Friday, April 11, 2014

bank of america shamrock shuffle 8k

The Shamrock Shuffle 8k was held on Sunday, March 30 in downtown Chicago, with a start and finish in Grant Park. This would be my second time running the race (would have been third, but I was sick last year). My mom and I were in Wave 3, with a start time of 9:15 am. I knew that we would actually start a little later, as there were multiple corrals in each wave, which they let go a few minutes apart from each other. Wave 1, which consisted of Corrals Elite, A, B, C, and D, had an official race time of 8:30 am. Wave 2, which consisted of Corrals E and F, had an official race time of 8:55 am. Wave 3, which consisted of Corrals G, H, J, K and L (me), had an official race time of 9:15 am. Last year there were only 2 waves, so they must have added another one to help with congestion – there were more than 30,000 runners that crossed the finish line this year, and in 2013, it was the world's largest 8K with more than 33,000 runners crossing the finish line (info from emails I received post race). Each wave had a separate Gear Check, which I can't speak from experience, but I imagine helps with keeping shorts lines. The bibs had the timing device, so no need to try and attach anything to our shoes (which I hate having to do haha).

We got to Grant Park around 8:30 am – plenty of time to spare. I'm not one that likes to get to races too early, because I hate waiting around (it builds my anxiety to a level it doesn't need to be at). I've never checked any bags at Gear Check, so I don't need extra time for that. Toilet facilities (read: portable) were located throughout Grant Park near the start and finish areas, so when we jumped in line around 8:45, there wasn't much of a wait. I'm sure part of that is thanks to Wave 1 already having started.

Since I was coming off of being sick (and still had a darn cough), my mom and I decided to do run/walk intervals of 1:2. So we wouldn't get trampled from the start, we lined up at the back of the corral. It ended up being great, as we rarely had to deal with crowds on the roads (when I ran in 2012, there was so much congestion that you could barely pass anyone, and I recall being run into multiple times, even though I started in the correct corral for my speed – D and I were next to each other, elbows touching, that's how close, and people would go between us without an 'excuse me' – it was very frustrating and annoying). Another plus at starting in the back was that we avoided those groups of runners that like to start at the very back and push their way (and I mean PUSH) through the crowds... why don't they start at the front of their assigned corrals? I digress.

It ended up being a beautiful day – it started in the lower 40s with lots of sun, and I think it was upper 40s when we finished. Ya never know what kind of weather you'll get on race day in Chicago – just days earlier the highs were in the 30s and I feel like there was fresh snow on the ground. Anyway, it was a great day for a race in the city.

We crossed the starting line at about 9:39 and took it fairly easy. It was nice to chat with my mom during the race, it made the miles fly by. I really wish I could have run faster, as I had been in training, but it just wasn't in the cards for me. Instead, I enjoyed the weather, the easy run/walk intervals, and the scenery. I made sure to raise my hands when we were about to stop our running and go into walking, as well as making sure no one was behind us, to avoid any run ins. All was well the whole race, which was lovely. 

Marina Towers on State Street

Iconic Chicago Theatre on State Street

The race started going north on Columbus Drive, west on Grand, and then south on State Street. Running down the famed State Street is probably one of the best parts of the race. You get to run by The House of Blues, across the Chicago River, and then by the Chicago Theatre. There were two on-course aid stations that offered Gatorade® Endurance Formula (lemon-lime), water, medical support and toilet facilities (which didn't appear to have any lines, from what I remember). Aid station 1 was at mile 1.8  and then aid station 2 was at mile 3.5. They had plenty of volunteers (over 3,000 for the day - thanks everyone!), which meant there were a lot to hand out the cups. There was no waiting for cups to be filled or to find a volunteer to grab from. As always, I made sure to thank everyone for their time/efforts. I also tried that trick of folding my cup to drink (which I heard The Diet Diva Tara Gidus talk about at the Tinker Bell expo) - - it worked wonders! No spilling on myself while I walked and drank. It's amazing how those small things really make for a better race experience!

From State Street, we headed west on Jackson, north on LaSalle, west on Randolph, south on Franklin (where we ran past the Sears Tower... or I guess I should say Willis, but I never will), then east on Harrison where we passed the mile 4 marker (almost done!), then south on Michigan, east on Roosevelt, and finally, north on Columbus. I never felt too tired or coughy, so when we turned the corner at Columbs towards the Finish Line, my mom and I kicked it into high gear for the last .3 or .4 miles to cross the line with an average pace of under 15 minutes/mile. Obviously nothing to write home about, but for being sick for the previous two weeks, not as horrendous as I would expect. I still managed to beat over 1,000 people, so that's good enough for me this time around ;) Hopefully next year I won't be coming off of illness and able to run it more than walk.

Once we crossed the Finish Line, we headed towards the 'Mariano's Runner Refreshment Area' (sponsored by Mariano's, obviously) and grabbed a bottle of water, a cup of Gatorade, got our picture taken a bunch of times by the photographers stopping us (I won't say no, I feel bad haha), and grabbed our snack bag and bananas. In the plastic grocery bags (so thankful there were bags, as I hate trying to carry it all!) there were pretzels, Sun Chips, and a Belvita cinnamon soft baked breakfast biscuit. There also seemed to be a tent where they were giving away small pieces of pizza, but there were very long lines (it looked like they were waiting for the pizza to come out of the ovens), so I passed.

I wanted to check out the After Party, so headed on over to the hub (Buckingham Fountain). The party was from 9 am – 1:30 pm and featured live music and beverages for purchase. Runners 21 and up had a drink ticket attached to their bib numbers that were redeemable for one Michelob Ultra, and any other drinks were at additional cost. I've never had a Michelob Ultra, so I thought I'd grab one (even though I knew I wouldn't like it, why not try and then know for future reference). It was pretty crowded in the After Party, and took a bit of weaving to get to the drinks, but there were no actual lines, so it was easy to grab. I had done an ID check when we walked in, so I had a wristband in order to make it easy. I really did not like the beer. I had a about a quarter of the cup and then handed it to my mom for a few sips. The rest I used to fertilize the grass. I prefer my beer to have more flavor. There were also some sponsor tents and a food tent (had burgers, wine, and I'm not sure what else). We also found a tent that had some samples of wine - "The Naked Grape" – and if you sampled, you got a grocery bag (the reusable kind) with some goodies, such as a wine glass charm, a button, and some literature. I wasn't paying too much attention to the band, but they seemed pretty good, and were playing some Indie Rock, which makes me happy.

After about a half hour, we decided to head on home. I give this race an A+ - great course with enough waves/corrals to prevent too much congestion (at least from what I could tell. Perhaps others in the earlier corrals had different experiences.),short-sleeve tech-shirt, plenty of bathrooms, not too early of a start time (even for the fast runners), enough refreshments for 30,000+ runners, wonderful expo, and a fun, relaxing After Party. The only thing that would be better is a medal at the Finish Line ;)

Whew. That's finally done. Sorry it took me so long to complete. I think that's my longest blog post yet! I hope it's helpful for anyone interested in the race next year. 

Have you ever run the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago? Or any race in Chicago, for that matter? What race? What were your thoughts?

Editors note: I wrote a review on BibRave for this race, if you're interested in checking it out. 


  1. Glad that you had nice weather and a good race with your mom. I've found that it's the races were I am not the speediest that I have the most fun! I just did a race with my mom last weekend.
    That really stinks that a large-ish race like that does not provide race medals. I have been surprised lately about the amount of races that I've been reading about that either don't provide finisher medals or they want to charge extra for them. That's just nonsense!

  2. Thanks, me too! It's nice to have special mother/daughter time, isn't it? I didn't mind too much about the medal – I knew beforehand there wouldn't be one, and I tend to only expect them for half marathons and 10ks, though I would love them at every race haha. When I started doing races, they were 5ks, so I guess I'm accustomed to not getting a medal for the shorter distances. Don't get me wrong – I love the races that hand them out, and now tend to choose races based on their shirt and medal distribution haha.

    Any races for you gals this weekend?


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