This was a long time in coming.

I qualified to run in Chicago in April 2016 when, in Brighton, I set a new PB of 3:09, setting me well inside the 3:15 target I’d set myself to get into the race.  I’d trained all that winter with the sole aim of going quick enough to get into another race sixteen months later.

It sounds bloody stupid when you put it like that.  Us runners: what are we like, eh?

I skipped gladly out of the office on the Thursday beforehand, stayed up late packing, got up early to catch a flight to London, then sat around for 8 hours mainly watching films (Mindhorn, daft; Blade Runner, which I’d never seen before; Captain Underpants, go watch it now!) and finishing off Book Three of The Dark Tower.

When my BCRC friends & I landed, it was straight to the Expo.  We got a warm welcome into the city, and got chatting to a resident who had promised to run it next year, and was going to the there supporting at 13.1 miles that Sunday.  And that he did!

Fully convocated, a little lighter in the wallet department after a trip by the official merch stand, and a little lighter headed after dropping in on the Goose Island stand for some free samples on a near-empty stomach, we were all good to go.

Next stop was to the Saturday morning International 5k, making its debut.  Starting Downtown and tracking north, then east to the Waterfront before finishing just in front of The Field Museum, it served as a nice leg-stretcher and a mini tour for those of us new to the city.

Before the International 5K
Credit to stranger who took this for one of us. Probably Danni. Thanks Danni!

You do pay (rather a lot) to enter, but in return we got a nice medal and a scarf.  I definitely fall into the camp of runners where ‘accumulation of things’ is rather nice, so I was happy with that!

5k Rewards
Yes, the scarf has the rightful four stars. An appropriate medal, too

After a massive breakfast and an unfinished evening meal – walking all day couldn’t burn off the damage done that morning – with the rest of the BCRC crew, I was if anything overcarb-loaded for the Big Day ahead.

Here we go.

The alarm was set for 4.45am in preparation for the 7.30am start.  Two pots of instant porridge down with some water, gels loaded up in a bottle for my belt, a last minute scramble to find my garmin and I was off!…to the metro stop, at a quick jog.  Made it.

I got into town and followed the crowd to Grant Park.  It was 6.15.  I was in good time – I’m not much of a worrier with these things but I’d far rather be dawdling around this area than rushing to get into my pen.  I hung around, took photos, bumped into a fellow Scot – and much quicker runner! – outside the baggage drop off, and finally made my way into the sparsely populated Pen B just after 7am.

We Unite Diverse Talent

After the customary bits and pieces the Americans are familiar with that still seem completely alien to us Europeans, we were underway, and miraculously for such a big race, straight into our stride.

In the early going we passed by the Chicago Theatre, where loads of people had suddenly ground to a halt to take pictures during the 5K yesterday.  As you can see, I wasn’t quite as bad as all that…

As the race continued so did I, tracking just under 5 min/km pace and slightly ahead of the 3:30 goal I thought was reasonable given my short 8 week build without any speed work.  Five miles turned into 10k turned into ten miles when eventually there was a price to be paid for my actions.

In my hurry to leave in the morning, I hadn’t had the chance to pray to the Lavatory Gods.  For that, I was struck down with stomach issues which lead, as they tend to, to a special visit their temple around mile 11.

With the Gods appeased, I was able to resume my course with a spring in my step and passed through…poor choice of words?… half way in 1:42.  Still up on the target pace.

By this point I was feeling my glute which has been cursing me all year, but increasingly the problem was the sun.  They’re not supposed to do heat at this point in Chicago.  It’s meant to be cold, probably wet and obviously, windy.

Nope, nope and nope.

I took to taking two cups of water at the frequent aid stations; one at the start and one at the end.  Squeeze cup, pour a little over head, drink, pour more over head, drink the rest.  Repeat.

That worked quite well and felt okay.  This is bound to be partly down to running slower than I know I can, but at the same time it’s not actually a pace I’ve maintained often in the lead up to the race and certainly not for anything like as sustained a period of time.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but I started to slow a little.

It didn’t feel that way with plenty of people walking, and the mile/kilometre markers kept telling me (after some mental arithmetic of varying standards) I was good for <3:30.  It was in the bag.

Before I finish, thanks to the people of Chicago for coming out in force.  I’d been warned & read of ‘dead zones’ out in the south of the course, but didn’t experience that at all.  Quieter parts sure, but people everywhere (apart from, slightly bizarrely, the run in to the finish) were encouraging.  Though I did have words with someone holding a “Worst Parade Ever” sign.  The cheek!

I crossed the line with an official time of 3:27:23, keeping my (joint) fastest split back for the final 2.1km.

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/mile miles/h
05K 07:57:31AM 00:24:00 24:00 07:44 7.77
10K 08:21:10AM 00:47:40 23:40 07:37 7.88
15K 08:44:43AM 01:11:13 23:34 07:35 7.92
20K 09:10:29AM 01:36:58 25:46 08:18 7.24
HALF 09:15:45AM 01:42:15 05:17 07:45 7.75
25K 09:34:40AM 02:01:09 18:55 07:48 7.70
30K 09:59:37AM 02:26:07 24:58 08:02 7.47
35K 10:24:49AM 02:51:19 25:12 08:07 7.40
40K 10:50:33AM 03:17:03 25:45 08:17 7.24
Finish 11:00:53AM 03:27:23 10:21 07:35 7.92

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I’m pretty content with how Major #2 went.  Sunburn aside – it seems I never learn – it was a big of a success and I still had full use of my legs afterwards.  Walking?  No problem.  Up stairs?  Sure!  Down stairs?  Why not!  It’s a miracle.

Drinks were shared among the BCRC lot and stories told; lots of success around the table as a welcome bonus.  Happy days.

One final shout to Dan the Physio Man at FASIC for getting me to the race in the first place.  It would have been an infinitely more stupid thing for me to try without his guidance, and no doubt much slower and painful if I had.  Much thanks.

And so on to the next one: Niagara Falls is next.  On Sunday.