Wednesday, June 8, 2016

united relay of america: group stage 318 recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for the United Relay of America to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Richard, Mandie, Laura, me.

I wrote a post a while back about joining the United Relay of America, what it was all about, which you can read here. In short, it was a three route, non-stop relay from three different cities on the west coast, all which ended in NYC. It was the first of its kind, and I am honored to say I was a part of it. You can read my shorter review of my leg of the relay (which was the group stage in Chicago) over on

Orange was required... so might as well go ALL out orange, right? :)

The Group Stage was taking place at Lakeshore East, and since it was a group stage, it looped back to end in the same place, to make it easier for a large group to run together and be a part of history in the making. It was scheduled to begin at 7:15am on Tuesday, May 24. We had received an email approximately a week out with the route information, meeting/start time, etc. All of the regular stages/legs of the relay were to maintain an 11 minute mile pace. This made me nervous, because 12:30 is usually the best I can manage. However, for the group stage, they allotted an hour time limit — I think this was to encourage other runners and walkers to join in on the fun.

The hand off from Stage 317 to 318. Photo courtesy of Richard.

I believe it cost $50 to run a regular stage and $25 for the group stage. With that came a free t-shirt (plus $5 shipping) — they sent a code via email so you could go pick it out. The free shirt was the cotton, but they also were selling tech shirts and sweatshirts. Though blue is my favorite color, I chose to stick with representing my Red Route with the red shirt. I got my free one and also purchased a tech shirt to run in so I could help spread the word. With registration they requested you choose the charity you'd like to fundraise for. Fundraising had no minimum requirement and wasn't something everyone HAD to do, but there were so many great charity options, putting it out there that you were raising money for them didn't do any harm.

Stage 318 getting ready to run! Photo courtesy of Richard.

Run Laura, run!

Running along the lakefront with Laura and Richard.

I pre-purchased my parking in a nearby lot the night before, since being a workday, I figured parking could be messy. Sure, it's plentiful in the Millenium Park lots, but it also costs $30–40. No thanks. I scored parking about .5 away for $15.

Erica and myself.

I knew driving into the city would be a bit of a mess, but I left my house at 5:45 thinking I'd have plenty of time. Wrong. So. much. traffic. The time on Google maps directions kept increasing. I might be late. Luckily, I parked and made it over there with 5 minutes to spare. Weather was beautiful It was a clear day (sunny) in Chicago and about 70 degrees. It was pretty warm when running, but I don't think we could have asked for much better at the end of May.

Yay! I got to carry the baton! 

When I got there, I met Laura, who had come in the day before to help with the crew, and Richard, who had been crewing since the start of the Red Route in Seattle. The runner of the previous stage was just getting in, but it turned out that another runner had contacted Richard and was going to be late. They had some cycling stages coming up, so Richard asked if I was rushed for time and if it was ok to wait for everyone before starting. I was working from home that day, so though I did need to get back eventually, I wasn't too pressed for time.

At Buckingham Fountain.

Richard and I talked a bit while waiting for everyone, and eventually a large pack met up with us. It included Mandie (the runner of stage 317 which was 11 miles), Laura, Josh, his parents, and Erica. We all said hellos, took some photos, chatted briefly, and figured out who was running with who. It's always so funny talking with other runners – you might recognize them, but have to ask what their blog is or what their social media handles are and then it's, 'Ohhh I follow you already!' haha. Erica and Josh were fast, so they took the baton and were off. Mandie and Laura agreed to do run/walk intervals with me and go slower. I told them they didn't have to run with me and to go their own speed, since I knew my way, but they were so sweet and refused to go on their own.

Richard, Mandie, Laura, me, Erica.

About .25 of a mile in, Richard joined us for the remainder of the run. We all chatted and got to know one another, and took a bunch of photos. Sometimes we stopped to get a nice Lakefront image, other times we all took turns taking photos while running. It was such a fun, laid back group. 

The United Relay Red Route baton in Chicago. Courtesy photo of
Erica, Josh, and/or Richard. Not sure who took it, but it's Josh's hand haha.

Instead of following the route that had been created, we kind of just ran where we pleased. It was originally from Lakeshore East Park East, down Lake Shore Drive (sidewalk), around the Shedd Aquarium, and then coming back down on the Path. We decided to go down in the shade on the path in the middle, then we met Josh on the north side of the Aquarium, we grabbed the baton from him, and then we proceeded to take the 'path' that's down right on the Lake to the end of the Aquarium. At the part that ended, instead of heading east down it, we found a walk through in the fence on the upper part near the street going towards the Planetarium, walked to the other part of the path, and took that back. We then met up again with Josh and his parents (his parents had walked to the Shedd and then they stopped to wait for us), walked over to Buckingham Fountain for photos, and then we all walked back to the start together. It ended up being about 3.58 miles. The route is a little weird to explain with all the different Lake Front Paths in the area, but here's my Garmin map if it helps. We all took turns with the baton.

United Relay of America Group Stage 318
of Red Route – my Garmin Watch map.

It was such a great time getting to talk to fellow runners, who may have started out as strangers, but quickly felt like old friends. It's part of the reason I love the running community — everyone is SO friendly, supportive, kind, and enthusiastic about the sport. We of course all exchanged social media handles to make sure we were following each other and then I may have friended them on Facebook when I got home. With 'normal' people that might seem weird, but I don't think runners think anything of it. You meet once and you're pals instantly.

Red Route Stage 318 on the Lake Front Path. Photo courtesy of Laura/Richard.

When we made it back to the park, we all gave hugs and good lucks to everyone continuing on. Josh was taking the next relay leg (he had already done a few a day or two earlier) and Richard was biking alongside him. I met Ben, the other Red Route crew member, who had taken the hour or so to take a quick nap. Mad props to all of the crew members for all three routes. I don't know how they made it through all of those weeks with barely any sleep, and still continued to be so pleasant. Fantastic.

Mandie, Laura, me. Towards the end of our journey. SO MUCH FUN!

Being the first year for United Relay of America there were a few hiccups I'm sure – originally it started out as running only, but when so many of the stages weren't filling up, they included cycling as well. Hopefully through good word of mouth, more runners will register. I really enjoyed my time, and hope that when next year rolls around I can manage the time to run more legs, but I'd definitely want to participate in the group stage, too. I hope you'll look into next year and join in. You'll make some great new friends and have a lot of fun.

The hand off from Stage 318 to Stage 319. Josh's parents to Josh. They were so cute.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like such a fun event. And even scored a great deal on parking, even better!


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