*Best time in any given state is used for the 50in100 challenge.
~Estimated based on 13.1 mile course (course was short; actual reported times were 1:46:10 - Mike and 1:46:08 - Kristin).
^Estimated based on Kristin's average pace.
**Ran as official 1:55 pacers.
Muddy Monk Nearly Sane Half Marathon: Due to some logistical issues the week before the race, the course was forced to move from Deer Grove in Palatine to the Des Plaines River Trail at the last minute. We give the race coordinators credit for an efficient change of venue, but were a little disappointed that the course measured about 0.8 mile short. I think a more appropriate name for the race would have been Mud-free Monk Nearly Half Marathon :). It was a nice day for a run and we enjoyed the relaxing run through somewhat shaded forestry and it was great as always to see Nicole Fritz and her friend Tim at the race.
Highlight: Sitting with Nicole and Tim post-race we were talking about the course being short and decided to do something about it! We put down our hotdogs and beers and went for a nice relaxing cool-down 0.8 miles and smiled as we knew we had indeed completed the true distance that morning.
Polar Dash Half Marathon: More like Solar Dash! Looking at the weather we noticed it was supposed to be eerily warm the day of the race, so we signed up the day before at packet pickup. We figured we were planning to do a long run that day anyways, might as well run a half in Chicago. The course is kind of boring and a bit monotonous on the bike trail along the Lake front. I managed to pull out a pretty solid time even if we just planned on it being a long run on a strangely warm day.
Highlight: Post-race we went to breakfast at Yolk (awesome) and then played tourist with a trip to the Fields Museum. It really was a great day, but the race took a back seat to just enjoying our time together in Chicago.
Galena Lead Rush Half Marathon: My, oh, my! This race is tough. Likely the hardest hills we have ever run and oddly enough it was in Illinois. The rolling hills and scenery were impressive, but there is one monster hill around mile 6-7 that is just brutal. When I say brutal, I mean when I looked around every single person was walking up the hill. I somehow dug deep and made it to the top, but had to stop for almost a minute to catch my breath - it felt like my heart was going to explode. Very tough race, but challenging and fun.
Highlight: We had a great crew of YTri friends (Mark, Becki and Matt) which made the weekend a lot of fun. Big congratulations to Matt for his 2nd place overall finish! Not sure how you managed that on this course (and running the first mile with me and Kristin) but impressive!
Moraine Run For the Hills Half Marathon: Gorgeous run that winds through Moraine Hills State park on a crushed limestone bike path on a perfectly crisp fall morning. That pretty much sums it up - this park is awesome and one of our favorite places in Northern Illinois to sneak away for a run. The course was very well organized (it's a wave start where they release ~20 runners every 30 seconds to avoid crowding on the trail) and we had a great time. We look forward to running here again. The course is not super flat, but the scenery is worth a few hills here and there.
Highlight: For the first time in a half marathon, both Kristin and I placed in our age groups! Despite a more challenging course than some we have run in Illinois, Kristin bested her Illinois half time by over a minute and I had a good day and managed to take silver in my age (big thanks to Matty D. for pacing me).
Prairie State Half Marathon: It was a super cold morning, but once the sun came out we warmed up a bit and eventually ditched our hat/ gloves. The course was along the Des Plaines River trail, mostly on a crushed limestone trail. It was a nice day for a Fall run so we just soaked in the scenery and enjoyed chatting with fellow runners. With the Chicago Marathon the following day (we were spectating not running that) it was nice to get out and tire ourselves out a bit so that we didn't try something foolish like running with friends for the entire marathon!
Highlight: Just enjoying the weather, nature and scenery of the Des Plaines River trail. It was a great day to be a runner!
South Holland Half Marathon (2012 & 2013): The good, the bad and the ugly. The good: the course is flat, which allowed Mike to PR by over 8 minutes! The bad: the course is new (2nd year) and it lacked proper signage at several spots, which ultimately led to Kristin missing a turn (she was in podium contention) and DQ'ing herself at the finish. But, being the tough gal she is, Kristin still ran until her watch read 13.5 miles (a bit extra just so there was no question in her mind that she ran a half marathon that morning). The ugly: The town of South Holland has a bad wrap. We both thought the town was nice, the park at the start/finish was gorgeous and most importantly the people were super friendly.
Highlights: The most bittersweet PR I could have imagined. I ran well, but the sense of pride was short-lived when I found out that Kristin had made a wrong turn (we are true running buddies and I really felt her pain, especially given that she was having a very strong race). Also - great to see Nicole Fritz at another race (we met at the Michigan Wine Trail Half).
In 2013, we returned to South Holland and had another great weather day. I tried to run very even splits and even had two other runners pace off of me for a combined 8 miles. Despite having run the race the year before, we learned a tough lesson that apparently water stations are not always a the same place (even they were supposed to be according to the race map). At mile 8 we both planned to time our gel with a water stop and were disappointed that there was no water until around mile 10. I was really pushing myself physically, so I was tired but I was really craving water and a gel earlier in the course. No matter, I can't complain about a PR day! Kristin rocked as usual, but also shared my pain about the lack of a water station at mile 8 (considering that's the point of the course she had made a wrong turn at in 2012). All in all, it was a decent race, but a little anti-climatic.
Highlight: In 2013, two weeks before our 50th state half marathon we randomly received bibs 149 and 150. Seems fitting that we were sandwiched between 49 and 50!
Eggshell Shuffle Half Marathon: We signed up for this race less than a week before the start, because it was local and looked like a lot of fun. We had a beautiful run through Busse Woods Forest Preserve and enjoyed the small course size. We planned to use the race as a "training run" but wound up running our best half marathon times yet in Illinois!
Highlights: Post-race they have a massive adult only Easter Egg Hunt. We were shocked to see thousands of eggs scooped up in a matter of seconds (I think the entire hunt lasted less than 30 seconds) but it was a lot of fun and a great way to cap off the race.
ChiTown Half Marathon: Our first ever attempt at pacing a half marathon went really well! Not only did we have a great time talking with fellow runners and enjoying a pretty relaxing run along the lakefront, but we ran a very consistent pace and finished within 8 seconds of our goal (1:55:08 for the 1:55 pace group)! Matt Dettloff was a road bandit (i.e. ran the course without a bib) and threw down a sick 1:23 - unreal.
Highlights: Helping runners achieve their pace goal by setting an even and consistent pace. The smiles, handshakes and even hugs from fellow runners at the finish line were enough to make us teary eyed.
Oak Brook Half Marathon (2009 & 2010): While most people do not associate hills with Illinois if you run this race you should be prepared for 4 seperate 20%+ grade hills. The course is relatively flat (a few rolling hills) for the first 6 miles and then after entering a compact dirt trail at mile 7 you run about 2 miles on some serious hills. Once you finish with the hills you still have about a 5k left to the finish and both years we have run this race we have been exhausted prior to reaching the finish.
Highlights: Two-fold: running with Neal Sieroslawski during his first half marathon and individually knocking about 10 minutes off our 2009 course finish time (special thanks to Ivana for making the trek out to cheer us on).
Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon: Our favorite half marathon in the Chicago area. The course starts in Grant Park and covers the first 4-5 miles of the Chicago Marathon course through the heart of the city (the only half marathon that runs in the heart of the city). By far the best crowd support through mile 8 of any Rock n Roll race we have run. The GU was late (after mile 10) and the last few miles along the lake could get tight (not a very wide path) but we didn't have any problems. We'll be running this race again.
Highlights: Kristin setting a PR on a farily hot day and qualifying for Corral D at the Chicago Marathon.
Fitness for America Half Marathon (2010 & 2012): One of the very few half marathons in the Chicago area in July as the weater is very unpredictable. And so it was - lightning delayed the start about 25 minutes and it was lightly raining for the first few miles. The course is a bit strange as the first 4 miles are concentric circles around the AT&T business park. Once we finally got on the bike path within the forest preserve (not a closed course, but we didn't see any non-racers) we knew our way as we used this particular stretch to train most of the year. The forest preserve is scenic, but be prepared for the toughest hills the paved bike trail has to offer. While we both finished in under 2 hours, we heard from several runners who finished after we did that the course ran out of water at the 9 and 11 mile markers. Ouch, that is one thing the race coordinator should control. The race is so close to our house that we will likely run it again, but we wouldn't go out of our way for this one.
Highlights: After the light rain we saw literally hundreds of dead frogs along side the road from mile 4 to 6. In 2012, we ran this half marathon one week after completing the Racine Half Ironman - to our surprise our bodies recovered fairly well and we were very excited to run a sub 1:50 time!
Springfield Half Marathon: The weather forecast was poor, but the race ended up starting without any issues. A pretty historic course through Springfield. The course runs through the city, past several historic landmarks and buildings, and through some very nice parks and residential areas. A bit of a rolling course with minimal crowds but a fun race that we would do again. Note - we arrived at the packet pick up 1 hour after it opened and they were already out of small shirts. Disappointing, but eventually corrected by the race coordinator.
Highlights: Running our first half marathon in costume - as Abraham Lincoln and Babe-raham Lincoln. Finding out after the race that the Springfield Half Marathon is the second oldest half marathon in the United States (San Dieguito in California is the oldest).
Des Plaines River Half Marathon: This race started on the grass, moved to a crushed limestone trail, then to a paved bike path, then to a dirt horse path and finally back to a paved bike path. This is not a PR course, and was one of the very few times Kristin looked at me and said "I don't want to be here." The race start was quite cold and while the course was somewhat scenic (around a lake) at the 5k mark you run right past your car which is very tempting in the cold weather. No crowds and all-in-all an ok race.
Highlights: Met up with Warren Dawkins who set a PR on a course with uneven and fairly tough footing. Powered through a race that was more of a mental workout to stay positive than a physical workout to run a good race.
Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon: We ran in the inaugural race and had a good time. The course is not closed (i.e. the narrow bike path is open to runners/walkers/bikers in both directions) which created a few tight spots but overall was fine. The water stations were exactly that - only water. Pleasant run through the forest preserve, but the race coordinators failed to secure port-a-potties for the pre-race. Ok race but it like more of a long training run than a race.
Highlights: Always nice to work off some turkey with a half marathon.
Calumet City Mini Marathon: This is a great race for the price ($20 day-of). We used this race as a pacing run before the 2009 Chicago Marathon and the course is flat and fast (and by my watch about 0.1 miles short). A very small race (~200 runners) but everyone we talked to before, during and after the race was really nice. A tasty little BBQ afterwards for the runners. Worthwhile if you are looking for a small race (water stations consisted of one person with cups of water), are not too concerned about scenery (don't expect much) and want a fun half marathon for a reasonable price.
Highlights: Enjoying a small race with friendly runners and volunteers.
Chicago Half Marathon (2009 & 2013): One of our least favorite half marathon races in Chicago. The course has three major problems - (1) too many turns in the first 4 miles which create log-jams, (2) a very unscenic route along Lake Shore Drive which can get very hot (no shade and the pavement heats up quickly) and (3) you have to arrive about 2 hours before the race to ensure parking at the Science and Industry Museum.
Highlights: Running with our college friend Jeff Platz for his first race in Chicago.
We returned to the Chicago Half Marathon in 2013 after so many of our running friends claimed it was one of their favorite local races. Unfortunately, the humidity was brutal and even though we were pretty well trained and on paper did much better than in 2009, it was still a very tough race and not as enjoyable as we hoped. Not saying we will never be back, but the weather can be an issue, parking is a total pain and running on the concrete just made our bones hurt.
Highlight: Just finishing the race and living to run another day. Our racing experience helped us to keep our expectations in check early, and although the day didn't go according to plan at least we got home in time to watch the Bears win their home opener!
13.1 Chicago: While your first half marathon will always hold a special place in your heart this race is way too crowded (mostly on narrow paths), lacks crowd support, and the course is not very scenic (southside of Chicago). You get bused to the start (logistics were fine) and bused back to your car afterwards which is time consuming.
Highlights: Our first half marathon EVER.
This is our home state, and while there are countless good restaurants and attractions we are doing our best to remain objective and highlighting a few of our favorites.
Eleven City Diner is a diner specializing in deli-style sandwiches and local craft beers. The pastrami and corned beef were both excellent and the cheese fries (fresh Wisconsin cheese) are a must. Located a short walk from Soldier Field (south side of the city) the diner is a bit expensive for lunch but the service and food were both very good.
Nookies is a pretty awesome option for breakfast (especially after the ChiTown half as its only ~0.1 mile walk from the finish). The dixie benedict, biscuits topped with ham, poached eggs and sausage gravy were mouth wateringly tasty and the french toast was out of this world good. It's BYOB, so if there is a bit of a wait, walk down the street and grab some liquor to bring in with you (Treasure Island grocery store is about 2 blocks away).
In Chicago sports are king and each of the major stadiums has a distinctive feel and atmosphere. US Cellular Field (formerly known as Comiskey Park) is home to the sout-side White Sox and provides a great place to enjoy a baseball game. Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, is more famous and much more of a tourist transaction. If you head to Wrigley be prepared to see half of the fans either texting or sitting with their backs to the field talking to friends (much more of a social outing than a baseball game). Solider Field is the place to be any given Sunday for a home Bears game - rain, snow, blizzard or shine. A great and loyal fan base makes a Bears game a must. Last of the major professional stadiums is the United Center which plays host to the Bulls and the Blackhawks. A nice arena inside, but the stadium is not in a nice area so make sure to park in an official lot.
Tips: Most every course in Illinois is fairly flat and fast (except for Galena, see above). Be careful about the month you choose to run as the weather can be fairly unpredictable.
Illinois Half Marathon Medals
June 7, 2009: 13.1 Chicago
September 7, 2009: Oak Brook Half Marathon
September 13, 2009: Chicago Half Marathon
September 20, 2009: Calumet City Mini Marathon
November 28, 2009: Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon
March 27, 2010: Des Plaines River Half Marathon
April 3, 2010: Springfield Half Marathon
July 24, 2010: Fitness for America Half Marathon
August 1, 2010: Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon
September 6, 2010: Oak Brook Half Marathon
April 1, 2012: ChiTown Half Marathon
April 7, 2012: Eggshell Shuffle Half Marathon
July 24, 2012: Fitness for America Half Marathon
October 20, 2012: Moraine Run For the Hills Half Marathon