The weekend's agenda? Run the Half I-Challenge. This consists of the Illinois 5K on Friday night, and the Illinois Half Marathon on Saturday morning. Total race schwag to be earned? Two race shirts and three medals.
|Bring it on!!!|
Let's talk first about pre-weekend prep and the 5K portion of the I-Challenge. I'll cover the half marathon in another post.
On Friday morning, I was up early to spend obscene amounts of time deliberating what clothing/gear to pack for the two-race weekend. The forecasted race-time temperatures ranged from low 50s to the mid-60s, and temps in the 50s are my tipping point between wearing shorts or capris. I considered bringing different pairs of running shoes to wear for the 5K and the half marathon. I also wanted to wear something in UIUC's school colors (orange and blue), but also wanted to wear outfits that didn't clash with my running shoe colors. However, some of the right-colored shirts didn't have pockets, which would then lead to the question of whether or not to wear a running belt. First world runner's problems, right?
After an embarrassing amount of time, I finally decided to keep things simple. I brought two pairs of black shorts, one pair of black capris as a backup, one pair of running shoes (my turquoise/orange Asics), a turquoise shirt, an orange shirt, and my i-Fitness belt.
I worked a half day on Friday and then went to pick Adam up from his office. We zipped through the cornfields on Interstate 57 down to Champaign-Urbana, arrived on campus, and hit the race expo at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). The ARC is a relatively new building, but it is right across the street from where I lived my freshman and sophomore year of college. Cue the nostalgia!
The expo was very well-organized. I rarely purchase things at race expos, but this time I did pick up a couple of items - most notably, "The Stick." (It's basically the equivalent of a rolling pin for your muscles, similar to a foam roller. More about this another time.)
|Looks a little scary, no?|
Erin's parents live in Urbana, and she had very graciously offered to host us there for the weekend. After the expo, we headed over to their (gorgeous!) house to get ready.
Jason dropped Erin and me off as close to the 5K starting line as possible, then he and Adam went to find parking as close to the finish line as possible. The 5K corrals were crowded and the emcee kept asking everyone to make room for other runners. There were only about five corrals. Surprisingly the first corral was for anyone with an expected finish time of 27:00 or faster. So, I relished one of the very few times in my life that I'll ever be in the first corral of a race. =) The weather was beautiful - clear, very mild breezes, and temps in the 60s.
After the starting gun went off, Erin and I set out at a pace that was a bit faster than I would have done had I been running by myself. Given that my weekend focus was on the half marathon the next morning, the 5K was by no means intended to be a PR attempt. I knew that I had to be careful not to get too ambitious if things went well. But, I felt good so I told myself to just go with the flow. Mile 1 was done in around 8:45 and actually felt surprisingly easy.
We saw Adam and Jason somewhere along the first mile. Here are a couple of pictures that they took:
|In front of Assembly Hall|
The 5K had started at 7:30 PM. The sun was still up when we were heading to the race. But, as you can see in the pictures, the sun was setting as the race was underway. Enroute to the race I was wearing my prescription sunglasses. I forgot to leave them in the car, and I didn't have regular glasses or contacts lenses to swap into. So I ran the race holding my sunglasses in my hand. My eyesight is reasonably good to the point where I can still function without wearing any prescription eyewear. But, unfortunately it made it more difficult for me to fully enjoy the scenery on campus while running.
|The 5K course did not pass by the alma mater, unfortunately, but I loved seeing her decked out to support the runners.|
(Photo from the Illinois Marathon Facebook page)
We saw lots of fraternities and student apartment buildings with plenty of folks hanging out on their front lawns, beer containers in hand, cheering us on. As timing would have it, the Blackhawks were playing Game 5 of their playoff series against the Blues that night. The University of Illinois attracts a lot of folks from both Chicago and St. Louis, and I saw many folks wearing items proclaiming their hockey loyalties. There were a few other runners near me wearing Blackhawks jerseys. They drew raucous "Go Blackhawks!" cheers from many of our spectators. Someone even yelled, "The Hawks are up one to nothing! The Hawks are currently up one to nothing!" as we ran by. I didn't hold back my natural reaction, which was to scream, "YEAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" at the top of my lungs (eliciting a chuckle from Erin).
Around mile 2.25 I was starting to feel the exertion, even though I didn't really know what pace I was holding. Erin was starting to inch ahead of me and I didn't push myself to keep up with her. I hadn't looked at the course map and I didn't know what was ahead. I started focusing more on the spectators.
Somewhere in the last half mile, there was a guy wearing a Blues t-shirt along the course. A runner just ahead of me yelled "Go Blackhawks" at him, and he responded with, "Go Blues!" Not one to let that pass me by, I also yelled "Go Blackhawks!" at him when I ran past a few seconds later. He again dutifully responded, "Go Blues!" to which several folks around me starting laughing.
We made a turn into Memorial Stadium, ran through a corridor, then all of a sudden found ourselves on the field.
|Taken from the Illinois Marathon Facebook page: |
A view of the field from Race Operations in the press box at Memorial Stadium.
The finish line was at the 50-yard line and the runners could see themselves being broadcast on the scoreboard as they crossed. Wow! I didn't know that the 5K finished on the field so this was a very cool surprise. What an amazing experience to be running on the field amidst the stadium spotlights!
|Erin and me on the field after our finish (photo by Jason)|
|Me with the finish line in the background (photo by Adam)|
|Erin and me in the stands with our medals, plus the scoreboard behind us.|
Our race bibs had a QR code printed on them which you could scan with your smartphone to immediately obtain your race results. LOVE!
My final finishing time was 27:03, and thanks to running with Erin I believe my splits were pretty even. What a difference it made in overall effort and exertion. I was very happy with the results for a 5K in which I did not push myself to the max. It was a great way to kick off the weekend!
Coming up next: the Illinois Half Marathon.