It's become a spring tradition. I know the Shamrock Shuffle is the unofficial start of the running season. And over the last few years I have been focused on spring marathons which have been in April. But for the guys I run with, Soldier Field is the focus race every year.
It's got everything you could want. The field is a manageable size. There were 10,000 runners, but they used corrals to separate them, so it never got too crowded on the course. And the course itself is flat and scenic. It includes running on Lake Shore Drive and the running path along the lake. And it ends on the fifty yard line inside the stadium, a place most of us would never otherwise have a chance to set foot on.
This was the seventh running of the Soldier Field race, which was the brainchild of my friend from Fleet Feet Sports, Dave Zimmer. I've run every one of them. But as I woke early Saturday morning to get ready to leave, I was actually a little disappointed that I was running, rather than getting to watch the kids race. I brought my two oldest daughters out for the "kids blitz", a fifty yard sprint on the field. It starts after the 10 mile is underway, so I've never seen it before.
My friend, and training partner, Rick Staback felt the same way. He wanted to see his grandson run also. But that's what cameras are for I guess. My wife managed to get a good shot of our daughter, Tessa, crossing the line. By that time, I was already into my third mile of the race.
And I was feeling good. Rick, my friend Tom, and I all have run every year in this race, but this year was probably the most unique for us. Tom is still getting back in peak shape after recovering from a torn achilles tendon a while back. Unfortunately, he suffered another setback the week of the race, and ended up pulling out of the race about three miles in. Rick has battled a series of injuries for several years, but is back strong this season. He's been training like a mad man, and running times that he used to run 15 years ago. He was focused on this race. But he too was suffering in the days before. He got the flu, and spent the previous couple days in bed.
But he made it out to the starting line. He says he started going, and before he knew it, he was flying along at 6:20/mile pace. He was unable to sustain that over the second half of the race, but he still ended up running 1:06, and winning his age group easily.
As for me, I had a couple of objectives. The first was to redeem myself from my slow Wisconsin marathon a few weeks ago. I wanted to make sure I gave a strong effort, and left nothing in the tank at the end. I also hoped to run under 1:10, which would match my best time in the race a couple years ago. Like Rick, I started the race, moving easily at just under 7:00/mile pace. I was right on that until about the 5th or 6th mile, when I fell off it a little. I finished in 1:11 and change. It wasn't complete redemption, but I can live with it! And thanks to Tom's wife Colette for taking some of the pictures. She got the shot of me finishing, when my parents, wife, and kids were outside the stadium playing. They had no interest in watching Dad finish a race. I don't blame them!
After it was over, we kept our tradition of going to breakfast, and taking a picture of the runners at the end of the morning. But this time we had a few more than usual. That's right, the kids stole the show again!
If you are interested in seeing the complete race results, there's a link below. There were some fast times, and some really great runners out there. The race gets bigger and better every year.
See you on the roads.....