Better late than never, here is my race report for the Rock N’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon 2010 on August 1, 2010.

I signed up for this half marathon before even having run my first half marathon. It was on a whim and mainly due to the fact that I wanted to visit Chicago (and also I had a discount code). Given my previous experience with half marathons, I booked a hotel room close to the start/finish line.

After a good night’s sleep, I trekked over the the starting area and checked my gear bag (with 1 towel, 1 bottle of water, and 1 clean shirt). I then milled around the starting corrals looking for Emily with no luck, so I finally just went and sat on the curb in my own corral. After the pre-race formalities the race began and my waiting began. This race was HUGE and so it took about 30 minutes for me to actually make it to the starting line. So there was a lot of standing around and listening to interviews with celebrities, most of which I’d never heard of (Al Roker, NBC weatherman, ran the race in 3:20:58. I blew him away). My corral finally got to the front and we started off.

My first mistake was training in half mile run, one minute rest intervals. As soon as we entered the cavernous streets of the city, my Garmin lost signal and I had no idea how far I was running. My watch was completely useless for about the first 5 miles of the race. So I basically just ran for 5 minutes and then walked/jogged for one minute. I figured this would keep me close to my pace until we got out of the city streets and into the park which would make up the last half of the race.

The streets of Chicago have numerous potholes and these were a constant tripping hazard (see Emily’s post on that). I personally almost fell twice in the first few miles and once more at about mile 6. I also saw a girl fall at about mile 2.5, but someone stopped to help her and she wasn’t screaming so I just kept moving. The potholes around mile 6 were particularly treacherous because they were in an extremely dark tunnel.

At the mile 6 marker I was pleased to note that I was not only on pace to beat my PR, I was well below goal pace, stretch goal pace, and even my double secret stretch goal pace. In fact, I was on pace to finish in about 2:15:00 which would have been phenomenal! I kept pressing onwards and at the 15K mile marker (where I pretty much crashed an burned at the Country Music half) I was still on pace for my triple secret stretch goal time of 2:20:00 and feeling good.

The course then moved onto a greenway trail and this was my only real complaint about this race. There are just WAY too many people running this race have part of it on a greenway trail. It was very difficult to pass anyone unless you went off the trail (which I did a lot). And the water stops were even worse. I had decided to carry my own water bottle so that I could hydrate on my own without stopping, but on the greenway trail it was practically impossible to get through the water stops without slowing down or stopping. I had to gently guide (err, push) a few oblivious people out of my way to make it through some areas. The sponge station (in theory a good idea) was the worst! Not only were people stopping to grab sponges, they tossed them right on the path so it was like running through springy mud. Not fun when you’ve been running for 11 miles already.

At mile 12 I decided I had enough energy to skip any remaining rest intervals, so I just kept on running. Once again the course bottlenecked down to a narrow walkway, this time with walls on both sides. I tried being patient, but I just wasn’t getting anywhere so I again had to push some people out of my way (not so gently this time, not enough room). Once I got through a particularly tight bunch I sprinted for about 50 yards through a few gaps and came out into an area that was less dense with runners. I was finally able to settle into a decent pace that wasn’t too slow.

As I came down the stretch towards the finish, the course widened out quite a bit, but I had expended all my energy getting through the crowds earlier, so I just maintained my pace and finished in a time of 2:18:03. This was a HUGE PR for me since it knocked about 27 minutes off my previous half marathon time. I was also not completely dead like I was on my previous half marathon so I took one (or two) of everything they were handing out at the end including Popsicles, a nice touch.

After getting my gear bag, I got out my trusty towel and laid in the shade for a few minutes. Then I changed into my clean and dry shirt for a trip to get a free cup of beer. After the beer I was ready to head back to the hotel.

Overall, this was a good race for me with very satisfying results. I’m glad I did it and I’m glad I met or exceeded all of my goals. The bar has been set pretty high now and it will be a real challenge to keep moving that bar to a higher level. That’s all part of the fun though.