Latest reviews by Heather
The Chicago Half Marathon took place on Sunday, September 24 with a 7am race start for the half marathon and 7:45 for the 5k. Weather was calling for extremely hot temps, which meant the race was starting at EAS yellow (eventually going to red during the race). I think temps started in the 70s with humidity at mid-70s eventually hitting 80 something degrees (and quite sunny).
+ The expo was held at Soldier Field on Friday and Saturday. They only charged $5 for parking. If you know Chicago parking prices, you know that's a steal. I really appreciated that.
+ The expo had plenty of vendors and the official merchandise is always stacked.
+ Even though the weather that time didn't suit them, I really liked the long sleeve shirt for the half marathon. HM shirts were gender-specific tech, orange and blue (mimicking Bears colors) and the 5k were gender specific tech, red (and honoring the Chicago Fire Department).
+ The race offers free shuttle service that you can select location for during registration or even leading up to the event if you missed it or need to change from your initial choice.
+ The race was great at updating runners about the weather, hydration tips, how to stay cool, and letting us know what precautions they were taking which included having more ice on course and misting stations, and fans.
+ The race also offered the option to drop to the 5k with very little hassle. They sent out an email and posted on social media that all you had to do was line up with the 5k and you'd still receive your medal (and challenge medal if you ran Chicago Spring Half). They took runner safety seriously and made it easy for runners to change distances if they felt weather would be too much for them.
+ Corrals A–N for the half marathon, and it looked like it was a rolling start, so even the last corral was going by 7:15 or so.
+ Plenty of portapotties around the race site.
+ Since the course is on the streets and the LSD, it means less congestion and allowed for this rolling start.
+ Plenty of aid stations and they were stocked with enough water, cups, and Gatorade.
+ Race Guards on the course helping runners when needed.
+ I really like the course (despite the lack of shade once on LSD) – it's different from any other race in Chicago.
+ At the finish line you received your half marathon medal, ice cold and wet towels, they were fans and misting stations, popsicles, pretzels, potato chips, bananas, bottled water and Gatorade
+ In order to get your challenge medal, you had to go to a tent and they would reference your finisher medal, your bib (different ones for those that were registered for the challenge), and then you'd get it.
+ The medals for both the half and the challenge were HUGE. The medals for the two races plus the challenge were designed to be a connecting set. Pretty neat.
+ Post-race party includes a free beer (Lagunitas this year - awesome!) and a free slice of pizza. Both were redeemed via a ticket from your bib.
+ Free photo downloads provided by Athlinks.
Can't think of anything...
I've been running this race for I think six years now, and I'll keep coming back. Despite the weather, race management handled it very well and kept runner safety their top priority. Though I didn't do very well and the heat was awful, getting through that finish line made me feel accomplished. Plus, my feeling awful in the heat this year was a better finish time than when I felt awful in previous years, so that's silver lining, right? hah.
The 2017 RAM Racing Bucktown 5k took place on Sunday, September 17 with an 8:30am start time. I forgot to take note of the weather, but I do recall it was fairly humid out, as I was sweating pretty early on haha. Temps were in the mid-70s I believe. The course was pretty shaded, which was nice. This was my second year running this race.
+ Multiple days and locations for packet pickup. $15 shipping option if you wanted it sent to your house. (No race day pickup).
+ This year's goodie bag was a Chicago flag design on a fleece blanket. The blanket is legit – super soft!
+ Course takes your through Bucktown. Lots of spectators and families out cheering.
+ One aid station with Nuun (or just water, I"m not sure – I didn't stop for anything).
+ Corrals A–F; released every 3 minutes or so. Helped with congestion.
+ Mostly cleared streets with the occasional parked car you have to weave around.
+ Plenty of volunteers and officers out keeping the runners safe and on course.
+ Post-race you receive a bottle of water, banana, and a bag filled with treats – plain bagel, Clif mini, Soy Chocolate Milk, rice krispy treat, and piroucrisps. They also had cups of Nuun.
+ Post-race DJ, games, photo ops with RAM Racing backdrop.
+ The neighborhood is filled with lots of great places for breakfast/brunch.
+ Not a ton of porte-potties, but the lines weren't bad at all.
- Parking wasn't as easy for me this year as it was last year. I was over an hour early, and the place I parked last year was already filled (pretty large stretch of street and both sides were filled... might have helped if people didn't leave such giant spaces between one another, but even then it might have filled up before I got there). Since lots of the street parking is taken away from residents, it means any places you can park are filled. We ended up parking maybe a mile away and paying a parking meter, which was fine, just something to think about. It's your typical Chicago location – hard to find parking haha.
This is a nice, low key event with a lot of families running together. Running on the streets means less congestion for most of the race. A few spots where it might be a tighter squeeze if the street was cut in half for out and back type thing, but it wasn't bad. I love the unique swag they come up with every year and like the post-race eats in the neighborhood afterwards. Definitely a race to look into.
The 2017 Chicago 10k took place on Sunday, August 13 with an 8am start time in Grant Park (more specifically, Arvey Field which is just Northeast of Columbus and Roosevelt). Temperatures were in the upper 60s/lower 70s with about 77% humidity and mostly sunny. I think this was my fourth year doing this race (and quite possibly the first 10k I ever did? Could that be right? I have the worst memory). The race is managed by Run Mfg. Prices increased $5 starting at $45 and ending at $60, which I think is reasonable.
+ Packet pickup on Friday August 11 (4:00pm – 7:00pm) and Saturday, August 12 (12:00pm – 6:00pm) at Road Runner Sports (1435 N Kingsbury Street, Chicago, IL 60642). Friends could pick up for you if they had a copy of your photo ID and bib number.
+ Option to pay $10 for race day pickup. I did so because I didn't know my schedule and $10 is worth it to save myself a trip into the city. Pickup was quick and easy; you needed your bib number (they had a binder if you didn't look it up ahead of time) and your ID.
+ During registration, option to upgrade a unisex cotton race shirt to a gender specific tech shirt for only $5. I'm not a fan of cotton shirts (unless it's a guarantee that they'll be the super soft kind), so I paid the extra $5 for a tech one. It's black with neon yellow graphics. I like it.
+ Plenty of garages in the area (not so great is the price tag; but that's Chicago). I paid $19 for Soldier Field for about 4 hours.
+ Race Day Gear Check - they had clear bags for you to use (or you could use your own) and safety pins to put your bib number tag on the bag. Participants placed their bags in the area themselves – there were sticks in the ground with the different bib number ranges for organization. Since I did race day packet pickup, I utilized gear check so I didn't have to go back to the car to drop off my shirt. Afterwards, go in and grab your bag and the volunteers would check your bib number vs the bag number on your way out to verify it was in fact your bag (I liked that).
+ I didn't utilize, but looked like a good amount of portable toilets to use.
+ Pre-race entertainment: DJ/announcer, cups of water and Gatorade, Bai tent handing out bottles of their anti-oxidant water.
+ Pace signs so people could line-up according to their expected pace. Winners were by gun time, so encouraged to line up early if they were going for a win. Signs went up to 14 (I believe 15pace was the requirement, but I saw some slower folks out there and it seemed they were keeping the finish line open a bit longer, which was cool - I like that it encourages everyone, no matter the pace, to get out and be active).
+ I think there were 3 aid stations. First and third had water and Gatorade, second water. Use of paper and plastic cups (not a fan of the plastic – you can't pinch and drink, which leads to me spilling ha). I brought my own hydration, but did take some water to dump on my hat.
+ Volunteers were all great. Seemed like a young crowd which was fun to see, and they were energetic, polite, and encouraging.
+ Course started at Arvey Field, went around the block (north on LSD, west on Balbo, South on Columbus, west just before Roosevelt - all staying on the sidewalk; streets not blocked off), down underneath the overpass, then around the Shedd on the LFP and south just past 31st street, then turn around back to the finish (you did not have to go around the block again; just head up the hill after the overpass to the finish line). For a brief time, the path is split so runners were going south on the west side and north on the east side, and then re-joined again. I felt the course wasn't too congested, though when it did get tight, some folks were going 3 across, which made it hard to pass, but generally, I found the running etiquette to be in pretty good use most of the day. Be aware the LFP is an open path, and so there are other runners and cyclists out on course and be observant and respectful of everyone.
+ Two waves with maybe 2 or 3 minutes between the first and second.
+ Free race photos (and I actually saw a bunch of photographers out there; usually free means there's one photographer at the finish and I don't get any photos).
+ Decent-sized, double sided medal.
+ Post-race goodies included a giant bottle of Bai antioxidant water, cups of Gatorade, Cliff mini bars (trail mix flavor), banana (though these ran out), and some flavored cracker/chip things.
+ I enjoyed seeing people hanging around after the finish – plenty around the finish line to cheer on everyone else. Great day for runner camaraderie.
• Mile markers, no clocks (to me this is neither pro nor con; I have my watch and usually the clocks are ahead since I start in the back and I can't remember the math from what it was when I started to deduct it from each mile).
I love that it's a smaller race, which means congestion isn't much of an issue (which most races it is, especially going around the block to start). I encouraged others out there and they did the same. Nothing comes to mind as a con. I felt it was a well-organized event and will register again for 2018.
Personally, I was excepting to struggle hard since I had 16 miles the day before, but I actually felt good and the nicer weather helped a ton. Glad there was enough aid for the mid- to back-of-the-pack, which sometimes in summer isn't a guarantee. I was happy with my finish time and enjoyed the day.
The 2017 BTN Big 10k (put on by RAM Racing) took place on Saturday, July 23 with a 7am start time for the 10k and 8am start time for the 5k. I ran the 10k, and there were about 3 minutes between each corral, going from Elite, then A–H. Race morning weather was HUMID - 86% to be exact at 6:45am with 70˚ dew point and a feels like 75. I didn't check the temps again, but it had to have gotten into the 80s during my race (I started in H Corral at 7:24 and it took me much longer than I anticipated finishing due to struggling with the heat/humidity. I managed ok up until mile 3, then the wheels came off.). I enjoyed the course and it wasn't too crowded. I'll have more details in my blog recap, which I will add the link to here once completed.
+ Multiple days for packet pickup at Fleet Feet Old Town (Wednesday, July 19 3–8pm, Thursday, July 20 10am–8pm, Friday, July 21 10am–8pm and Saturday, July 22 10am–6pm). Pickup was easy and you could grab up to 4 other participant packets (forwarded confirmation email with QR code and giving you permission to pickup for them). I didn't have to wait more than a minute before being helped buy a volunteer and I ended up getting a bag of free cookies for signing up early. They were a delight! Due to the large size of the race, no race day pickup is available.
+ Option to pay $15 up to 3 weeks out from the race to get your packet mailed.
+ During registration you pick your school, and then your race shirt is school specific.
+ Medals were cool and this year they were all the same, but you went to your alumni tent after the race to redeem your ticket on your bib for a 'coin' that was magnetic and stuck to the '0' in 10k. Medals for 10k only.
+ Course starts on Columbus so there's a lot more space. The crowds have time to thin out before they hit the LFP (lakefront path).
+ Course goes north on Columbus, turns right (east) on lower Randolph, left (north) on Lower Lakeshore Drive, (west) left on Lower Wacker, (south) left on Columbus, (west) right onto Congress, follow that onto Michigan going south, left (east) onto Roosevelt (up the hill), which at the top you head on over to the path, going under the underpass, south towards the Field Museum, east towards the Shedd, west down the path until you meet up with the LFP on the lower portion near the lake and head north for about 2 miles and then you turn around and head back south on the upper portion of the LFP. Make it back to the underpass, up the hill, and head north to the finish line on Columbus.
+ 2 slip and slide opportunities at about 4.25 and 5.5
+ 3 water and Nuun aid stations. I stopped at the second 2, but the first seemed overwhelmed with runners so I skipped it (as I brought my own hydration).
+ At the finish you received a bottled water, I saw thrown out towels so they must have been giving them out, but I didn't see any when I finished, so I grabbed a bag of ice, cups of Nuun for those that wanted any, bananas and Cliff protein bars. Redeem your tickets on your bib for Amylou sausage and pretzels and a Revolution brew (THANK YOU for having a local craft beer at the race - though I'm not a fan of cream ale, I appreciated that it was from a local craft brewery and applaud this partnership.)
+ Post-race tailgate party is the sh*t. Seriously - one of the best around. Everyone sticks around to play games, eat, drink, socialize. Hit up your alumni tent for goodies, photo ops, and to grab your magnetic coin for your medal. Illinois had the bragging rights trophy out for photos with the Illinois backdrop and they had a coupon for free chips and guac at Chipotle. Other tents had other photo props/school backdrops and offered different things. I heard a few schools didn't provide anything, but there were plenty of mascots roaming around to take photos with. Lots to keep you entertained and the friendly school rivalry is fun. All 4 BibRave Pros that did this race were cheering on a different school.
- More bathrooms near the start line would have been great. I got in line early and didn't have to wait too long, but about 5 minutes later, the lines were HUGE. Hopefully they moved quickly, but I think another row would have been good. I know there were more down by the finish/party area, but most people want to go right before the race and not have to walk down there.
- I heard rumors of issues with the corrals – people couldn't get into them, and while they waited outside to be let in during the forward motion, other corrals were allowed ahead of them. A solution would be to either tell the volunteers not to move forward until the entire corral ahead has gotten inside, or to make the corral sections larger so everyone fits. I was in H so didn't have this problem; it was very large and seemed to fit everyone that was in H and then some (other corral placed runners running with friends and those that are stragglers that missed their own corral start).
- For a summer race, the shirts were a bit heavy (I heard a few others say this during the race). July in Chicago is brutal, so a lighter material would have been awesome. They'll make for a great fall/winter shirt during football season, so that's a plus. I just don't think I'd ever be able to wear it on race day (which is encouraged for this race, since everyone is supporting their different teams, it's a fun way to see who's supporting who).
This race is a ton of fun, and the after-party is really what stands out. Unlike a lot of other races, runners stick around to play games, hang out with friends/fellow alumni, eat, drink, and enjoy the music. Usually when I finish a race, most people have left, so it's cool that the crowd is still there having a good time. I'd definitely recommend this race – even if you aren't a B1G ten fan (to be honest, I don't pay much attention to college sports... and I love this race!). Just be prepared for typical Chicago humidity/heat/sun this time of year.
The 24th North Shore Classic took place on Sunday, June 4, 2017. It starts and finishes near St. Johns Ave and Central Ave in downtown Highland Park (start and finish lines are different, but same street). The 5k started at 7:00am and the half marathon began at 7:30am. The announcer said there were about 1,000 runners for this event. Starting temps were about 71 with 75% humidity and finishing temps for me was about 83 or so. Felt like 100, no joke. My Garmin says it was 95 at the finish... I'm inclined to believe that.
+ Packet pickup on multiple days and a friend can pick up for you – all they need is your QR code. Fleet Feet Old Town on Thursday 3–8, Fleet Feet Deerfield Friday 2–6pm, and Saturday from 10am–6pm. Option to get your packet mailed for $15 up to three weeks before the event (easily done in your enmotive account). A friend picked mine up and it sounded like it was quick and painless.
+ Goody bag was an summer ombre tank top (green for women, blue for men). Nice feeling material.
+ Parking is free and plentiful near the race start. A map of parking lots and garages could be found on the website in the participant guide. As someone with anxiety about parking, I find this very helpful.
+ 5k at 7am was corrals A and B, 7:30am half marathon was corrals C–G with corrals being released about 3–4 minutes apart.
+ A good amount of portapotties set up near the race start. Lines were a little long, but generally not too bad.
+ Course is well marked and plenty of policemen and volunteers out there to keep us safe, as a lot of the course was still open to traffic.
+ Very scenic. I love running through the neighborhoods, Ravinia area, Fort Sheridan.
+ Plenty of aid stations with Nuun and water, well-staffed with volunteers (aid station mile 7 even had Munchkins, and even though it was super hot out, I ate one).
+ Around mile 10, volunteers were handing out bottled water and wet towels. Thankful for that. Most of that water was dumped on my head, legs, and arms to help cool me down.
+ Mile markers each mile and clocks (at each one I think).
+ Lots of CES pacers - near me were the 13 and 14 mm. They were encouraging and friendly.
+ Half marathoners received a hefty medal.
+ Post race goodies included bottled water, icy cold towel, banana, and a bag filled with: chocolate Silk soy milk, mini pretzels, Cliff Bar, and a mini Rice Krispy treat.
+ It was really hot out that day (80s and sunny even though initially it was supposed to be overcast), so they were allowing half marathoners to drop down to the 5k. Also near mile 9, a volunteer was telling runners that the next part of the course was an out and back of 3 miles, and if we wanted, could go straight to mile 12 instead of doing the next 3 miles. A lot of people were suffering in the heat/sun, so I think that was a good call on their part. I think most ran the whole thing, but I'm sure a few might have taken the short cut. I almost regretted my decision when we started going out – the sun was brutal – but I wanted to do the whole 13.1, and I did finish under the 15mm pace, so all was good.
+ Some neighbors had out sprinklers and hoses for the runners to go through - THANK YOU!
+ Post-race fans/misters. I could have stood there for 20 minutes haha.
+ From the sounds of it, plenty of runners were dehydrated or needed to get treated for being overheated, but race and medical staff handled it all quickly and efficiently.
I can't really think of any for this race. Yay!
• Be prepared for hills. It's not crazy hilly, but plenty of rolling hills on course, making it tough if you aren't prepared, or at least mentally challenging if you don't know about it. The major hill to be concerned with is right before mile 7. You get a great downhill, but then pretty much immediately turn left and head up. It's a long, steep incline. For me, that meant a long walk up haha. Overall elevation gain according to my watch was 495. Again, not crazy, but don't go in thinking it's flat ;)
I've really enjoyed this race (despite the heat) the past two years and will keep running it yearly if I can.