This morning was the big day! So of course, I woke up at 3AM with no chance that I was going to go back to sleep. So I languished in the bed awake for a while before finally getting up and preparing for the event. I had set everything I needed to bring/wear out Saturday morning so I wouldn't have to worry about forgetting anything.
After a light breakfast of juice, cereal, and a soy burger (gotta have some protein), It was time for me to make the drive down to Chicago to Montrose Harbor -- a good 1 1/4 hours away. I got there about 6:30AM and proceeded to do some walking around to check out the area, the route, and see if I could find my friend Mike Rice, who was going to also be running the race. Luckily, he found me. The harbor park was very nice, and pretty busy.
Mike ran into one of his buddies and introductions insued. Then guess who came by to visit -- John "The Penguin" Bingham! How cool was that!? John and Mike are friends from previous races so Mike introduced me and John was very gracious and friendly. Agreed to pose for a photo and gave me some encouraging words for the race. Already, my day was 'made'!
After warming up, Mike and I took our places in the crowd a few minutes before the race began. Since there were no corrals or pace markers, it was just a herd of 1300+ people. So I took a slot in the rear third of the group, figuring most people would be faster than me. Met some nice folks while we were waiting. Then they played the Star Spangled Banner and the race was off!
The first Mile was pretty strong and running along Lake Michigan in a green park was nice. I was running at a 10:30 pace and watching people running passed me on all sides. Oh well, I knew I was not going to be one of the speedsters. The weather was cooperating (it was supposed to rain) at a comfortable 65 degrees. I was feeling confident but the voice in my head was saying "Am I ready to play in this game for real?". Running with 1300+ people is a little intimidating -- not like running in the Weight Watchers 5K which was only around 350-450 people.
During the second Mile, I still felt pretty strong and my heart rate was still in Zone 3 -- so far, so good! I passed several baseball and soccer games in progress in the park, and negotiated around bikers who were sharing the path with all of us. Thankfully, the bikers were respectful and gave us a lot of room. I almost got tripped up by a child runner who decided without warning to cross in front of me. Close call but no harm, no foul.
It was during Mile 3 that I starting feeling a little tired. My heart rate was in Zone 4 by this point so I was slowing down a little bit to keep it in the low range of Zone 4. But I never stopped running -- no walking was a goal for this race. But I could feel the end was near and I wanted to finish strong. When I rounded the corner for the last 1/3 mile to the Finish, I saw Mike Rice there, cheering me on! That gave me a little push and I went for it. And what was even cooler, was that John Bingham was at the Finish Line with a microphone calling the runners home. When he saw me, he announced my name and said "Looking Strong Richard" or something like that. I am not going to lie, that was Awesome!
I FINISHED! And it felt fantastic! I received my Finishers Medal and Flip Flops, and got some welcome water and food (banana, hummus, and chips). Then Mike and I went over to grab our celebratory beer (after we showed our photo IDs, go figure) and talked about the race.
This was an amazing experience! I have never seen a race before so watching how the whole thing is set up -- the vendors, the volunteers, the entertainment, and the camaraderie between all the runners was awesome. My official results? I ran the race in 36:02 minutes at a 11:36 pace (and burned 660 calories in the process)! I beat all of my personal goals for this race -- I beat my previous PR time os 38:20 by over 2 minutes, I ran a fast pace (for me, at least), and I had a ton of fun!
On the way back to my car, I ran into John Bingham. He remembered me and came over to congratulate me on running a strong race and hoped that I would keep it up! Of course, I am going to do exactly that!