Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Posted: 10:27 a.m.
By Joe Collins
It is said that when you attend a game at Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field, you cheer for your team with 40,000 of your closest friends.
Now imagine that amount of people running through the streets of Chicago all at once (without the beer and nachos).
This Sunday, up to 40,000 runners are expected to file into Grant Park for the 32nd Shamrock Shuffle, the worlds largest 8K road race. The run begins at 9:00am on Columbus Drive at Monroe. The route snakes through downtown Chicago and ends back on Columbus, just north of Roosevelt Road. For those who are Shamrock Shuffle aficionados, the race represents a marathon atmosphere without the knee-melting aftershocks. For some, its the cherry-on-top for a successful New Years resolution that involved getting in shape. And hey, for others, its just an excuse to put on running shoes and dress up like Lucky The Leprechaun.
I have done many of these races in the past and its truly one of those sporting events that has to be experiencedwhether as a participant or as a spectator. Its kind of like the outbound Dan Ryan during Friday rush hour: some take to the roads to compete, and others are there for the scenery. Theres always a lot of jostling for position. You try to make your moves two or three cars (errpeople) in advance and theres a general disdain for people that talk on their cell phone while driving.
(Random thought: what is the point of talking on the phone while jogging? I never understood why people do this: Hi Mom....hhhhuhhhhhhhh....doing........Shamrock..........Shufffle.....whooooooooo.......huhhhhhhhhhow are you? Are you.....going to.....the mall.....today?)
I am by no means Johnny 8K Expert, nor will I ever be. Too many 4am burrito runs have derailed any serious thoughts about contending for prizes. But I have done enough of these beasts to warrant a list of tips to runners, whether theyre novice or rank amateurs. Such as
Dont unveil new running shoes on the day of the race. Period. Hopefully, you will have broken in your race day shoes weeks in advance. You should always wear shoes and clothes that you feel the most comfortable inand are familiar with (Note: This doesnt apply to participants who don Cookie Monster costumes the day of the race. These people are just in a different league, mentally and physically).
Be sure to eat a little breakfast, but dont overdo it. The race is at 9am, so if you down a granola bar at 7:30 and maybe a bananayou should be in the clear. Nothing says pain like running an 8K (4.97 miles to be exact) with a Rooty Tooty Fresh n Fruity in spin cycle in your stomach.
Make sure to get to the race early. Much like the Chicago Marathon, the lead up to the Shamrock turns Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive into a standstill. If you are coming from outside Chicago, plan on getting off the train or securing a parking spot by no later than 8:15am. Youll need the 45 minutes to stretch and to find your starting corral , which is assigned to you when you register. You wouldnt want to run to the starting lineand then run a five mile race on top of it.
Stay in your race corral and dont try to be a heroat least for the first mile. For instance, if youre a C class runner, dont try to sneak up to the A class. Its not allowed, for one, and the chance of you getting trampled increases tenfold. The runners in the A class mean business. Know your limits. And your pace. After the first mile, the pack will loosen up a bit. And remember, you are timed via microchip from the time you cross the starting line to the time you finish.
Watch the bridgesliterally. You will have to cross the Chicago River four times during your run. And if youve ever set foot on Chicago River bridges downtown, you will know that they have the metal drawbridge gratings toward the center. Watch where you step.
Looking to cut time? Dont get caught on the corners. During the first mile, the route goes north on Columbus, then turns west on Grand Avenue. I have seen so many runners get stuck at this intersection because everyone tries to hug the corners to cut time. Staying to the left at this corner is a natural instinct, but it can add a lot of time to your schedule. Remember: you will be sharing the route with thousands of people! My advice is to make a softer left turn and avoid the stampede by the curb. Ditto at the upcoming intersections: Grand & Rush (just after mile 1), Rush & Hubbard, Hubbard & State and especially State & Jackson (just after mile 2).
Stay hydrated. Even if its 40 degrees on race day.
Dont burn out early. I have seen so many runners get hopped up on adrenaline, leap up and high-five the START sign, and then do Carl Lewis-like sprints for the first half mile. Hey, if that rocks your world, go for it! Just be aware that by mile four you might end up like Clark Griswold in Vacation, when he's hallucinating, trying to run across a desert.
And dont forget to check out the Health & Fitness Expo at Navy Pier this Friday and Saturday. If you're participating, you will need to pick up your race day essentials here: participant packets, bags and Nike Technical T-shirts. For everyone else, its a great chance to check out the latest and greatest in footwear, apparel, nutrition and technology. The expo is open on Friday from 10am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am to 6pm.
For additional information, check out www.shamrockshuffle.com