“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the North Shore Classic Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
This is my first time running in a Ram Racing event, and the first time I was running as a BibRave Ambassador. The North Shore Classic in an annual event held in Highland Park, IL just north of Chicago. It was also the first time I have ever been to Highland Park. Very nice town.
Training leading up to the race
I really didn’t spend much time focusing on training specifically for this race. I had just ended my marathon season in early May by running two marathons in two days. The four weeks leading up to the North Shore Classic, I was preparing to run two half marathons in a weekend, with the North Shore Classic being the back end of this double. Training had been going well, but the legs were not feeling 100%. After a disappointing first half marathon to the weekend, I was interested in seeing if I could beat the previous day’s half marathon time at North Shore Classic.
There were a couple of ways of getting your race packet. You could visit one of their packet pickup location in the week leading up to the race, or have it mailed to you. The locations that you could pick your packet up from was Fleet Feet in Old Town (Chicago), and Fleet Feet in Deerfield. For someone like me who lives outside of the Chicago area, you can pay the fee to have it mailed to you, or you can have someone pick it up for you. Ram racing did a great job of informing runners of these options through emails leading up to the event. Luckily for me, fellow BibRave Pro, Heather, picked up my packet for me.
Instead of getting hotel, I drove to Highland Park early. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Elkhart, IN. Lucky for me, I get to take advantage of the time change and didn’t have to leave home until 4:30. Probably could have waited until 5:00 but my traveling OCD kicked in and wanted to make sure I left plenty of time.
I arrived in Highland Park at around 6:00 local time, that means an hour and a half early. This allowed me to find a parking spot right by the start line and time to do a mile warm up to loosen up the legs and find out where I was meeting the rest of the BibRave Pros. A little while later, the pros started to arrive, great to put a voice to the tweets that I read on a daily basis. Frank was able to give us an idea of what to expect on the course as he lives in Highland Park and has ran this race a few times. I wish I payed closer attention to where the big hill was at. After conversation, talking about goals from the day, recent race experiences, and pre race photos, it was off to the corrals.
Lisa was up First with the 5k at 7:00 and the half was at 7:30. Both races had corrals. The 5k had corrals A-C and the half were D on back. Each corral started 3 minutes apart. This was a good size race but not huge. I had never seen a race start like this. I am sure it made for a smoother start of the corrals further back. After the national anthem was sung, the first corral was sent off with the sound of the air horn.
I was in corral D, the first coral to go, so I got to start right behind the elites. First half mile was down hill followed by an uphill on the second half mile. This was a sign of things to come, a lot of rolling hills. The course ran through a lot of beautiful neighborhoods in the area. The streets did ha e some crowd support cheering on the runners at various points in the race, as well as kids looking for high fives as runners pass.
The course had aid stations at about every mile. Of course you have your standard water, but unlike most races, the aid stations had Nuun. At least in the local Indiana Races, Nuun is not an option. I am not a fan of Nuun, but I am not a fan of Gatorade either so it doesn’t matter to me. The course was also very well controlled by local police. Tried my best to thank as many of them as possible for taking the time to be out on the course.
The rolling hills continued, and then right after mile 7 came the tough hill. The down hill on Park Ave towards the lake was real nice, the uphill on Egandale going away from the lake was a different story. Wow! That was a good challenge. Should have trained on more hills.
The rolling hills continued after that but really no other major hills. My favorite part of the course was the area around Fort Sheridan. Just a beautiful area between miles 9 and 11. I wish I had some pictures of the area. The last couple of miles, the crowds started to build more as you approached the finish. Trying to slap the kids hands as you ran by (you never know who you are inspiring) you can tell by the crowds you are getting close. After a slight left turn, there was the finish line. As you crossed, they read off your name as a finisher. Of course they struggled with pronouncing my last name. It’s a normal thing. The course was a real challenge but I loved it. It is probably one of my favorite half marathon races that I have done. Very nice neighborhoods, mixture of hills and flat. Not too many twists and turns, well marked course.
After you crossed the finishline, you are given a medal, a ice cold towel (felt so good), a bottle of water, and a bag of food. In the bag was banana, chocolate milk (soy), rice crispy treat, pretzels, and a bagel. My one complaint is the soy chocolate milk. I would much rather have regular chocolate milk, in fact it’s the one item in the bag that I threw out when I got home. The race also has free photos of the race. I know that there were photographers at the finish line and also after you left the finishers shoot.
For 24 rest after a half marathon, this was a great race for me. My goal was to beat my time from the day before and I did do with a 1:28:46. Good enough for 8th overall in the open race (Non Illinois Elite runners) and 2nd in my age division. Mile splits were:
I will be keeping this race on my radar for future years. The folks at Ram Raving showed me that they know their stuff, and they put on a first class race. You can tell that they care about the runners and want to do their best.