planned, but my guts were messed up and I ended up walking a lot before mile 7. Around mile 8 my right hip got a little cranky, so I stopped to stretch it out. Then it was press on to the finish.
The course retraces itself up Museum Campus Dr and then turns into the field.
Into the underbelly.
Through the player's tunnel.
And onto the field for the 50-yard finish.
I was pleased with my overall time, considering how craptastic the middle miles were from a pace standpoint. Overall pace average was 10:33/mile (well, based on my watch-who knows what my chip time is).
I totally saved it.
After the finish, the medals and water are handed out by active duty service members, which is pretty neat. You get the chance to thank them for their service, up close and personal.
After the finish, you get funneled off the field and into the concourse where you're further directed to several exits. I didn't partake in the post-race festivities as I had to hightail it home right away, but there was free beer and music and it seemed like it would be a nice shin-dig. On the way out of the stadium you're handed a "Runner Refresh" bag with a banana, a Clif Bar and a package of fruit snacks inside. It was a nice little tote bag and the banana was well timed. I liked that I didn't have to fight for a much handled piece of fruit. I walked out of the stadium and back into Grant Park to my hotel. I stopped on the 11th St walkway to take a shot of the field. It's space-shippy. I'm not a huge fan of the external remodel. Nice on the inside.
The Metra tracks are so pretty.
And turning around, a shot of the hotel from the same spot. The Essex Inn. The location was perfect. I was able to get coffee and some eats on my way to the stadium, it was about a 1 mile walk which was a nice warm-up, and walking a mile afterwards was a fantastic way to stay loose after finishing.
I was on the 11th floor.
I would highly recommend this race. Weather is obviously not something that can be controlled, but it was such a perfect day. The registration was reasonable, the race shirt was a nice navy tech (women's cut!!) tee, and the medal was neat. But more than that, the course was spectacular. Everything was so organized and seamless. I don't think I've ever run a race where transitions were so fluid. The volunteers were fantastic on the course, there were plenty of water stops and portajohns. A local high school drumline entertained at one point, and each water stop was well stocked and well run.
I'll be doing this one again. Maybe for the 15th running, and I'm bringing my husband next time around. This would be a great way to kick off Memorial Day weekend in the city, and if you're not ready for a half marathon but would still like a medal (I'm a sucker for a medal) this would be a great "gateway drug" for you.
If you can manage not to kill anyone or drive your car off a bridge on I-94 south of Milwaukee.
No make-up, except for the 3D Fabulash mascara I got from Leah B's party. I put it on on Friday and
it made it through a day and a night and a 10 mile race with no flaking or smudging.
There, Leah, you made my blog :)