I ❤️ this race! I have participated for numerous years now, and it always is so rewarding.
Venue/Staging - First, a Saturday race (especially on this holiday weekend) is amazing and a great way to kick things off. The Soldier Field setting is really quite special and the finish line on the 50 has always been one of my favorites. Parking is FREE and consistently has been very easy. The staging was different this year. Gear check was outside of the stadium- totally fine, no line, and ran pretty smooth. The start line was inside the stadium. We had to be funneled through some pretty tight hallways to get to the field and it was pretty claustrophobic. Corrals A-H started on the field and the later corrals waited in the stands for the first wave to go. In past years, we were staged on the road that runs parallel to the stadium and it allowed everyone to be stage at once. I know that some of my friends in later corrals said they felt they started late because they had to move the whole crowd down to the field for the start. My assumption was that the race wanted a different feel for the start and wanted to take advantage of the jumbo-tron that featured all pre-race ceremonies, including a video sponsored by the beer vendor.
The Race - The race started almost 10 minutes late because the pre-race ceremonies ran long... this is frustrating because corrals closed at 6:45am so we had to stand in crowded corrals for close to 25 minutes. Once we were off, things got back to normal... the first mile has always been tight because the road itself doesn't open up for a mile or so. Speaking of miles, the mile markers were not consistently placed and myself and several other runners commented on this post-race. When I was done with the race my watch had recorded 10.3 miles. The race course itself was great- hydration stations were stocked and the Nuun hydration was a welcome addition! The finish (have I mentioned it is my favorite) is always a thrilling experience, and military members distribute medals for a really poignant moment at the end of the race.
Post-Race - Always a fun time! Love, love, love the band and the beer. And the weather was perfect for the entire race and post-race.
Expo/Swag/Management - The expo (I attended the one at Fleet Feet- Old Town) was super quick, and it should be mentioned that the race also offers other city and suburb locations for packet pick-up- a really nice touch. Plus, friends can pick up your bib for you! The swag was very nice- pretty standard, but nice- and I even got my extra BibRave swag (a water bottle) by using my BR code.
This race is extremely well managed and a race that I will always return to year after year. Moreover, I love the 10 mile distance because it is substantial and you can still talk your friends (who are afraid of long distances) into running it. Did I mention you finish on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field... so cool!