Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Illinois 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!
I had the fortune of running the Illinois half marathon on April 28th. I say fortune because with my injury history there is no guarantee that I will toe the line for the races I sign up for. :/ Luckily, I made it to this race in one piece..although I was unlucky enough to pick up a cold a few days prior to the race. 🙁
I credit making it to the starting line to my amazing coach Heather! Sh helped me get up my mileage after a stressful job ended, I solidified my new career path, I started two part time jobs, and I missed many runs due to illness the week of the Shamrock Shuffle. 25-30 miles per week is not ideal for half marathon training, but that is MUCH better than my mileage was while I was teaching. Heather made sure all my miles counted and provided me a good base for my further out races (like my 1st marathon in October 😉 ). Despite having a cold, I am happy to say I crossed the line in 1:34:06, good for a 6 minute PR. The highlight of the race weekend, though, was my husband’s massive 26 minute PR in the marathon. He finished in 2:42:57 good enough for a 2019 BQ!
Other race notes:
Expo/Packet pick up: My husband and I encountered wicked Friday late afternoon Chicago traffic and an hour into the trip knew we were not going to make the expo in time. Thank goodness for our friend Mikey (who ran the 10k race) and saved the day! He picked up the packets for us and then delivered them to us at dinner at Biaggi’s.
Parking: Parking was free and easy to find. We were able to leave our hotel, drive, and park in less than 20 minutes. Definitely a huge pro to have a low stress parking situation!
Waiting for the start: It was a little chilly so I wore a “throw” shirt, but everything was easily marked with signs. I made my way seamlessly to coral A. I actually run into fellow BibRave Pro Zenaida on my way to the start line, so that was pretty cool! We chatted, wished each other luck, and took a picture.
Last start line note: there seemed to be enough porta potties and the lines moved quickly. I didn’t use one, but that’s always a pro in my book!
Race course: The course was flat and fast! Perfect course for a PR. It went though campus, nearby neighborhoods, and a park. There were tons of spectators throughout the course, which was a nice morale boost. There were ample aid stations. I only took in water, because I don’t fuel for half marathons, but they also had Gatorade and GUs. I also remember one aid station that offered sliced oranges. I’m not sure how to eat while running (hence one of the many reasons I’m not ready for an ultra. lol), but it was a nice gesture.
The energy toward the finish was unreal! The last mile of the race you made your way toward to finish in the stadium and it was so cool! I was in awe of how beautiful the campus was and excited to be close to the finish. 😛 I can imagine that people who attend/attended University of Illinois for college felt emotional at the finish! I know if I ever return to my alma mater to run the race that finishes on our track that I will get emotional. The stadium finish was hands down my favorite part of the race! 🙂
Post race/after party: At the finish, in the stadium, I was wrapped in a heat sheet, offered water, offered a sports drink, and offered a stretch from the Athletico station. There were also ample opportunities for photos, which I took as I waited anxiously for my husband to finish the marathon. I took some photos with Mikey after his 10k, Kim, Katherine, and alone while I waited. I also got stretched out at the Athletico station which felt awesome on my tight hips and IT band.
Once my husband finished in an astonishing 2:42:57, we took a few more photos with and without the PR bell. The PR bell had received a lot of love at this point and was broken…we took photos anyway, but that is why we are laughing 😛
After the photos we made our way to the post race party to check out the beers and snacks. My husband got a beer and there were a lot of snack options! None of us were hungry at that point yet or we would have eaten something. Mikey and I cooled down and then we all headed back to the hotel so we could all shower before check out and the long drive home.
Swag: Every finisher got a sweet medal (regardless of race) and free finisher photos. For running the half I got a dri-fit long sleeve shirt and my husband got a quarter zip for running the full. Our hotel was super cute and made us little good luck goodie bags as well, but I forgot to snap a picture 🙁
Athlinks: At the Illinois Half Marathon race, I was able to run a new half marathon PR, even with a cold! 🙂 So of course I claimed my shiny new PR on Athlinks. I’ll be sharing a post about what Athlinks is later this month. You can see my claimed results here! Athlinks is an awesome way to track all results for your races. I also use it to figure out what goals I should shoot for my next race by adding myself to the start list. I definitely suggest creating an account and claiming your results too. Share your Athlinks profile link in the comments below and I’ll follow you! 🙂
Overall, it was fun and well organized race! It’s flat and fast which is perfect for obtaining a PR or BQ. I definitely want to return!
Did you run the Illinois half marathon (or a different race distance) this year? If not you really should register for next year! I’m already thinking about it 😉
P.S. check out my Illinois half review on Bibrave. It is a great place to go when you are looking for races to run because you can read about the experiences that other runners had at that race in the past! 🙂