Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the F^3 Lake 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!
Registering for a race in Chicago, in January, can be intimidating. You never know what you are in for until possibly a few days or even a few hours until the race starts. If you are not from the area, winters here can be nasty one day, and beautiful the next. A week before the race, the weather was sunny and temps reached the mid 50s. Why couldn’t this race be a week earlier? Because that wouldn’t be the F^3 Lake Half Marathon way! Race day, the forcast was temps in the upper 20s with winds out of the WNW at 16-22mph. In other words, it would feel like 16 degrees. Not as nice as the week prior, but let’s face it, it could be a lot worse.
The F^3, like other Chicago races, had several locations to pick up your bib number and shirt the week leading up to the race. If one of these locations did not work for you, you could pay an extra $15 and pick it up on race day. I am cheap and really don’t want to pay an extra $15 for race day packet pickup. Luckily for me, fellow BibRave Pro, Heather, was willing to pick mine up when she got hers. She has become my designated person when it comes to picking up my packet, for which I am greatful for. I understand not wanting to have packet pickup at the race location, but it’s tough for us coming from outside of Chicago (and out of state) to get to a packet pickup location and having to pay $15 to get it race day.
My rural American side of me is about to come out. I hate paying for parking. Parking for the race was $19! I know for Chicago this isn’t a lot, but man, to me, that’s a lot. The positive thing about parking was that it was on the North Side of Soldier Field in the parking garage which is connected to the stadium.
The great thing about pre race for the F^3 was that you could wait inside the United Club inside of Soldier Field and didn’t have to go outside (unless you did a warmup like me) until 10 minutes before the race. There was plenty of room to stretch if needed and there was even a group streatch before the race. Also gear check was provided inside of the United Club. For gear check, you can use your own bag or one provided to you by the race.
With about 10 minutes before the race, runners move outside to the South Side of Soldier Field. Last announcements are made, the national anthem is sung followed by the start. It is a wave start where 2 corrals are sent at a time every 2 minutes.
The Course for the F^3 Half was simple. You start out from the South Side of Soldier Field and run around the west side of the stadium until you get to the north side. Once there, you head west to the Lake Front Path. From there, the rest of the course is on the Lake Front Path (LFP). The course was fairly flat with a couple small hills. It is an out and back course. I like our and back courses because nothing should surprise you on the way back and also you can see your friends running for encouragement or for you to encourage them. Photo credit to Heather as we ran by each other.
There were plenty of aid stations on the course, just about at every mile. There were also plenty of volunteers out there. My favorite aid station was the one volunteered by Back on My Feet. No matter what race you run at that BOMF volunteers at, they seem to always have the loudest and most supportive volunteers out there.
The finish line was well marked and an announcer was announcing some of the finishers coming in. After you finished you were given your medal and some food. Good items included bananas, bagels, chips with humis, water, and muscle milk. A sponsor of the race was out there with small reusable grocery bags for runners to put their food in.
After the race, runners were able to head back inside the United Club to get warm, get your gear, check results, and talk to a few vendors as well. One of the sponsors had mats out for stretching as well as foam rollers. Also if you placed in your age group, you could pick up your award right away, no waiting.
On your bib, there was a tab attached for one free beer at Krolls, where the after party was located. Because of having to drive home and Indiana being one hour behind Chicago, I did not go to the after party.
Things that were great!
- Pacers were provided by Chicago Endurance Sports starting at 1:30 and increased every 10 minutes
- Pretty nice medal
- Free race photos
- Nice course with great views of the lake
- Parking location is great
- United Club was great for both pre and post race
- Gear check
- Love the quarter zip jacket. Nice change from short sleeve or long sleeve shirts.
- Many choices during the week before the race for packet pickup.
- Aid stations had a lot of volunteers.
- Free digital photo download.
Changes I would make:
- $19 for parking. Ouch
- $15 race day packet pickup. Maybe wave the fee for out of state runners
I arrived at Soldier Field about 2 hours before the race started. This was probably a little extreme but I don’t really trust traffic getting to Chicago even though it was a Saturday Morning. Glad to see though when I arrived that I was not the first to arrive.
After parking and finding my way to the United Club, I went out for a 2 mile warm up by running the first mile of the course before coming back to get warm in the United Club. About 45 minutes before the race started, fellow BibRave Pro Heather brought me my bib and bag that she picked up for me earlier in the week, saving me $15. We also met up with another BibRave Pro Kim. It was nice to finally get to meet Kim in person.
As I was checking my gear, I ran into a fellow Northern Indiana runner and member of the Two Rivers Running Vlub, Eric Diamond, who frequents a lot of the Chicago area races. He would be running in the 5k race. I should not have been surprised that Eric was there but was no expecting to see him.
On our wat out to the starting line, Heather and I ran into Nick who is the race director of the Chicago Ultra 50. Sorry, we did not get a pre race photo this time but we did after the Volition Run on September 11.that was a warmer day.
The longer I have been more active on social media and through BibRave, it’s amazing how many people I have meet at races. Always great to put a voice behind all the tweets and photos that are posted.
The race start time was 10:00CST, so for me, this was a late start, but at 9:50 runners started heading out to the start line. Runners did not have assigned corrals so runners were tonline up according to goal pace. Signs were posted with goal paces for runners to go off of. There were also pacers starting with a goal time of 1:30 and going back every 10 minutes. My goal for the race was to run around a 1:25 finish time, a 6:29 mile pace.
After the national anthem, the race started with the sound of an air horn and the first wave was off. The great thing about starting around Soldier Field is the wide area to run offering runners plenty of room to move. The bad thing is that there were pools in certain sections blocking vehicles from entering the walk ways. It was that big of an issue though as runners ahead were notifying those behind of the upcoming obstacle.
After Soldier Field, we ran between Soldier Field and the Field Museium to the LFP. The first half of the race was south on the LFP. The first half was nice having the wind to your back. The first 6 miles I was hitting my goal pace. Somwhere after mile 7 was the turn around and that’s when the head wind came in and times started to slow. At the turnaround, I was already counting how many runners were ahead of me and I was surprised how many runners were ahead of me. Over 30. Looking at past years results, I thought top 10 would be achievable but I think that all depends on the weather on those race days.
During the second half of the race, I felt the pace slip away and with that, a few more runners passed me. Then I had to go to my second goal for the race, no 7:00 miles. During the last couple miles I had to push a little to avoid that 7:00 mile but managed to do so.
Finish time was 1:26:31. Placing 39th overall, 34th male, and 7th overall. So no age group awards for the F^3 Half this year. A lot of great talent was out there. I would have had to run around 1:21 to place in my division. That was not going to happen.
After I finished up my race, I did a 2 mile cool down. I figured that if I timed it right, I could run one mile back on the course and catch Kim for her last mile and run in with her. Timing worked out perfectly as I got a mile out less than a minute before she did. She was looking strong, and while not able to get a PR, ran her fastest half marathon in 2 years since sustaining some bad injuries.
After the race I headed back into the United Club, got my gear check bag, got my printed results, made my way to the Physicians Imediate Care table where if you used #visitphysicians on Instagram your photo automatically printed on their printer.
Shortly after I needed to hit the road since it was already early afternoon.
Will I come back and run the F^3 Half again? I think so. It was a very well organized race. The issues that will come up is kids sports schedules so we will see when I can make it workout to run it again.