What’s green, hunting for beer, and covers 8 kilometers?
Why, the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, of course!
I know, it’s already April… St. Paddy’s Day has already come in a frenzy of green glitter and golden beads, and left some us in a hazy hangover weeks ago. But for 40,000 runners in Chicago, the time to celebrate a little Irish fun was this past Sunday.
Because I signed up for the Bank of America’s Chicago Marathon, Brandi thought this would be good “practice” for me. The race is put on by the same people, it runs the same streets, and just like the marathon, there are 40,000 runners.
Practice for a marathon that doesn’t involved a 20-miler? Sounds great!
The weather was pretty nice for the Shamrock Shuffle: 45 degrees, sunny, slightly windy but not bad for Chicago. The atmosphere was cheerful, the volunteers all had smiles on their faces, and a later start time of 9:15 meant I was feeling well-rested as we headed to Grant Park for the starting line.
The Shamrock Shuffle is set off in two waves. The first wave started around 8:30 a.m., with staggered corrals. If you’re a speedier runner and have a recent race time to prove it, you can start in this wave. Brandi could have started earlier, but since we were heading to the race together, she changed her corral so she could start with me in the 9:15 wave.
As we waited to start, the announcer told us we had some special guests in the crowd running with us: Danni Allen, the most recent winner of The Biggest Loser, and Robbie Gould, the Chicago Bears kicker. I have to admit, I’m a Steelers fan so big whoop about Robbie, but Danni was running in the same wave & corral as me?! I was pretty stoked and kept looking around to say hi. That girl is amazing!
Soon enough, though, the race started and after a few minutes of waiting around, our corral crossed the starting mat and we were off.
“See ya later!” Brandi called over her shoulder as she took off. Her goal was to go for 7:30 splits, while I was hoping for 10:00 splits, so yes…she would see me much later.
It took the first mile to get used to having SO many people around. I was a little annoyed at those who started to walk right away (read: ¼ mile) in the race because they were blocking me (and many other runners) but hey—good for you for getting out there. I weaved in & out of people, got cut off a few times, probably cut other people off a few times, and strategically looked for places to spit. Yes, it was good experience to run in such a large crowd so I know what to expect in the marathon. It was fun—there were always people to pass and push yourself for, and sometimes having someone in front of you to slow you down for a moment let you readjust your pace so you weren’t going too fast.
Running around corners & the drink/aid stations were the worst parts of the run. At the street corners, everyone instinctively cut in closer, so it became a jumble of people. I would literally have to stop and walk for a couple steps as everyone spaced back out. At the drink stations, if you were off to one side or another, people would literally cut you off the whole way through the stations. One lady almost ran smack into me. There were only two aid stations I believe (because who really needs a Gatorade stop on a 5 mile run?); on the second station I stayed in the middle of the road so people didn’t cut me off so severely in their haste for some high quality H2O.
The best part were the fans along the route. At one point near the beginning of the race, we ran under a bridge and it was completely lined with people cheering and calling down at us. Fans lined most of the streets too, and lots of little kids were doling out high fives.
I felt pretty good and strong the whole race. I forgot my Garmin so I wasn’t able to keep track of splits. Instead, I went by how I felt. It was nice to let the times go and just focus on breathing and picking up my legs when they felt like they could go faster.
I finished at a strong 50:03 (10:04 average pace), which I was happy with considering my ‘long’ runs of 7 miles have been averaging around 11-11:30 in the last couple of weeks.
After the race, we met back at Grant Park for our free post-race Michelob Ultra (not too shabby)…
And then continued our belated-Irish celebration with a few more [real] beers & lunch with some runner friends.
All in all, a great race, a fun day, and I’m looking forward to race season as Spring warms up!
Tell me: What are your tips for huge races? I didn’t have to deal with actually getting anything from the aid stations, fueling, bathroom pit stops, etc. but I bet in the long haul of 26.2 miles that can all be a challenge. I can use some tips!
What’s your next race?
I’m gearing up for the Wisconsin Half Marathon in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 4th. It’s the Cheesiest!