Shamrock Shuffle!

I whined in my last post about my allergy type symptoms, which are still here the day afterwards, but I never wrote about the Shamrock Shuffle.  It was AWESOME!  I just loved every single part of it. 

Because I had not been running as far as I used to about a year ago, I have been running (when I do run), 3.1 miles (5k) instead of what I used to run 3 times a week which was 5 miles (an actual 8k like the Shamrock Shuffle), I assigned myself into the very slowest corral - people who thought they could complete the race with at least an average pace of 15 minutes.  If you ran any slower than that, you were told not to register at all on the website.  I normally am a very slow runner, but since I had no idea how I would do on those last two miles, I went ahead and put myself in the slowest corral.  There was a limit of 40,000 runners, and even though the race was yesterday, the registration closed early to mid March because they had that many people register already!  It's that popular!

It took FOREVER for us, the slowest corral, to start, because everyone else had to go before us.  The race started at 9:15, and we stood there until 10:00 waiting our turn!  Mark was not with me.  Because he runs so fast, he was in a completely different area and his run started at a different time - 8:30.  Even his bib was a different color than mine!  He had had to submit the proof of a race with a finishing time to get his assigned corral which was pretty far in the front, and even THEN he was not happy with where he was assigned and wanted to fight it. it was not the FIRST corral, it was the second (out of at least 9 and 40,000 people!).  He is so competitive.

So finally we crossed the "Start" line, which was a big deal after waiting so long and my toes had actually gone numb from waiting so long.  These "slowest runners" started charging past me, running really quickly, and I was like "What the?", but I didn't speed up.  I knew I would need that stamina for the last two miles.

My pace was very steady.  In the beginning it was so congested, but then there was more room and I would pass people, other people would pass me, and then there were the people who couldn't figure out a pace and would pass me, slow down and I would pass them, and that would go on for awhile until they lost momentum and drop behind.

So around mile 2.5, I started noticing a lot of people were getting fatigued and more and more people had stopped running and were walking.  But I hadn't made the rookie mistake like I did at my first race - start out running fast and wearing out halfway through, praying I could just finish!

So around mile 3 or so, it was so amazing!  All of these Chicogoans had come out and lined the streets to cheer us on!  They had cow bells and were shouting encouragement and had signs, it was totally amazing.  There were businesses, and these businesses had been shut down because the streets were closed, that had set up huge speakers and were blaring inspirational rock (and rap?) music - like one of my favorite running songs - Eminem's "Lose Yourself".  That's actually the very first song on my "fitness" playlist - the words and the beat totally motivate me and I'll find I always speed up when I hear it and I forget I'm tired or whatever I'm feeling that's unpleasant.

Around mile 4 or so, MORE people, and now there were several coach-type people with bull horns that were in the streets on the side yelling coach-type sayings of encouragement.  And all of these people that didn't know us, I mean I'm assuming, just clapping and yelling and smiling, it really made me feel good, and I could tell it inspired everyone around me as well.

So, we're getting towards the end and it's down Michigan Avenue.  I was just overwhelmed!  It was packed on either side with people, the whole street, up and down!  Some people who had run at the same time Mark had run (they still had the same color of bib on that he did) holding out their hands for us to slap, I saw someone run beside another in the race who was looking very tired (just for a few feet) shouting encouragement to him to keep him going.  So many examples, way too many to list and even way too many to remember, just that I was really overwhelmed with how awesome Chicago residents can be to each other.  Really?  THAT many people come out to encourage runners, and some had run their race and came back to Michigan Avenue to cheer on other racers?  I realized that I am pretty selfish and I sure could offer encouragement to others because I had no idea how much it meant to someone.  You could say...well sure, there were 40,000 racers, of course there were a lot of people there to watch and cheer their friends and loved ones on.  BUT, we were the very last wave, there couldn't possibly have been THAT MANY PEOPLE to cheer just us on, all of the other racers were already done except for us.  Yes, there were a lot of us, but there's no way there were that many.

When I saw the finish line way in the distance, yes, I was tired, and my first instinct was "whew, I'm almost done...just keep on doing what you're doing".  But then I thought..."I'm almost done, after I pass that finish line, I can rest and I'm going to remember the finish time for the REST OF MY LIFE", because I just do, you just do, you never, ever forget it, and I've seen Mark has never forgotten his time in any race either, so I ran full out, as fast as I could until I crossed the finish line.  I heard the MC comment on it over the loudspeaker and it was embarrassing, but what do you do?  Stop because someone has pointed you out and attention has now been drawn to you?  I just tuned it out, passed the finish line, and started searching for bottled water.  It was table after table of disgusting GATORADE.  Who in the world drinks that sweet, sticky stuff when they are thirsty and dehydrated from running or intense exercise?  I don't get it - they had that on the water stops, too.  I tried it on the first water stop and yuck, I had wished I hadn't.  Finally, after passing maybe 10-15 tables, they had bottled water, and the table was packed with people grabbing them faster than they could get them out of the packages.  I took two.

I finally found Mark, then we found his friends, then my allergies hit and I told Mark I couldn't finish the rest of our plans with his friends for the day.

For some reason they took a ton of pictures of me during the race - they've posted them on their website, but I look horrid!  I had thought I looked cute in my outfit, but I look so freaking fat!  It's further proof that what size you wear is not indicative of how you look.  When Kirstie Alley said she wore a size 6, did she look great?  Absolutely, she looked fabulous and beautiful.  Could you tell she had lost weight?  Most definitely, and an incredible amount that was amazing, inspirational and so hard for most people to do, she must have had an incredible amount of willpower and I'm so impressed.  Did she look like the size 6 she said she wore?  Totally not.  Maybe that is truly what she wore, but in my mind, what I think a size 6 is was not what she looked like.  And that's the case with me as well.  What I saw in those race pictures, that is not the size 6 I was wearing.  I was a big, fat green melon.  Why they took so many pictures of me, I have no idea.  Maybe my lime green shirt stood out, it was festive at the Shamrock Shuffle, and I looked like I would buy a lot of pictures from them.  But I want to erase that I looked like a roly-poly green superball with black chicken legs who looks more like she's power walking than running!

But, I think I did qualify for the next faster running corral for next year, and I had an absolute blast!  If I can figure out this allergy thing, I will DEFINITELY do it next year.  And if anyone lives in the Chicago area and you didn't do the Shamrock Shuffle this year, you TOTALLY have to do it next year!  I'll never forget the experience, it was just totally, totally awesome! : )         


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