Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Bank of America Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 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!
I have done many races now in Chicago over the past 3-4 years, but there has only been one race in Chicago that has been bigger than the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle. This year was the 40th running of this 8k event and it is called the “kickoff to the outdoor racing season.” Funny thing is, I didn’t know that the outdoor racing season ever ended. Anyways, there were over 20,000 runners there to compete in the 8K or 2 mile walk.
The 8k and 2 mile walk took place on two very different courses. The 8k was run through the streets of downtown Chicago, while the 2 mile walk was along the lake shore primarily. Race day weather was perfect. Temps were in the low to mid 40’s with very little wind, and the foretasted rain showers held off for the morning. Tina and I had planned on having someone pick up our bibs for us from the expo on Saturday and we would just drive up on Sunday morning for the race. We were fortunate enough to find a hotel room at about half price a couple of days before the race, and the hotel was only a couple of blocks away from Grant Park where the race starts and finishes. To save even more money on Parking, we took the South Shore train from Indiana Dunes to McCormick place where the expo was held. We relied on the city bus then to get us to the hotel from the expo.
As mentioned above, the expo was held at McCormick place. This is common for bigger races in Chicago but still some what of an inconvenient as it is not centrally located in Chicago and is away from down town. Also making matters worse, there was Comic Con going on in McCormick place so this made parking a nightmare. Thank goodness we did not drive.
The expo wasn’t too large, and when we got there, it wasn’t too busy. When you go in, you go to the left side of the room to get your bib first, then you have to go a crossed the room to the other side to get your shirt and hat. I am not sure why races make you do this all the time now. They need to start making this process easier on the runner and just have the bibs and shirts together in one location. There really is no need to separate these two things.
We did look around the expo some but really wasn’t much that we were interested in. I did stop by the Fort2Base table and introduce myself in person since I am one of their ambassadors for this years race. One thing I was surprised by was that there was none of the official race merchandise for sale. Nike is the official sponsor of the race, however, none of the official Nike race gear was at the expo. In order to get the Nike gear, you had to go to the Nike store, Fleet Feet, or wait until the post race party.
Race was held on March 26th. The start/finish line was located in Grant Park. It is the same start/finish lines as the Chicago Marathon. The park offers a wide space for gear check, after party, and long stretches of streets for starting corrals as well as for post race needs.
Prior to the race, a runners handbook was emailed to all registered runners which included all information that runners would need including maps of the course and start/finish area. Clearly marked on the map was where gear checks were located. taking gear to gear check was easy and fast.
To get into your starting corral, you had to be able to show your bib to get in. Each bib was clearly marked with what corral you were to start in. You could move back corrals if you would like but you could not move forward. Corrals were vary spacious and far from crowded. Maybe this is also because I was in the very back and not in a hurry to move forward.
Corral A started promptly at 8:30 and went off very smoothly. The course follows part of the marathon course especially for the first mile or so. And just like the marathon is very flat until the very end when you turn onto Roosevelt. There were 2 aid stations on the course, both announced to have water and Gatorade. I did notice at the second aid station that there wasn’t any Gatorade but I could smell it. There was also no water and volunteers were scrambling to get water bottles off a truck to poor cups of water. My guess is that the water they originally used was contaminated some how and had to dump the water and Gatorade that was poured out. Luckily it was a cooler day and if you missed the second aid station, it wasn’t a big deal.
There were spots along the course that had more crowd support than others. There was a lot of dead, quiet areas along the course and it felt odd running in a huge city and somewhat feeling like you were alone. But it was still awesome to have the streets shut down for the race.
After crossing the finish line, you walk for a little ways until you get some water and food. Food consisted of granola bars, apple sauce, bananas, and peanuts. The bad thing was that there were no bags to put all this stuff in and it was hard to carry. I believe Chicago has a ban on plastic bags, or you have to pay 7 cents per bag if you want one. Further down the line, you got your finishers medal.
There was also a post race party around Buckingham fountain. There you can redeem your beer ticket and catch up with friends. There was also live music. My favorite thing was that one of the sponsors of the race were giving out mugs of hot chocolate. The mug was free as well so it was nice to have something else to take home from the race.
The Shamrock Shuffle was a very well run/organized race. There were no issues on the course or at the post race party that I could see other than the Gatorade issue. For it being an 8k, I really did enjoy this race and the environment. It would have been nice to have more people along the course, but compared to other races I have ran, there were a lot of people out there still. It was great to also meet a few BibRave Pro’s that I had not met yet as well as see several friends that I had not seen in a while. I would say there is a good chance that I will come back and run this race again in 2020.