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Thursday, February 22

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Chicago Sun Apr 07 2013

The 2013 Shamrock Shuffle

ShuffleGear.JPG If you've lived in Chicago for at least a couple of years, you've become accustomed to the harsh, cold winters that would make any Canadian tremble with fear. And it's not just the snow and freezing rain that require us to dress with multiple layers for a minimum of six months, but the Hawk wind that whisks in from the north, west and off the lake that has us grinning ear-to-ear in anticipation for the first forty-degree day.

That rodent known as Punxsutawney Phil told us on February 2 that there would be an early spring this year, but as recently as last week, there was no sign of hope for such a promise of warmth that we've longed for after suffering through the darkness of Old Man Winter. That was until I headed over to Navy Pier this past Friday to pick up my packet for the 2013 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle.

This was to be my third year running in the unofficial kickoff to the Chicago running season. For the past two months, I bundled up in sweat pants, my DePaul University hooded sweatshirt, wool socks, and Blackhawks ski cap to head out for a Saturday-morning jaunt in preparation for the annual 8K run.

After making my travel arrangements to and from the event the night before, I went to bed every bit as anxious as my first run. Then, after hitting the snooze bar a few times at 6am, I leaped out of bed, threw on my gear and thanked Tom Skilling for a clear and crisp day that lie ahead.

I had the course plotted out [PDF] in my head as a way of pre-meditating the steep bridges of the river, Kennedy Expressway and rail yard on Roosevelt Road (it sucks, it really, really sucks. I call it Puke Hill).

CorralC.JPGAfter a banana and chocolate cake ball for breakfast, I made my way to Corral C to finish my stretches and take in the sites and sounds of fellow exuberant participants, with ages ranging from 10 years old to over 50.

The public address announcer was spot-on as always, keeping the participants pumped up with the occasional blurting of, "Alright, we ready to do this, Chicago?" You bet I am, big fella. Just dial up more of the Black Keys and sound the horn.

And then, just as quickly as I had arrived, the Corral was started and I was on my way. I made my way up Columbus, then left onto Grand, and then down on Wabash past the Trump Tower. I looked up, and just then, the sun's rays kissed the field and warmth spread out upon everyone's faces as well as within our souls.

ShuffleStart.JPG I have to admit that I hate running. I mean who really enjoys running just under five miles, let alone one mile? Yes, it's a healthy activity, but running pretty much sucks, and it hurts. However, this event had me smiling pretty much the enter length of the course because I knew I was only a month or so away from opening the windows on a regular basis, storing away my down-feathered jacket and firing up my grill for salmon patties.

The first two miles were relatively smooth, even if the GPS on my Nike Plus app indicated that I was approaching mile three at a clip of 7 minutes, 40 seconds. That's the one downside of running in an event with over 40,000 participants, the Internet is slower than I am over Puke Hill.

Before I knew it, I was approaching Michigan Avenue, buckling down over Roosevelt and sprinting out the last 100 yards to the finish line, where I was met with applause from all the fantastic volunteers who dedicated their free time to help make sure this event went off without a hitch.

As I caught me breath and reached for the nearest water bottle and banana, I felt not only a sense of pride in accomplishment, but also shared warmth amongst a bunch of people of whom I've never met. There were the guys painted green with the green wigs, the elite runners who stuck around to high-five us weekend warriors and the Freddy Jones band on the far stage by the Buckingham Fountain.

That's right, Chicago's very own The Freddy Jones Band was the main attraction, doling out such delicious 1990s jams as "In A Daydream," while the rest of us tried to catch up. And what better way to celebrate a beautiful day, a successful run and The Freddy Jones Band than with an ice-cold Michelob Ultra, free with your trusty drink ticket which comes conveniently attached to your running bib. Hey, I heard carbing up after a long run is good, so who was I to argue?

After a trip to Redmond's Ale House on Sheffield Avenue for a delicious Bloody Mary and brunch, in what has become an annual tradition with some family and friends of mine, I headed home, stretched out and hit the showers.

For me, I don't care what else happens the rest of the year in terms of running other timed events. I'm signed up for the Race to Wrigley and the Soldier Field 10-Mile run, and those are both wonderful events, but it's the Shamrock Shuffle that leaves me feeling that spring is truly here. I don't need a groundhog telling me that.

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Marit Lidvall / April 7, 2013 10:08 PM

I really liked your blog post because it's funny and I recognized/felt the same way when I ran the race today (in corral K, because I'm slow). I especially liked "I have to admit that I hate running. I mean who really enjoys running just under five miles, let alone one mile? Yes, it's a healthy activity, but running pretty much sucks, and it hurts. However....."

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