I didn’t run the Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon this year. I opted to run the 10K course instead. Regular readers will remember my post from last year where I called out the race organizers for putting together a shoddy event that didn’t consider runner safety in the hot weather. I didn’t want to run the half again and I figured a 10K would be a nice compromise. That way I’d still be able to do the race while also avoiding heatstroke.
Interestingly, a lot has changed over the past year. Competitor Group was recently taken over by its lenders after struggling to repay its loans. The company’s financial issues stem from years of flat or declining attendance at its events. So management is attempting to rebuild the connections it used to have with its participants. This (hopefully) means finally starting to listen to the concerns that we’ve been voicing.
I’m happy to say that this year’s event was much better overall. The race organizers unveiled improved courses and clearly took weather into consideration throughout the entire weekend. They also provided better entertainment.
Race weekend kicked off with a health and fitness expo at McCormick Place on Friday and Saturday. The expo was laid out the same as it has been in previous years:
- Race Number and Packet Pickup at the entrance
- A Rock n Roll Marathon / Brooks Merchandise area
- Four aisles with about 50 vendors selling gear and advertising other races
Saturday morning there was a 5K in Grant Park. I enjoyed this race last year and thought The course was even better this year. Last year’s course:
- Started at Monroe Harbor
- Headed south on the Lakefront Trail
- Did a loop through Grant Park
- Headed back North alongside the lake
- Finished back at Monroe Harbor
This year’s course:
- Started in Grant Park
- Headed North on Columbus Drive
- Turned left on Randolph and headed towards the lakefront
- Headed south on the lakefront path (Mile 2 was the same as Mile 1 from the old course)
- Crossed under the bridge at Roosevelt Road and headed back North along Lake Shore Drive past Buckingham Fountain
- Finished back in Grant Park
While parts of the two courses are almost identical, one of the key differences is that this year’s course provided a lot more shade for runners. This came in handy since temperatures warmed up significantly between the start and finish. Also, with the finish line being in Grant Park, runners didn’t have to cross Lake Shore Drive get to the post race party like they did in previous years. The finisher’s medals had a nice Chicago Theatre theme.
Most importantly, the 2015 Rock n Roll Chicago 5K was the first race my daughter Sara and I ran together. We ran this one together too. It was a nice way to celebrate our running anniversary.
On Sunday morning, the Half Marathon and 10K races start together. Both courses start in Grant Park and head north on Columbus Drive for about a half mile before taking a right turn and heading towards the lake. The two courses split just before the one mile marker. The 10K course heads south on the Lakefront Path while the Half Marathon course heads North. From there:
- The 10K course continues south past the Museum Campus, Soldier Field and McCormick Place.
- Just past mile 3, the course has a turnaround point and heads back North.
- The two courses join back together around mile 4 (10K) / 11 (Half).
- Both courses head through the Lakeside Center tunnel and then head back towards Columbus
- Both finish lines are in Grant Park
This a fun course. And since it started at 6:30am (to avoid the heat), I was across the finish line and drinking beer with my friends by 8. A thunderstorm interrupted our celebration for a short time but we didn’t let it stop us from enjoying the rest of the morning.
The storm also postponed the race for people who were still out running. Race officials directed anyone still on the course to seek shelter for about 25 minutes until the storm passed. I’m not sure if the race organizers stopped the clock or if peoples finishing times suffered. That said though, I got the impression that despite the weather, everyone had a good time.
The 10K and Half Marathon medals are almost identical. They both have an image of the new Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and are the same size and color. The only difference is that the name of the race is etched on the front. Anyone who runs both the 5K on Saturday and either race on Sunday also gets a bonus medal.
Cheers to Competitor Group for making so many improvements. I thought all of the changes were great and I enjoyed this year’s race more than I was expecting to. I’ll be back next year for sure.