Monday, August 4, 2014

Biggest Loser Run/Walk Chicago 13.1

Pre-race with my pacer sign
A first race for a runner can be pretty intimidating.  You don't know all the "race etiquette" and you're just hoping to make it to the end without a ride from the sag wagon.  I get it, I've been there.  Those of us at the back of the pack have a completely different experience than our leaders at the front. One of the things that keeps us from registering for a race is the fear that we won't make the cut-off time.  Then comes along the Biggest Loser Run Walk Series, geared towards making the race experience available to runners of ALL levels. 

Pre-race with Freddie
Yesterday I completed my 4th BLRW event and I have really mixed emotions on the experience.  Let's start from the beginning.  I had a few friends I was going to meet at packet pickup, but when they told me how ridiculous the line was I decided to grab lunch to wait it out and head over there later.  By the time I got to McCormick Place there weren't any crowds to follow to find my way but I did see a banner advertising the race and pointing inside the building.  I walked in and there were NO other signs to direct me.  McCormick is a big place so rather than walk around aimlessly I called Sam for some directions.  Finally made it to packet pickup and thankfully didn't have to wait long to grab my stuff and head out.  The other 3 races I've done all had really nice tech shirts so getting a neon cotton tee was a bit of a disappointment. 

Heather and I ready to start
Race morning I arrived early to meet up with friends and grab my pacer sign from the RD.  Now I've never paced a race before but I was really looking forward to it.  There weren't any corrals but I noticed I was the slowest pace group so I took my position at the back and prayed someone would want to join my group.  I ran into Heather (she ran the BLRW Alabama with me) and she decided to tag along.  We had a few people start near us but mostly everyone wanted to stay in front of us.  Typically my pace for a half marathon is between 12-15 min/mile and I was pacing for the 17 min/mile group so it was a bit tricky figuring out how to keep even splits at that pace. 

The starting line
First 3 miles felt great but we soon lost most of our group.  I was torn between the need to keep an even pace and wanting to help everyone make it to the finish line.  We kept pushing along, chatting as we went.  A woman pushing a young man in his wheelchair along with his guide dog soon passed us and I admired her strength for taking on the challenge.  I caught up with her later and she told me they also did the Chicago Marathon last year.  Here I am dreading my first marathon and she did all while pushing a wheel chair and holding onto a dog.  We also passed 2 gentleman, one who had some sort of physical limitation, charging down the path with a fierce determination that could match any front of pack runner. 

Shortly after the turn around is where things got really tough.  When we got the water station at mile 7 they were completely out of drinks.  BONE DRY.  Zip, zilch, nada.  I lost a small piece of my soul and felt anger boil up inside me.  I hydrate especially well the day before a race but there aren't enough gallons of water that could have made up for getting to mile 7 and not having a cool cup of water to at least splash on my face.  Now I was on full alert trying to find a nearby water fountain.  My heart was breaking for those behind me though, I can't imagine their reaction to reach that table and find nothing but scattered cups on the ground.  The woman pushing the wheelchair needed to keep the dog cool as well as herself and the man in the chair.  I almost cried at the look on her face as the volunteers told her there wasn't any water left.  We just kept trudging along.

Post Race sweaty selfie
A little while later I saw another pacer on her way to the back of the pack to act as a sweeper.  I told her about the water situation and she assured me someone would take care of it.  The next few water stations wouldn't let us take more than one cup.  I understood the rations but it was still rough.  All I wanted was for the race to be over.  We were in the full heat of the sun (the race start was 7:30 but we were closer to 8 at the BOP).  When we finally saw Soldier Field in the distance it felt like a mirage.  So close, but yet, so far.  It felt like an eternity to make it to that last turn before the final stretch to the finish line.  As soon as we got there I looked around to who was left in my group and said "OK here we go ladies, it's time to pick up the pace and finish strong".  One woman gave me a terrified look and told me she didn't think she could do it.  I looked at her straight on and said, "Run with your heart, victory lies just on the other side of those banners.  You have what it takes, we'll finish strong together.  No one gets left behind".  My assurance was enough because she replied "you got me this far, I trust you".  We all broke into a sprint and didn't stop until they handed us our medals.  I stopped to make sure we were all there and she couldn't thank me enough for helping her get through it.  That moment made it all worth it.

I have to say that after the beautiful medals we got in Alabama, this Chicago one was a HUGE let down.  I've come to expect more from this race series and getting a medal with a stick-on decal just isn't a part of that level of excellence they've previously shown.  They also didn't have the additional medals for those of us Legacy runners who were doing the Chicago race for a second year in a row or the Double Medal for completing 2 races in a series.  More than anything I'm disappointed that this was supposed to be a momentous experience for many first time runners, and sadly it didn't quite meet the mark.  I hope that they didn't let this experience tar future races for them and I will continue to see their faces at many races to come. 


  1. That water situation sounds extremely frustrating, especially considering that it happened with an experienced race organizer!!! Also, way to be an encourager for those in your pace group right at the end!!

    1. I couldn't believe it either, I mean who runs out of water at a national race series event? At least everyone seemed to keep an upbeat attitude and we made the best of it :)

  2. Sorry to hear about the medal situation. Hopefully they will mail them to you. The lack of water in a summer race is almost inexcusable! Hopefully, they got some feedback so it won't happen again!

    1. Still no response about the medals :( Hopefully they can get this race series back on track because it used to be really great. Myself and a few others have all sent emails regarding our feedback on the race.

  3. That is so terrible about the water situation. Yeah, I would have been annoyed. Did any of the water fountains along the way help? I was glad to see those during my race on Saturday.

    Congrats on another half marathon! You are definitely on a roll. ;-)

    1. The water fountains are the only thing that kept me going...without them I probably would have passed out. Those bathrooms along the lakefront path helped too considering there weren't any port a potties either.

      Thanks Zenaida, can't wait to see you soon at another race!

  4. I ran into Heather (she ran the BLRW Alabama with me) and she decided to tag along. We had a few people start near us but mostly everyone wanted to stay in front of us. chicago banners