2015 Chi Town Half Marathon Review: Deep dish, great runner swag, but a cold lakefront day

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.

Chi Town Half Marathon & 10k

Photo courtesy of Chi Town Half Marathon & 10k

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

Chi Town Half Marathon & 10k

Photo courtesy of Chi Town Half Marathon & 10k

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.

Chi Town Half Marathon & 10k

Photo courtesy of Chi Town Half Marathon & 10k

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.

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Runner moments from this winter

“32 Exhilarating Moments Every Runner Lives For”

(BuzzFeed humor x GIFs) = (Exclamations of “So True!” + “I Totally do That”)

Here’s a few highlights I’ve experienced this winter, and click the link above for more:

  1. Legging sales (#19): Ok, so I have a bookmark folder labeled “Running,” which I use to stalk running apparel in hopes that it will go on sale. Eventually, most does. But then it’s never in my size and always in the least appealing color. Worst of all, the “sale” is usually a not-sale. A discount from $85 to $80.99 is really not that much of a deal. Admission: I’m bitter because I didn’t experience that exhilarating legging sale moment this winter despite focused searching.
  2. Conquering the elements (#9): Negative temperatures and snow-buried mini van did not deter me from making it to the gym! This winter, I conquered the elements by going to the gym anyway. Come at me snow. The few times I braved the outdoors, it felt great. However, I stayed inside most days so ice-coated paths wouldn’t end up conquering me.
  3. Creating your own trail mix or energy bar (#19): So delicious and worth it! Much better than anything that comes in a package. They’re so good my non-running roommates eat them all before I can.
  4. Getting your friends into running (#30): I try and try, but something seems to always scare them away.
  5. Race bib pinning (#17): Truly an art form. And a talent.

How to not run: 5 easy solutions

Confession: The only thing that’s been running this week is my brain.

It’s just been that kind of week, and the non-stop, constant computing has left my head feeling as limp and heavy as my legs after a grueling workout.

Because of all the busyness, this week’s half marathon training consisted only of urgent dashing from one appointment or obligation to the next. So based on first-hand experience, here’s five tested and verified ways to make sure you don’t go for a single run next week. You know, just in case you don’t already have enough of your own excuses.

  1. Pack your schedule as full as possible. If you have too many other things to think and worry about, first, you’ll have no time to run and, second, you’ll have no time to think about the fact that you didn’t run until the weekend rolls around. Wait, 10 miles tomorrow? What happened to that Thursday easy run…
  2. Eat too much ice cream and junk food. Eating well is important for maintaining your body’s energy and good functioning. Especially when you’re in training, it’s crucial to fuel properly. So, if you overload on bad-for-you foods, your body and stomach will feel out of sorts and say, “Really, you just can’t take me on a run today.”
  3. Don’t get enough sleep. There’s no better way to ignore your 6:00 a.m. alarm than to go to bed late multiple nights in a row. You’ll either sleep through the alarm or snooze it. Getting up to run just isn’t worth it.
  4. Don’t schedule a gym or running date with your workout buddy. It’s easier to justify not exercising if you don’t have someone expecting you to show up. It’s difficult to motivate yourself to get moving when you’ve used up all your brain power elsewhere.
  5. Live somewhere really cold and grey. There’s nothing that kills your motivation to get outside and run than awful weather. Bright sunshine and clear skies? Let’s hit the trail! Snowy, icy, cloudy bleakness? Eh… I’ll stay indoors.

Why I do pilates after my weekend long runs

I neglected to stretch after my long run this weekend. Easy to do, but never a good idea. The legs weren’t feeling that sore, so I forgot what I had done to them in the rush of meeting weekend deadlines.

But my short-term memory only lasted until about 6:15 a.m. Monday morning. I lay on my lime green yoga mat in a dance studio surrounded by a few other devoted women who braved the bitter temperatures and early hour to put in 45 minutes of pilates to start their day. I enjoy the class, it helps me focus on stretching and strengthening. It’s also relaxing, so sometimes during slow-moving exercises on your back the real exercise is halting drooping eyelids.

My decision not to stretch as regularly as I should caused, I’m sure, a quite hilarious struggle yesterday.

The move was a variation of a “single straight leg stretch.”

Photo courtesy: Women Self Lifestyle Read article on how to complete this pilates move here: http://womenself.com/pilates-exercise-flab-abs-single-straight-leg-stretch/

Photo courtesy: Women Self Lifestyle
Read article on how to complete this pilates move here: http://womenself.com/pilates-exercise-flab-abs-single-straight-leg-stretch/

My body most certainly did not look like the shape of the woman above. What I was doing may more accurately be called the “single Z-leg stretch,” because my knee just refused to allow my leg to lengthen into any position lacking a distinctive angle.

I chuckled to myself as I compared my technique to that of our instructor’s in the mirror. How does she get her leg that straight? As long as I run, my legs may remain too tight to solve that mystery. But, I do make it a point to attend pilates class every week. That way I know I’m at least getting some stretching in and a bit of strengthening on leg muscles you would never think to pay attention to.

So if you struggle to remember to stretch too, or if stretches are difficult for you, I recommend pilates as a good off-day exercise to help you make sure your body gets the attention it needs.

View a video on how to do the single leg stretch exercise

Early-morning track run turns treacherous

The news can’t stop talking about it, the deep cold that’s settled over the US. I wish the cold would move on, one, so I wouldn’t have to hear another news anchor carry on about it and, two, so I can take my training outdoors. Maybe I’m not tough enough, but negative wind chills scare me inside. And inside can be a very hostile place.

I abandoned the treadmill one day this past week to complete my pace run on the small-sized indoor track. It’s nine laps to a mile. The track rings the second story of the gym, with open air in the middle revealing a row of courts below. Gruff voices echoed up as I rounded a corner of the track. A college ROTC group was completing their morning work out below.

Then, they came upstairs to the track.

In mob-formation, they dashed around the track. Panting and wheezing, crowded close and crowding myself and other civilian track users out. I tried to ignore them and follow the track rules. Walkers on the inside, joggers in the middle lane, pass on the outside. But I was being passed on both sides and brushed by pumping arms.

I heard footfall rapidly approaching from behind. Then I heard this: “Gosh, why are there so many roadblocks on the track today?”

What could I do but laugh.

6 Ways to Make Your Running Friend Happy in 2015

Runner smiling  Photo credit: The Q Speaks

Runner smiling Photo credit: The Q Speaks

You just don’t get them, you know, that one friend who goes out and logs six or seven miles in the morning while you’re still rolling over in bed.

They really love covering all those miles, and you just can’t understand it.

Here’s the good news for you. There are six ways you can make the runner in your life happy without understanding the running world.

6 ways to make your running friend happy in 2015

  1. Food: Definitely one of the top ways to a runner’s heart is to feed them. Running makes you hungry. I mean, really hungry. So anything that has to do with food is a win. Go out to lunch together, grab them their favorite breakfast sandwich for after a morning run — you’re sure to score a grin.
  2. Water: Just as important as eating well is staying hydrated. Could your friend use a new water bottle? That would make a great gift. And all those constant trips to refill with plain water at the water fountain get boring pretty quickly. Snag your friend their favorite, flavored, electrolyte-filled beverage instead and they’ll thank you. Or want to give them something new to try? How about Nuun. Nuun tablets are electrolyte-rich and come in a variety of flavors. Drop one in your water and watch it fizzle and dissolve into a delicious flavored drink.
  3. Thumbholes: Thumbholes are the perfect fit for any thumb. Flattering and fashionable, find your perfect thumbhole at a running store near you. But really, runners love thumbholes, and your friend will love you if their next piece of running gear has a pair.
  4. Good socks: Your feet and legs are your equipment in running, so good shoes and socks are essential. There are socks designed especially for runners made from breathable material and with just the right cushioning. We all know how easily socks get lost in the wash and in gym bags, so next time you’re aiming to make your running friend smile, try getting them a pair of good running socks. A runner with happy feet is a happy runner.
  5. Sweatybands: For your female running friends, stylish and functional Sweatyband headbands are the way to go. They come in an enticing array of patterns and prints and, crucially for a headband, they don’t slip or fall off! The last thing you want to worry about when running is hair flying in your face. With a Sweatyband, this will be the last thing on your runner friend’s mind as they cruise down the trail with their hair swept back in style.
  6. Go to race day with them: Most likely your friend is putting so much time into running because they are training for their next race. You’ve watched them train hard, eat well, and push themselves to reach their goal. Now it’s almost race day, and you tell your friend you’d love to come cheer for them from the sidelines and congratulate them at the finish line. Wow, what a smile! All those cheers from the sidelines may not feel like much, but they keep runners going, and it’s even more special because it’s you.

German Dogs: Adorable and Well Behaved

Maybe it’s just that I’m dog deprived going from college straight to Berlin, but all German dogs seem to be infinitely cuter than any I’ve ever seen. (Except for my puppy of course)

But what I do know, is that German dogs are ridiculously obedient. So obedient that they are allowed on all the city trains and buses… even without a leash.

They trot on the train, wait for their mom or dad to sit down, and then lie at their feet.

Or scamper across the street, sit on the edge of the curb of the center median looking back over their shoulder, and then proceed to the other side after a cue from their owner.

Along the sidewalk, too, they pad along leash-less ahead of their owner, but never too far in front.

Crazy when I think of my rambunctious ball of fur. She would be running up to every person sniffing, jumping, barking, licking.

Meaning I can never bring her to Germany 🙂

IMG_20130608_094600_133

A pair out for a run

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