“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10 mile race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Saturday May 23, 2015. Chicago, IL. 7 am (corral / wave start) 55-60 degrees, sunny.
Registration: Available online, starting around $70, increasing to $90 near race day. You could also register at various packet pick up locations, until race was sold out. A $20 Fleet Feet gift card was incentive in the later days of registration. Included with registration was a Nike, gender specific tech tee, bib with timing chip, post race tailgate party with a beer. There was also a Kids Blitz.
Expo / Packet Pickup: No traditional expo. Many packet pick up times. A week before the race pickups were held at Fleet Feet stores in the suburbs. The week of the race you could pick up your stuff starting on Tuesday, daily through Friday at the Fleet Feet in Old Town. You could chose will call pick up for race day options. A friend could also grab your things if they had the confirmation email.
I was happy that Pro Heather could get our things for us. My one and only FF pickup was a nightmare. For those who don’t live in the city, but come into town on Friday it’s a pain in the butt to get through traffic and find a place to park. It was also nice to have the will call option.
Pre-race: As the race is centered around Soldier Field, you get all the amenities that come with the location. Gear check was indoors, but it seemed backwards as the lowers numbers (first starting corrals) had to walk the furthest to drop off their bags. Clear bags were provided when you picked up your packet. The bathroom facilities were also open. Parking was free in the stadium too, and the nearby lot (however the south lot closed early)
The official race start is at 7 am, but there are 3 waves with 15 corrals. The pre-race time can really stretch out. However the entrance to the corrals is near the post race tailgate area, making it easy to meet up with friends and hang out before you need to head to the corrals. The corrals did close at a certain time, I saw many who did not make it into their corrals, and they weren’t letting them through.
The volunteers also did a great job of making sure people were in the correct corral. Nothing worse than someone thinking they are faster than they are, only to stop in front of you a mile into the race. This is a huge pet peeve, most races are chip timed anyway, so start in your corral or a slower one..
The pre race announcements were over a loud speaker that could be heard throughout the area. A version of taps was played followed by the National Anthem.
Course / Race: The race was on the streets and lake front path, heading south, then turning back around into the city.
- Flat, some bridges, but nothing steep
- paved, potholes
- section through McCormick place, dark and lots of potholes, had to be alert
- crowded start, even though started on street, didn’t thin out til Lake Shore Dr
- miles marked with signs and a time clock
- Hydration stations with lemon lime Gatorade and water, each in different colored paper cups
- no food or gel on course
- street portions were closed to traffic, lake from path had recreational use (bikes, walkers, runners)
- lake front path had trail / gravel to run on in sections
- Marathonfoto on course
- Not many spectators, but TNT coaches were along the course
- Lots of volunteers
- course well marked, even the turn around on the grass.
- Finish on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field
Post Race / Finish: The big draw for this race is running into the bellows of Soldier Field, then crossing the north end zone to finish on the 50 yard line, what an experience. The stadium feels huge from the field. After you cross the finish line, marked well with a clock and arch, a uniformed service member hands you your finisher’s medal.
The finisher’s chute and overall area is in the south end zone, while it’s encouraged you move along to the tailgate party, it is ok to snap a few photos as you collect a bottle of water. Most spectators of the race can observe the finish in the stands.
Once you proceed off off the field and through a tunnel, you are given the option to chose a cup of Gatorade. There is no re-entry into the stadium, must decide if you want to watch finishers or go to post race party. There were service members available for a photo. Also on the way out was gear check, to pick up your bags.
Soldier Field takes a lot of real estate, and to exit the stadium they took advantage, it seemed forever to get to the right door. Once outside the stadium, finishers were handed a reusable bag, pre-filled with snacks, easy to carry all the things.. There were a few vendors with samples on the walk to the tailgate party, Dunkin Donuts, Naked Juice, etc.
Tailgate Party: The party had a lot to offer, there was a live band. Lots of freebies, Clif bar, picture opportunities, post race massage. You could also redeem your beer ticket on your bib for a 312 in a can, while it wasn’t that cold and was already open, it’s nice to have a beer that doesn’t taste like water. There were no chairs, but you could sit in the grass, shade was available.
The results were already posted the next day, and MarathonFoto had pictures posted in 2 days.
Overall: This race is well organized, the finish on the 50 is awesome, and the tailgate party is fun for all, The price is a bit steep, but a flat course and scenes along the lake make it a fun race to start summer.
Personal: Josh and I made the trip to Chicago on Friday. We stayed, what we thought was walking distance to the race (a mile away) We love to visit Chicago, there is always so much to do, see and eat!
We finally had the chance to eat at Lou Malnati’s, it was delicious, and it wasn’t too far a walk from the hotel.
We woke up early, and walked to the start, where we were to meet Heather with our bibs, and other Bibrave Pros. In the mean time I realized I had forgot my watch, it was still plugged in at the hotel..
It was nice to catch up with all the pros and snap some photos, as Heather was stuck in traffic. It was getting dicey as Josh needed to be in his corral first, but there she was, she’s the best!
It was time for me to head to my corral, number 9. It was the first one in the second wave. I think we started at about 7:30. It was sooo crowded, all the people forced me to start slow, which is a good thing. It seemed like it took forever to thin out. I think the thing I disliked the most is the McCormick Tunnel, I am not sure how someone doesn’t get hurt, or why they don’t add some light.
In general the course is kinda boring until you turn around and run on the lake shore path. You are just headed south on the road, no one cheering. I was finally able to find my pace, without my watch I was watching the clocks on each mile poster, I was keeping good time.
I enjoyed the patches of trail/gravel along the lake shore path. I am battling a shin splint, so nice to have a softer surface.
When we got back to Soldier Field, it was awesome to turn the corner and run onto the field. I am not a huge Chicago Bears fan, but it was awesome to see the stadium from a different view point, the service member handing out medals is an awesome touch.
Josh and I positioned ourselves at the post race party so we could watch finishers at the 9.6 mile mark. This race is great, even though the course is technically closed after a certain time, the path and sidewalks the last few miles allow everyone to finish. We watched as the last guy, maybe 80 + finished. There was even time for him to enjoy the post race party. Where we were eventually kicked out as they closed up.
I felt great. this is a new race distance for me. I bested my time from the Hot Dash 10 miler back in March, a race where it felt like I had to fight for my pace. Official time 1:37:18
I would run this race again, but it does cost a lot for us. Especially with the travel and a hotel in Chicago.
After the race, Josh and I did some more walking, back to the hotel, another mile. Then went to Garrett’s popcorn, had a Five Guys burger, then picked up some new to us snacks at Trader Joe’s. It was a quick, yet fun trip.