On Saturday I ran in the Big10k race. It was my 4th time running the Big10k; I’ve run it every year since the inaugural run in 2012. It was my first time running in the Elite Corral (what a laugh), and although I was having trouble mentally dialing into racing mode, I ran faster than last year.
Packet pickup for the Big10k was in the back room of Fleet Feet in Old Town. Last year the lines were SO LONG and it took me over an hour to get everything (granted I did go at 6pm). This year, I made sure to go mid-morning before the lunch rush and definitely before the post-work rush. It was so much easier! I got my bib, shirt and pins within 10 minutes. If needed, you could have had someone else pick up you packet if they had your confirmation email.
I’ve done the race each year, and this was the first year we started in Grant Park. Previously, we had started outside of Soldier Field and ran south. However this year, we began on the corner of Monroe and Columbus, the same place the Chicago Marathon begins.
We exited Grant Park and went east towards the lake to the on-ramp to Lower Lake Shore Drive. Immediately we turned onto Lower Wacker, crossing mile 1. From there, we ran to Columbus and headed south past the start line. Shortly after mile 2, the course made two quick turns onto Congress and then Michigan. At Roosevelt, we turned east and ran onto the path, entering it at mile 3 of the race. We went by the Field Museum and then north on the path next to the boats, passing an aid station just after mile 4. The course made a U-turn at the Yacht Club winding south along the path next to the road. Finally, we turned and ran under the bridge by Museum Campus to take us back into Grant Park and crossed the finish line on Columbus.
Since we were running along the Lakefront Path, which stays open to the public during races, we did encounter some bikes and marathon training groups along the course. The congestion wasn’t too bad though, probabaly because most cyclists and runners knew to avoid the area during a race.
Race Day and Warm-up
The Big10k started at 7 am (5k started at 8am). I woke up around 5, had my typical pre-run toast with peanut butter, bananas and strawberries, with a tall glass of black tea, and caught the bus at 5:45. I arrived by 6:30, plenty of time to get in a good warmup.
It was about 75 degrees out, bright and sunny, a slight north wind ~5-10 mph, and relatively low humidity given what we have been experiencing in Chicago lately! Overall, the weather seemed like it would be favorable for a good race.
After doing a mile warm-up, drills, and 6 strides, I headed to the start line. I was in the Elite Corral this year, my first time being in that corral.
….One of these things is not like the other…
Seriously, I felt so out-of-place. I showed up in Wisconsin gear, the majority of the other runners in the corral were in their club’s racing gear, or some other serious looking racing kit. The school mascots were there too, goofing around like usual. Bucky went over to one runner who was stretching her quad and began to mimic her. She gave him a look of daggers and you could just read her mind, “Get away from me I’m trying to focus.” Whereas I was like, “Hey Bucky! You’re the best!” and laughing at his antics.
Being in the Elite corral meant that we could do strides and use the area in front of the start line to warmup. Right before the National Anthem, the other elite corral runners and I finished our warmup routines. Then we went back to the corral to listen to the Anthem. As soon as it finished, all the runners in the corral took off sprinting. I thought, “Oh, shit we’re going! I guess we have an earlier start time than everyone else?!?” So I started my watch and began running…
…. only to see everyone slow down after 50 yards. “Wait, did someone false start?”
And then it dawned on me that everyone was just doing one last stride out. Whoops. Like I said, I was so out-of-place.
When the actual gun went off and the race started, they let the elite corral and corral A go off together. The start was a bit crowded as everyone sprinted off, but soon it thinned out. Running up the ramp onto LSD almost immediately into the race was a bit tough, but it’s not that long. With all the adrenaline pumping (a lot due to the false start/stride), I ran the first mile in 6:19.
They sent the rest of the corrals off in 3 minute increments, so when we passed the start line on our way towards mile 2, there was a lot of crowd support. However, that quickly faded once we made our way to Michigan Ave. By the time I reached mile three, my pace had slowed to 6:33 and 6:34. I was finding it hard to mentally lock into racing mode.
Running north along the path was hotter than I anticipated, so I was glad to reach the aid station just after mile 4. My pace had again slowed down, clocked in at 6:46 for that mile. I had to remind myself that I was in a race and not out for some old tempo workout, but my brain was having a hard time communicating that to my legs.
When I turned at the Yacht Club, I saw the 8-minute Clocktower pace group out for their normal Saturday run. As I approached them I shouted greetings and then asked them how they were doing as I passed. Again, that kind of shows how out of a race mode I was in; I shouldn’t have been able to have a conversation like that during a 10k race! Mile 5 was 6:50. Determined to run faster in the last mile, I gritted my teeth, leaned forward from the ankles, and was able to improve to 6:45.
My final time was 41:05. I finished 14th female overall, and 6th in my age group. Overall, I am satisfied with the time. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, and I just wanted to get a race in since the last race I had done was a DNF in May. The race also gave me a goal to work on: improve my mental racing strategies! Shortly after crossing the finish line I found Mike, who had a pretty solid race!
Big10K Fan Fest
After crossing the finish line, the chute directs runners into the Fan Fest. In the Fan Fest, you can get beer, food, compete in some activities, and take pictures with the school mascots. Each school also has its own tent where you can take pictures with a trophy from your school. Each year I’ve gotten a picture with the Axe!
Aside from the school tents and opportunity to get pictures with the mascots, the Fan Fest is pretty disappointing in my opinion. I’ve found it generally more enjoyable to go elsewhere to celebrate because the lines for beer get super long and the space is too small given the number of participants. Yes, the atmosphere is energetic, makes me miss college and fires me up for the start of football season, but those are not enough to outweigh the cons.
The Big10k Swag
They always model the shirt off of a football jersey, which I really like. I get double use out of them as a running shirt and as a shirt to wear when I go out to watch the Badger football games. On Wisconsin! This year’s shirt looked almost identical to last year’s, just with larger writing on the front, and smaller writing on the back. In the pictures below, this year’s shirt is on the left, the 2015 shirt is on the right:
In the Axe picture, I’m sporting the school-specific sunglasses you could get at your school’s tent in the Fan Fest. The ribbon for the finisher medal this year was also different depending on your school. I liked that they personalized it, and was very surprised by the size of the actual medal. The size of my hand! It wouldn’t fit in my pocket for me to run home, so I had to give it to Mike to pick up later.
This was my 4th year running the Big10k, and after every time I tell myself that I won’t run it again. The cost is pretty expensive for a 10k ($50), and the size has almost quadrupled since the inaugural year. The new course isn’t anything spectacular. Even though the race makes me nostalgic for college, and the atmosphere is fun and exciting, I’m not sure if that experience is worth the price. I love the Badgers, and I love supporting my school, but I think there are better races to choose from. But, of course I say that and will probably be roped into running it again next year… On Wisconsin!
Did anyone else race the Big10k this year or in previous years? What was your experience like? Share below!