It's one of the best pictures I've seen of a race in a long time. I did not take it. And, frankly, the beauty of the picture offers a much warmer feeling than what I was experiencing at that point in Saturday's F^3 Lake Half Marathon. Warmth was not part of it!
Suffice to say, I was pretty happy to finish in one piece. At about the 7 mile mark, I was pretty sure my frozen cheeks were about to fall off. As about 11, when we passed pretty close to the finish line before making 2 mile loop, I gave serious thought to taking a shortcut to the finish line.
It was cold. Check. It was icy. Check. It was windy. Check. Yes, that's what the F3 Lake half marathon is all about. Organizers had to change the course overnight before the race because the high winds created huge snow drifts onto major sections of the lakefront path. Their adjustments maanged to avoid snow drifts, but not big icy spots and a few snowy patches.
But if you're going to run a half marathon in Chicago in January, what do you expect? This is what people sign up for. Some might call us crazy. They might be right.
For some odd reason, I have run pretty good times at this race the last couple years. But as I lined up Saturday, I knew this was not going to be a similar experience. That was confirmed in the first mile, which was run over what seemed like one long stretch of 'black ice'.
Surprisingly, that was the only major icy part of the course. We slogged through snow, and avoided muddy puddles in various areas of the course, but there was not much ice other than in that first mile stretch, which also served as the last mile.
So, the footing was challenging. But the wind was probably a more difficult obstacle. I realized the wind was at my back from about the second mile until we turned around at the halfway point at Oak st. Beach. That meant most of the final half of the race was run into the biting wind. That's when I felt the freeze on my cheeks. Amd that's when I began praying for it to be over!
I gave some half-heated thought to dropping out. But I really couldn't justfiy it. What would be my excuse? That I was cold? Yeah, so were the dozens of volunteers handing out water and cheering on the runners. And really, Saturday was the warmest day in quite a few in our seemingly endless Arctic winter.
It was also the first race of the season for me. I did pin a number on, but I didn't really treat it like a race. More of a survival test. But I really like this event, and the history behind it. In just five years it has gone from a couple dozen friends deciding to run 13.1 miles on the lakefront pathfrom one of their apartments to about 2000 runners wearing timing chips on their numbers, and getting finisher's medals that double as beer bottle openers..
Apparently there are enough crazy people like them (and me) to support a race like this. And after finishing a dozen half marathons last year, It felt pretty familiar to me to jump in another one this month. I don't intend to run 12 of them this year, but I will do several. And this one seems to be a good diversion in an otherwise pretty extreme winter.
My finishing time was pretty irrelevant, but it was under two hours anyway. More importatly, I got out there and finished. And it was fun. I survived without injury, earned a medal that doubles as a bottle opener, and put up a finishing time that I should have no trouble beating later this spring. It was a nice way to start the 2014 season!
See you on the roads.......