For April 4, the weather was cold. But the sun was peaking over the horizon and runners clustered together waiting for the start of the 2015 Chi Town Half Marathon & 10k, tapping their feet in anticipation—and to stay warm.
The Chi Town Half & 10k starts in Lincoln Park and follows a looping course along the Chicago lakefront. The Chi Town race has grown in size from a few years back, but still remains a smaller event than most big city races. Perhaps this is because of the race location and start time. For racers residing in the suburbs of Chicago, driving to the start is almost a must. The weekend Metra doesn’t have an early enough train available for most suburb-dwellers to arrive in Chicago and make their way to the course by the 8:15 start at Lincoln Park.
Driving to the course is straightforward and the city streets and highways are calm in the lull of Saturday morning. Parking is available, but fills up very quickly from 7:20 on. If you arrive earlier than 7:15 in order to make it on time for the race day packet pick up, you may be able to snag a spot along the street by the course.
The course follows a lakefront trail, which offers a direct view of the Chicago skyline early on in the race and then takes
runners past small harbors, docks, and plenty of parks. The scenery is excellent, and other runners know it too. Chi Town participants will have to share the trail with other bikers and runners out for their own morning routine. Once the crowding from the start line died down, this was not a problem at all. The trail itself was littered with potholes and had some uneven patches, but as long as runners watched their feet, there was always a way to dodge the dips and cracks. There were also pacers for the race, always a nice touch.
Unfortunately, the course had to be rerouted mid-race due to a pipe burst that rapidly flooded an underpass. Race organizers addressed the issue by redirecting runners up to a traffic light and across the street to reconnect with the trail. A police officer came to direct traffic.
The finish line greeted runners with an enthusiastic crowd and live music. Runners also received a circular medal with a cutout of the Chicago skyline along the top curve. Once through the gate, runners could head back towards the gear check and vendors. And to deep dish pizza and beer.
Bananas, bagels, and peanut butter were nowhere to be found. Instead, racers lined up to receive a slice of deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s.
In addition to the free pizza and beer afterward, participants also received a race medal, a lightweight hooded running jacket, and a small bag that said “Let’s Go Run.”
I really enjoyed running the Chi Town half this year! It was very cold in the morning. I was definitely under-dressed, but I put my new race jacket on and hopped around with my hands in my pockets until the race began. My feet were still quite cold though—something I didn’t notice until I began to run and realized I couldn’t feel my toes! It was an odd sensation to run without feeling in my feet, but by the time I hit mile three, my body was warmed through and I was on the move. The Chicago skyline was beautiful, there were plenty of water stops, and I got a PR—even with the course reroute that added a tiny bit to the race.
The lightweight hoodie is great also. I’ve already enjoyed wearing it on the way to several workouts.
As for the deep dish, I was skeptical at how my stomach would handle the cheesy, tomato, pastry crust goodness of Chicago deep dish after a good run, but it was no problem at all. Fortunately for a post-run tummy, Lou Malnati’s doesn’t have cheese as thick as the heel support of my running shoes (like Giordano’s deep dish), and I enjoyed eating up a tasty, sausage slice.
Although deep dish will not become my go-to post-run refuel, it was fun to bring a piece of Chicago culture to the end of the race—just in case you missed it along the trail.