On Saturday January 28th, 2017, I ran the F3 Half Marathon. It was my second time participating in this race and kicked of my 2017 racing season. Like last year, I had an absolute blast with this race and highly recommend it for anyone looking for run at the beginning of the year for a benchmark for spring training.
Packet Pickup and Swag
One of the things that I love about this race is the convenience of packet pickup. Starting the Saturday before the race, Fleet Feet hosts packet pickup at one of their Chicago land stores EACH DAY! PLUS there’s pickup the day OF the race (you have to sign up at registration for that option). This method for pickup is super convenient and really empathetic for participants’ busy lives. Thanks organizers and volunteers!
I also really liked the swag this year. Half zip, what what! The size was a bit small, but they allow you to switch, which is another big plus in my book.
F3 Half Marathon Course
The course was the same out and back as last year. We started right outside of Soldier Field, made a small loop around the stadium, and then headed south on the path until Jackson Park. A little past the 7 mile marker, we made a U-turn around a cone and headed back to Soldier Field.
The aid station volunteers and course marshals are great at this race. Special shoutout to Matt and Dallas for being at Aid Station #2! As far as spectators go, it’s pretty sparse. There are some fans around 31st street because there is a convenient parking lot, but otherwise there isn’t really anyone. November Project had a FABULOUS cheer station right around mile 3, and the EDGE Athlete Lounge was around mile 1.75/12.25. Both groups gave runners a great boost. Other than than, the crowd support comes from the other participants during the out and back portion of the course.
The temperature was colder than last year, but still a great day for running. High of about 30 degrees, slight north wind ~10 mph. Not too shabby for a January day in Chicago! Since the race starts at 10am, I was able to sleep in, enjoy my typical pre-race toast and tea, and leisurely make my way to the start. I took the bus down to the race and happened to find Emro on the way!
Runners waited inside the United Club until literally 5 minutes before race time. I chilled with other members of the EDGE until heading outside to do a small warmup and drills.
The starting line is just outside an entrance to the stadium. Great planning for any inclement weather, but luckily the temperatures weren’t too bad. In the start area, I found lots of friends. I love how many people come out for this race!
I didn’t have much of a race plan going into the race. Currently, I am focusing on ultra marathon training and not necessisarily as much speed work. Last year, I ran 1:30:51, but I didn’t think I was anywhere near that speed. I was thinking I would do around 1:33 – 1:35ish. My goal was more to keep even splits; I figured whatever I averaged for the first half of the race I would just try to maintain that.
F3 Half Marathon Race Highlights
- In the starting corral, Jeremy asked if he could run with me. I said, “Um, hell yeah!!” so we started off together.
- Sometime during mile 1, Jeremy said that his previous PR was around 1:34. My response, “PERFECT! Let’s get you a PR!” We started off trailing the 1:30 pace group, trying to keep them in our sights but going at a slightly slower pace.
- Kept even splits in miles 2-8. Turning north there was a slight headwind. I slowed about 7 seconds per mile, but those splits were still pretty consistent.
- My favorite part about the F3 half marathon is the out and back of the course. When I turned around after mile 7, I passed dozens of friends and runners I knew from various groups. Looking for friends keeps my mind occupied until at least mile 9. I love giving out high-fives and shouts of encouragement.
- Jeremy and I picked up another runner just after the turnaround (above picture). He was starting to slow but asked if he could latch onto us for support. We said of course, and then proceeded to continue saying hi to friends. At one point he said, “How do you know so many people?!” Me, “Uh… I run a lot… and I know people from November Project, The EDGE, Fleet Feet, Clocktower, and just people I’ve met on the path…” It made me laugh. I love the running community.
- At mile 9, Jeremy was feeling great and started to try to catch the 1:30 group. We hadn’t fallen too far off from them. I wanted to keep even splits so I did not push it… and to be honest I don’t think I could have even if I wanted to. I was starting to feel tired.
- Coming back through the NP and EDGE cheer stations was a great mental boost; I knew that once I saw EDGE I was a mile from the finish line and could turn on anything that I had left.
- As I was coming down the final chute, I saw the clock and knew that Jeremy ran a big PR and I was really pleased to see that my time wasn’t much slower than last year’s!
- In the finish line area I had the BEST moment- a participant approached me and said that he enjoyed reading my blog! WHAT?! I nearly exploded with happiness (I jumped in the air and gave him a hug, nothing like breaking social norm barriers and invading personal space).
My finish time was 1:31:08, only 17 seconds slower than last year and enough to get me first place in my age group! I hope that I finish every race with a giant smile on my face. The smile was due to knowing that Jeremy PRd, seeing that I ran better than expected, and overall just having a blast out on the course.
Afterwards I celebrated with some NP folks and EDGE folks (huge shoutout to those who completed their FIRST half marathon!) Nothing says celebrate like a post-race cupcake exchange!
If you can’t tell from my finisher’s photo above, I absolutely love the F3 Half Marathon. You get to spend the day running along the lake, getting high-fives from friends, and enjoying the running community. The energy is unmatched; maybe it’s because it’s the first race of the year? Or it’s because the F3 half is so well organized? Or maybe it’s from the positivity of the volunteers? Who knows. It’s a great race for the start of the year to get a baseline of your current fitness level leading into the spring racing season. If you enjoy half marathons, great organization, and a fun course, I say run it!
Did anyone else run the 2017 F3 Half Marathon? What was your experience? Leave your comments below!