State # 9: Illinois, Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon


Race Stats:

Time: 2:00:00

Overall place: 2744/14881 (18th%)

Division (F 18-24): 227/1439 (15th%)

Gender (F): 1055/8998 (11th%)


Play by Play

Pops and I decided to run this race a few months ago.  His reasoning fueled by a recent “god-awful racing experience” at the Indy Mini and mine fueled by the need to cram another midwestern state in before I leave the region.  That must have been before the excessive heat hit for the summer.

Pre-Race Carbs

Usually I prefer pizza the night before a race but we had plans to do dinner at RPM Italian Restaurant (Giuliana and Bill’s restaurant -FYI).  I don’t find the need to obsess over Giuliana and Bill but a dear friend of mine does and she asked that I eat here so she could live vicariously through me.  Coincidentally, that’s also where our friends had reservations and they asked us to join them.

Don’t care.

While I don’t care about the couples’ personal lives, their restaurant was delicious.  Popsicle and I were late, and so inappropriately underdressed (can you guess what I was wearing…?) but it had been a busy afternoon of packet pickup and parking debacles (I still love Chicago but the city turned on me – I literally had a panic attack while driving and parking.  That’s a city that needs to be done on foot) and there was no time for a shower or “fancy clothes”.  Luckily our table was right inside the restaurant so I just slinked along the interior wall unnoticed (I’m pretty sure they would have escorted me out).

Dinner spot.

Once we were seated and I had a glass of cab in my hand, I was able to relax a bit.  The entire menu looked phenomenal and I had trouble deciding what to order.  Plus I was ravenously hungry from hiking around the city and expo.  I wanted to stick to my usual pre-race plan of salad and pizza so I chose the spinach and kale salad to start.

Spinach and Kale Salad

The salad was fresh, crispy and wonderful.  I’m sure Giuliana was back there in the kitchen whipping them up herself.  Then I took a leap of faith and deviated from the pizza route.  I ordered the pasta pomodoro instead.  And it was a great decision.

Pasta Pomodoro

The tomato sauce was fresh and flavorful and the herbs added just the perfect seasoning to it.  The portions were much smaller than are normally served at restaurants but it was perfect for me.  I slurped all those noodles down.  Dad ordered the pizza in traditional style and when I saw his plate I knew I made the better decision.  First of all, it was about the size of a CD and second of all didn’t have any spectacular or gourmet toppings like I like.

We were finished up and back to the hotel by 7pm.  I spent the rest of the evening north of the river enjoying the company of an old friend and her new fiancee and stayed out past bedtime but we had lots to catch up on.  (Speaking of weddings, I saw 7 weddings on Saturday and 2 proposals on Sunday….tis the season!)

Race Day

5:15 wake-up call.  5:30 coffee, a bite of granola bar.  5:35 get dressed, check for music, Garmin, beans, and race number.  5:45 drink a bottle of water and out the door.

Good Morning Chicago!

We stepped outside to a beautiful morning in the city.  We were in the shade at first so it didn’t feel too hot but iPhone told me it was 75 degrees – pretty hot for 6 am.  Our hotel was less than .5 miles from the start so we used the walk as our warmup and made it to our corral by 6:03 (the earliest I’ve made it to a corral).  They were pretty empty.

Waiting for the start

We found our friends (Al runs with the boys in the morning, his wife Barb is on the Varisty running squad in town and daughter Kate is my brother’s age.)  and reviewed our strategies.  Al doesn’t run half marathons anymore because of his knees so his plan was to make sure he didn’t miss the turn-off for the 5k.  Barb and Kate had the same plan as us – have fun and survive.

The McLaughlins

And then it was time to go!

Runners at the start

13.1 Miles

The first 5 miles of the race were downtown in the city which was cool.  We were shaded from the sun by the large buildings and I enjoy how small a big city makes me feel.  Plus not having to worry about traffic is always wonderful!  We crossed the Chicago River several times – I always looked forward to that because there was a cool breeze coming up from the water.  I wasn’t a big fan of miles 3-5 that took us through a ‘burb.  I much preferred being in the downtown area but after that 2 mile trot, we were rewarded with fans lining both sides of the streets on our way towards Michigan Avenue and south away from the city.  Spectators truly add energy and make such a difference!

Our Route

At the halfway mark I started to pull away (that energy from the fans got to me!) from Dad and he said, “You can go ahead.”  But instead I slowed my roll (I tend to pick up the pace without considering the miles remaining).  The mile or so down Michigan is where the heat really started to get to us.  We were no longer protected by the shade of the buildings and had been in the 75+ degree temps for more than an hour.  I had been making a point to drink water at every station it was available and was feeling ok – definitely hot but not sick or overheated.  Dad had a different story to tell.  I stuck with him though, encouraging him when I could and just keeping him running when I didn’t know what to say.

Miles 8-10 were tough.  At 8, he asked me again to go ahead and finish at the pace I wanted to.  He knew he wouldn’t be able to beat the prestigious two hour mark at our current pace.   I told him I was gonna stay with him and that I just didn’t want to get a PW (personal worst) and we still had plenty of time to avoid that.  I was in a great place – just boppin’ along to my music, eatin’ jelly beans and drinking water when it was available.

At 10 Dad had to stop to walk.  He was soaking wet in his own sweat and probably overheated. I stopped with him for a moment when again he said “Go ahead of me.”  I wrestled with myself for a second because one of my core beliefs as a runner is that you never leave a training partner behind.  But I could tell in his voice he mostly meant “Please let me be miserable alone!”  because sometimes you just want to suffer by yourself.  So he handed the watch off to me and I was gone.

The Last 5k

When we handed off, I probably had about 28 minutes to hit the 2 hour mark.  I felt good so decided to go for it.  By now I’m heading back north up Lakeshore Drive.  Less than a mile into this solo part of the race there was a cold sponge station.  It was like heaven on earth.  The volunteers were passing out sponges soaked in ice cold water.  I grabbed one and squeezed as much of the refreshing water down my back.  Less than half a mile later I starting getting texts from my Memphis runners letting me know how their 5k race had gone earlier that morning.  I told them I had 2ish miles to go (ninjas can run and text at the same time, and I happen to have some ninja skills) and their encouraging responses helped get me to the last mile.  Approaching the finish, I knew I could make it.  My legs still felt strong and I although I was in pain, I wasn’t exhausted.  I was actually having a really fun time by myself, singing to my music, sayin’ “Thanks y’all” to all the volunteers (a little southern charm 😉 ), and dreaming of cupcakes later.  And then I crossed the finish line at a blistering 7:27 pace in exactly 2:00:00!

I wandered around the finish area looking for Popsicle for a while and managed to see Barb and Kate finish but missed Dad.  I grabbed some free goodies for myself (chocolate milk, YES!) and then knew where to go – the beer tent.  Without fail, there was the entire group sipping on Michelob Ultras.


I asked Dad how he was feeling and his first response was, “Everything is overexposed (really bright).”  The trainer in me scolded him for not drinking water and suggested he sit down.  The five of us hung out in the park for a while telling stories of the race.  Barb and Kate saw a guy propose to his girl right after they crossed the finish line.  And then we all saw another guy propose on stage at the concert at the after-party.  (Note to my future cowboy boyfriend: This is a totally acceptable way to propose to me, just don’t lose the ring on the run.)

Big city!


I’m pleased with my strong finish – you can see the negative splits below in the Garmin report.  Practice really does pay off!

Avg Pace
Summary 2:00:00.7 13.16 9:07
1 9:53.1 1.00 9:53
2 9:29.3 1.00 9:29
3 9:01.2 1.00 9:01
4 9:08.6 1.00 9:09
5 9:19.3 1.00 9:19
6 9:06.8 1.00 9:07
7 8:50.0 1.00 8:50
8 9:33.7 1.00 9:34
9 9:15.6 1.00 9:16
10 9:39.9 1.00 9:40
11 8:43.4 1.00 8:44
12 8:40.9 1.00 8:41
13 8:07.4 1.00 8:07
14 1:11.6 0.16 7:27


Another state down, and despite the ending temperature of 83 degrees, I still love Chicago (and running!).

My 9th state, Dad’s 3rd!






14 responses »

  1. Sounds like you had a very similar experience as I did two years ago at this same race. It started off on the warm side and then got progressively hotter as the miles were counted. I do agree that the sponge station is a total godsend. The course this year was a little different than the one I ran in 2010 – definitely an improvement.

    18% down — what’s the next state?

    • I’m not sure yet – I need to take a pause from the racing for a few months to let life happen (moving across the country to TX!). St. Jude in Memphis in December unfortunately won’t count for a new state, but I always love that one – that’s all that’s on the books. What about you?

      • I’m planning on doing at least two marathons this fall (Des Moines and Route 66) and might add a third one in December (too many options – Dallas, CIM, Tucson). Escalation!

        • Route 66 was on my list of considerations (as you’ll see in a minute)! Maybe that’ll seal the deal – it’d be fun to truly share a race experience, even though you have to go the extra 13.1 miles.

  2. Congrats again on another state crossed off the list! I’m bummed that we couldn’t meet in person, but it sounds like you had a busy weekend. 🙂 And now you’ve experienced the curse of Chicago’s half marathons—the beautiful shady streets as you head north and west, followed by the hot asphalt and direct sunlight toward the end as you run south and back north again. 🙂 Almost every half mary here follows roughly the same course so it’s refreshing when they change it even a tiny bit. Looking forward to hearing about your next one!

  3. I’m so glad you had fun! We were all worried that the heat would take you out.

    I look forward to hearing about your next state.. New Mexico, Arkansas, Colorado?

    • Ha – Memphis has conditioned me to the heat! Chicago didn’t hold a candle to some of those RRS last year!
      I have no idea for #10 – up for a roadtrip?!

  4. Wow. How has no one commented yet how freaking impressive it is that you finished in 2:00:00?! That’s hilariously awesome! It sounds like it was a pretty fun race and those negative splits are awesome! Congrats on checking another one off the list!

  5. Pingback: Adios 2012 « RUNMEM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s