Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spectating ain't easy

We've already established how much I love the city of Chicago, and I was determined to run a race there this fall. One of my girlfriends suggested we run the Hot Chocolate 15k, and I was in. This idea was perfect - a girls' weekend in Chicago with a 9 mile run thrown in. The race gear includes a jacket, and the post-race party includes hot chocolate and fondue. Yes, please.

Posing at the expo with random person in a costume. I think it's an eagle?
Unfortunately my surgery saga prevented me from doing the race. I initially intended to run the 5k, but I am still on running prohibition for another week. This mean I got to be a spectator for the first time ever. My husband is always a faithful and vigilant spectator for my races, so I vowed to do the same for my friend. 

Here I am playing the role of spectator before the race

Race day was gorgeous. I was infinitely envious that I wasn't running, but even I know my limits. There were thousands of runners in downtown Chicago. The excitement was palpable. We stayed at the Congress Hotel right near the start at Grant Park. This is one of the biggest races I've ever seen - certainly the biggest for a distance less than 13.1.  

5k runners waiting at the start
After the start I decided one of the best reasons to not run was the ability to head to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee. Unfortunately I discovered the 5k ran right in front of Dunkin' Donuts. Foiled! Instead I decided to hold off on caffeine to cheer on the runners. I have to say for as many spectators as there were on the course, there was very little cheering. I was even chastised at one point because someone's baby was sleeping. Really?!? It's a race! I know from experience that cheering helps runners. 

5k runners between me and coffee deliciousness
One of the strangest things that happened during the 5k was a guy who decided to leave his parking garage and drive through the runners to get wherever he so desperately needed to be. An irate spectator ran through the race to stop the guy and an argument ensued. It was SO dangerous that he pulled out into the throng of thousands of runners.

I did a lot of back and forth during the race cheering on runners and trying to find my runner. I have a new appreciate for my husband. He always manages to get the perfect photo of me during the race and finishing. It can't be easy. 

Because I had picked up my bib and packet, I had a ticket for the post race treats. I did enjoy some of the fondue. It was awesome. I didn't run, so it's less of an issue, but I'll admit I'd rather have a medal than chocolate. Clearly I get that's part of the deal, but for future reference I'd choose a medal over chocolate.

My bib that I didn't get to wear. It did, however, get me some fondue.
Following the race we did my favorite thing to do in Chicago - shopping. Michigan Avenue has some fantastic shops, and we hit the shops hard.  We also had meals at some fantastic restaurants including Rhapsody and Park Grill in Millennium Park.   

I've blogged before about running in Chicago and how much I love that town. This time, however, we spent some time wandering around in Millennium Park. Chicago uses green space masterfully.  Even on a Sunday morning as we wandered around the park there were lots of people taking photos and enjoying a beautiful fall morning.  I've often heard people say that if a city is trying to cut money they should just cut parks. Chicago is a perfect example of how wrong that logic is. Their parks are vibrant places that attract people. They are critical to what makes Chicago wonderful.

Posing with the bean in Millennium Park
We travel a lot, and Chicago still tops my list of favorite cities. It checks all the boxes for what makes a great place. I guess since I didn't get to run this race I'll just have to sign up for another Chicago race later. Any excuse to continue this love affair...

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