Nike has been doing a series of “unsanctioned” “pop-up” races, leading up to the Chicago Marathon, for at least a couple years now. I’ve always watched them via everyone else’s Instagram posts, not participating because I’m not as fast as I used to be and I always seem to be recovering from some kind of injury or ache or pain or I have a grad school class at the same time. Anywho, I finally participated in one, their last for 2019, the 4×0.5 relay race the Friday before this year’s Chicago Marathon.
I signed up for a team with some November Project Chicago friends – we ended up fielding about 7 relay teams in the women’s, men’s, and co-ed waves.
The event was held at Soldier Field on a Friday night. Fall took its sweet time coming to Chicago this year. And then seemingly turned into winter in a matter of 12 hours. Friday morning started with temps in the 60s and ended with temps around 40. Cool. Cool cool cool. I remember how to dress for this, right?
The easiest way for me to get to Soldier Field is via Divvy, so I dressed for a chilly Divvy ride and assumed my layers would be helpful in the likelihood that this event would be outside.
The race course ended up being a lap around the second level outdoor concourse of Soldier Field, which was roughly a 0.5 mile loop that we would each run once. I showed up around 7pm and got up to the concourse during the first wave – high school girls. They were followed by high school boys, then women, then men, and then I was in the final wave – co-ed – which started around 8:45pm or so. The temp was right around 40-41 degrees, and while we were able to use indoor restrooms, the spectating/waiting area was all outdoors. I was glad I wore so many layers.
Nike gave us all matching singlets to wear, along with arm sleeves color-coded for each relay team. I lucked out and my team had a heathered gray color. Other teams weren’t so lucky (like the team with beige arm sleeves … they have been dubbed the never-nudes).
I was runner number 3 for my team. Each team lined up in order and then they took the runners down to the track area in groups by leg. It was up to us to recognize our teammates – and since we were all wearing black singlets, the arm sleeves were helpful. (We all were also wearing team numbers, which were worn via a giant reflective sticker.)
It was a windy evening. My plan was to run as fast as I could – I assume it would take me under 5 minutes to run my lap, and I can do anything for less than 5 minutes, right? But it was windy. I appreciate that part of our course had really nice nighttime skyline views, but I didn’t appreciate that it felt like most of the course was into the wind or in a windless tunnel (meaning we couldn’t make up for the headwind with a tailwind on the other side).
I ended up running my lap in 4:08, or an 8:16 pace. Not bad for where I’m at and with that headwind. After finishing, I took advantage of the free food (hot dogs, giant soft pretzels, beer). Since I was #3 in the last wave, the event ended a few minutes later, they handed out awards to the winning teams, although since we were all pretty cold, most people started taking off during the awards (sorry not sorry). I walked back to the Divvy station and during my ride home realized the headwind was coming from the west – the direction I was headed. The ride home was much much harder than the race itself, since it was also longer.