Up until now, I’ve done a lot of smaller races. But if there’s one big, official-start-to-running-season race, it’s the Shamrock Shuffle. This was the third time I’ve done this race, and kind of like childbirth, I blocked out the unpleasant parts of the first two times I ran it. But this year, I’m documenting the unpleasantness, dammit. And like childbirth, I am probably never doing this race again.
Here’s the deal: The run itself is great -- 5 miles through downtown Chicago. Yes, the weather can be dicey in late March, and it’s always crowded. But otherwise, it’s a great race … on race day.
The day before, on the other hand, is a huge pain in the ass. I’m looking at you, packet pick-up.
The past two times I did this race, pick-up was at Navy Pier, which is the painiest of pain-in-the-ass locations in Chicago. There is no good way in or out of Navy Pier. In addition, packet pick-up was always located at the farthest, most-eastern point of Navy Pier. So no matter where you get into Navy Pier, you’ve got a good half-mile walk just to get to packet pick-up.
So this year when I saw that pick-up was at McCormick Place, I was optimistic that it would be slightly easier. Because for some reason picking up my packet at the largest convention center in North America seemed like an improvement.
I should note that the Shuffle’s pick-up is actually a race expo. And you can’t pickup your packet anywhere else. No early shoe-store pick up, no race-day pick up. Attending the expo is a requirement.
Here’s the other thing about the Shuffle packet pick-up: They force you not only to attend the expo, but also to weave through all the vendor booths. Twice. On one end of the expo, you pick up half of your packet. Then you are required to go the entire length of the expo, past and through dozens of sponsor tents, to retrieve the second half. Clearly this is by design, as these sponsors paid big bucks to ensure that every runner be exposed to their moisture-wicking socks, electrolyte chews and lactose-free energy shakes. And yes, I realize the funds raised are all for a good cause. But seriously, I will give you $20 to not make me deal with that madness.
Like the expo’s previous location, there is no good way to get in or out of McCormick place. I easily walked 3 miles alone just going to and from the parking garage to the pick up. You may think this sounds like exaggeration, but McCormick Place is a collection of four connected buildings, and just the exhibit hall space alone totals 2.6 million square feet. Sucker’s huge.
But the final reason this was a humongous pain the ass was entirely my own fault: I brought both kids, but not Chris. The only thing worse than attempting to navigate a convention-center race expo is doing so while chasing two preschoolers. For some reason, I left the house at noon with the girls and thought I drive from Lincoln Square to the McCormick Center, pick up my packet at the expo, then make it back up north to Lincoln Park for Maya’s gymnastics at 3:15.
As a result, I was stressed, frazzled and angry until about 2:45, when I was still at the expo, chasing both kids, and had not yet picked up the second half of my packet. At that point I finally conceded that gymnastics was never going to happen, in fact, no other Saturday activities were going to happen. This was it: Our entire Saturday was going to be devoted to Shuffle packet pickup. Once I finally admitted that ugly truth to myself, I relaxed and let the kids do their thing. We played the sponsors’ games, tried all the samples, took silly pictures. I even had some wine. And we didn’t get home until after 5.
Needless to say, I was exhausted the next day for the actual race. But I ran with my friend Tara, we talked the entire race, paid no attention to our speed, and did brunch after at Meli.
Was the pleasantry of race day enough to make up for the trials of the previous day? Perhaps, but my friends and I can do other races. Shamrock Shuffle, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, we are never, ever, ever getting back together.
Race name: Shamrock Shuffle
2015 Challenge Race No.: 7
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Bank of America
Distance: 5 miles
Distance: 5 miles
Best part of the race:
- Race route and distance
- Green headband/neck warmer thing included with race packet
- See entire rant above.
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