BibRave Race Review: Rock N’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Rock N Roll Half Marathon race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!”

The Rock N’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon was held on July 16, 2017. Temps at the start of the race were in the low 70s and winds out of the north at 6mph.  Humidity was at about 70% and mostly cloudy.  Could have been far worse. 

This was my first ever Rock N Roll race, as well as my first ever down town Chicago race.  All other races I have ran in Chicago have been on the Lake Front Path.  I felt this would be a good experience before running the Chicago Marathon in October. 

Registration: all registration was done either online, or at the race expo.  Registration opened a year in advance and closed a week before the race.  If you register a year in advance, you could register for $59.  If you waited until closer to race day, you would pay over $100. The part that I could not believe was the processing fees for registering. $18!!! I don’t understand why it costs so much to process your registration.  I can see $2-$5, but don’t understand $18.  Other than that, registration was easy. 

Leading up to race day: Rock N’ Roll utilizes email for communicating to entered runners.  As we got closer to race day, we were getting 3-4 emails a week.  By race week, it was every day.  I think these emails could have been condensed to 1-2 a week but it’s great they are keeping participants informed on what to expect on race day. Rock N’ Roll did not seem to do much on social media leading up to the race. 

Expo: the expo was held at McCormick place in Chicago.  It was probably about 2.5-3 miles away from the race location.  When we went to the expo, it wasn’t overly crowded. We were able to walk up to our designated line, show our confirmation of registration and ID to get our bib.  About 5 days of the race, an email was sent to all participants with your bib number on it and a liability waiver to sign.  This form as well as a valid ID are a must to get your bib.  Also, you CAN NOT have someone else pick up your bib.  No acceptions.  This forced us to come on Saturday and get a hotel room for the night.  

Making our way through the expo was easy.  There were a lot of vendors, both locally and nationally (specifically sponsors).  You really could move through the expo as fast or as slow as you liked. There was also official race merchandise for sale as well.  We got a guitar magnet and a pint glass.  Wasn’t real excited about the shirts for sale since most were either cotton or Polly/cotton blend.  

Race Morning:  The Race began on Columbus Ave beside the Chicago Art Institute and Butler Field. Gear Check is located inside Butler Field.  For gear check, you were given a large bag for all gear. The large bag wasn’t needed as much on this day, but would be great for all the gear on a late fall or early spring race. The odd thing about gear check is that you dropped it off at an area depending on your last name, not bib number.  If it would have been bib number, picking it up post pace probably would have been easier and quicker. 

Of course a big question that had to be asked about the race is the bathroom situation.  Rock N Roll knocked this out of the park.  There were a lot of port a johns and they were spread out all over their perimeter of Butler Field and up and down Columbus Ave.  I really didn’t see any long lines to wait. 

There were 20 starting corrals in total with each corral getting its own start.  This alleviated a lot of congestion early on in the race.  Prior to the race there was music blasting and announcers making final announcements.  You could tell the announcers do this at every Rock N Roll race as they were very good at getting everyone excited.  

Race: the race starts off with the 10k and Half Marathon running together.  Before the start of the race, announcers are giving the 10k runners a heads up telling them that they will split off to the right and it didn’t take long before the split.  It was probably less than 3/4 of a mile into the race.  Volunteers did a great job of giving runners ample warning on which way to go.

Right away you notice,  due to all the buildings and underpasses, that my Garmin was not going to be reliable on this race.  I had heard that would be an issue for the Chicago Marathon and for whatever reason I never thought it would happen for Rock N Roll.  This issue is out of the races hands, just an observation. 

The Course takes you on a tour of Chicago, crossing the Chicago River four times (did you know the Chicago River flows backwards, meaning it flows away from Lake Michigan rather than towards it?). Other landmarks along the route were Trump Tower, Chicago Theater, Willis Tower, Soldier Field, the Field Musium, and finishing along Grant Park with pretty cool views of the Chicago skyline.  The bridges over the Chicago river were rough since they were like a medal grate surface. The Course was also pretty flat except for a couple of short inclines, nothing to be scared of. 

There was also bands along the Course for entertainment but there were still a couple of boring sections along the Course. My favorite entertainment on the course were the Taiko Drummers.

  Parts of the course I didn’t like included the long stretch between mile 6 and 8 ( It was just a boring stretch) and running under McCormick place.  I have heard others complain about running under McCormick place before and thought it would be no big deal, but now I understand the complaints. It’s very dark, rough surface, and smells as well. Entering the tunneltrying to make the tunnel more appealing? 

Aid Stations: there were 7 aid stations lined up on both sides of the course with water and Gatorade.  An aid station at around mile 8 had energy gummie and gels as well.  There were plenty of volunteers on the course. 

Post Race Food: I would say this part was average for a half marathon.  There were bananas, cheese crackers, granola bars, chocolate milk, and water.  I believe you could also get a Gatorade.  They had otter pops to cool you off but they were far from frozen even for the front runners and no one there to help open them. 

Post Race Party: As they do at every Rock N Roll race, there was a post race concert.  The Concert was held in Butler Park. The band that was playing was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  They sounded good, just not really rock n roll. 

Swag: the original medal that Rock N Roll came out with for the Chicago Racd looked like this:about a month before the race, Rock N Roll shared that the finishers medal would be this:

Notice something about the top medal? Pretty sure that is supposed to be the Wrigley Field Marquee.  No I am guessing one of two things happened: either all 5 White Sox Fans in Chicago got upset that their team was not represented, or the Chicago Cubs got wind of the medal design and told Rock N Roll “no way.” My guess is the Cubs said no.  Too bad though, as a Cubs fan, I love the design but the medals we got with “the Bean” are still pretty cool.

The shirts are basic withthelogo and neck of a guitar, but I like how they look. 

Overall: The Rock N’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon is a solid race.  Some of the positives include: well organized expo, easy packet pickup, nice course, good post race atmosphere, nice swag.  A couple negatives would be that you had to pick up your own bib number and it had to be done at the expo.  You could not have someone else pick it up for you.  If you lived outside of Chicago, this almost forces you to get a hotel in Chicago which isn’t cheap.  We live about 2 hours away and if I could of had someone pick up my bib, we would have drove to the race on race day.  The other negative would be getting a different and that plays rock music. Another negative are the extra registration fees ($18!!!). Lastly, running under McCormick place.

Overall, for me, it didn’t live up to the hype of what I have heard about Rock N Roll races.  As I said, it’s a good, solid race, but nothing really stood out that I couldn’t find at another cities half marathon. With that, unless I got a really good deal on race registration (and hotel), I think I would register for another half marathon first. 

My Personal Race

Tina and I ended up staying at a hotel that was only a 15 minute walk from the start line. It was convienent, but man did we pay for that convince. 

I love doing races for BibRave because of getting to hang out with other pros, and these are some of my favorites. Lisa, myself, Frank, and Heather.

My race did not go well and I will spare you all the details, mainly because my splits were not accurate.  I started off feeling alright but as the race went on, the humidity got me and I started falling off pace.  My goal was to run under a 1:30 and I ran a 1:32:05. Disappointed but at the same time, didn’t really care.  About 6-7 miles into the race, it became a training run. 

After I finished, I got a text from Tina that her and Heather (Fellow BibRave Pro) were at Mile 5.  Due to the corrals having their own start, they started about 30 minutes behind me.  I made my way to mile 6 which was just a few blocks away and ran the last 7 miles with them. We had a good time talking and running the last 7 miles. 

At the last Aid Station, we came across Katherine Switzer, the first female to officially finish the Boston Marathon.  Pretty cool to see her volunteering out on the course. 

Tina and I coming into the finish

Post Race pizza on the train ride home.BibRave Pros post race.Tima and I at The Bean


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