Yes, I'll gladly run for chocolate!
...and if I can do it with a friend? All the better!
The city was Chicago, the date was this past Sunday (November 7th), and the race was the Hot Chocolate 15K, a national series that has venues in various cities across the United States. Oh, and did I mention there was hot chocolate at the finish line?
But first, let me set the scene...
This was a very last-minute decision (like "five days out" kind of last-minute, LOL). We had tickets for the Iowa vs. Northwestern football game, the day prior. The thing is, the official game time was not announced until seven days out. We'd been under the assumption it would (probably) be a day game, and we'd (probably) drive back to Iowa after the game would have ended. An evening game, though, warranted a Saturday night hotel stay...so why not book a room near the race site and bring along the running shoes?
I'd known, for several weeks, that Deborah was going to be in Chicago that same weekend, and that she'd registered for the race. As soon as we'd confirmed our travel plans and secured a hotel reservation (we: the hubby, myself, a friend and his son), Deborah and I started scheming a plan to meet up and run the race together. Game ON!
Fast forward to race day, Deborah met me at my hotel on race day morning. She'd graciously gotten my race packet for me, since I wasn't able to swing the expo (coming from central Iowa, there was almost five hours of travel time to get to nearby Evanston, as well as extra time needed to get to Ryan Field and find parking for the 6:00 game). We didn't even have time to check-in to our hotel until well after the game (late Saturday evening).
Anyways, we got to the race site shortly after 6:30, giving us enough time to check a bag, use the porta-potties, and weave our way through the masses of runners (according to the official results, there were 5,469 15K finishers, and 14,860 who finished the 5K!). I was assigned Corral A, and Deborah was Corral B...so we compromised and lined up at the very front of Corral B (the corrals were numbered up to "M"). Our plan was to run the race together, and have as much fun as possible.
Let me just say the weather was totally on-point! Although there was a little bit of wind, it really wasn't an issue (and actually felt good towards the end of the race).
|ready to run for chocolate (pic from Deborah)|
After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, Corral A was released across the start line, and Corral B was allowed to go a few minutes later.
So, we were off and running!
As mentioned, our main objective was to run the race together, and chat and laugh as much as possible. Deborah was planning on doing run/walk intervals, and I was game to give that a try. Heck, I'm used to taking brief walk breaks, through the water stations, so I had ZERO issues with following her lead on this.
Ironically, it was during our first walk break when we came upon a race photographer. He may have busted us in a walk (not that there's anything wrong with that), so we made the best of it. Nothing wrong with having a sense of humor, right?
After the very crowded line-up (and race start), I was impressed how fast everyone seemed to spread out. The race started with the route going north on Columbus, out of Grant Park. Then, there was a lengthy stretch on Wacker, under a fairly dark underpass...probably my least favorite feature of the race. Eventually, we made it off of Wacker, and went south on Clark for the better part of the second mile.
I think it was around this time (in the third mile, on another walk break), when we met Megan, a recent Chicago Marathon finisher. Turns out, she'd been pacing off of us for awhile. She said our intervals had been perfect for her, so we invited her to hang with us as long as she wanted.
Eventually, the route had us going south on Michigan, for the next few miles. I barely glanced at my watch, but I could tell our pace was strong on the running segments. I'd been so preoccupied talking with Deborah, that I'd forgotten about the Honey Stinger gel in my pocket. I'd had a granola bar for breakfast, and had been grabbing a quick sip of water at each of the water stations, but I knew I'd probably need something else to sustain me for all of those 9.3 miles. Fortunately, it was just before the 5-mile mark when I remembered the gel. Crisis averted.
It was such a beautiful morning! We had nonstop sunshine, and with the minimal wind, I was starting to feel warm. Not uncomfortably warm, but I definitely was not feeling any semblance of coldness. For me, that's an okay situation...I'd rather be too warm than too cold.
Before we knew it, we'd passed the 5-mile mark. Not much longer, we reached the 6-mile mark and the route took us to the famous Lakeshore Drive (now headed north again). What an amazing view with the city on our left (and up ahead) and the lake on our right.
Miles seven and eight had us continuing north, for a long (but scenic) stretch. We passed Soldier Stadium and Field Museum, in the final mile, and just had a short, curving stretch back into the south area of Grant Park. Then we saw the finish line...
Wow, and just like that, we'd finished. It was hard to believe we'd gone 9.3 miles because the time had gone much too quickly (IMO). That's the thing about doing something you love, and having a friend along with you...it doesn't seem (much) like work.
|all smiles! (pic from Deborah)|
|Don't worry, the banana didn't get touched, but the hot chocolate was great!|