2015 Race Calendar

This is what we’re planning for 2015 (so far). We have a host of repeats from last year, but after the killer 2014 we all had, can you really blame us?

Feb. 21: Mardi Gras Chaser 5K (Chicago)

March 15: Cincinnati Heart Mini Marathon

April 4: Chi Town 10K (Chicago)

April 25: Illinois Marathon (Champaign, IL)

April 25: Country Music Half Marathon (Nashville)

May 3: Flying Pig Half Marathon (Cincinnati, OH)

May 23: Madison Twilight 5K

May 24: Madison Half Marathon

June 27: Hyde Park Blast (Cincinnati, OH)

July 25: Bix 7 (Davenport, IA)

Sept. 19: Hudy 14k Brewery Run (Cincinnati, OH)

Oct. 11: Chicago Marathon

Oct. 18: Columbus Marathon

Nov. 26: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race


My 5K Love/Hate Relationship

“You ran the Chicago Marathon! This should be a piece of cake for you!”

Mags, Rock the Night 5K 2014

Running fast hurts.

The statement came from a stranger I had pulled alongside at a 5K a couple years ago. I was wearing my Chicago Marathon finisher’s shirt, and I was huffing, puffing and cursing under my breath.

“Yeah,” I responded, gasping for air, “but at no point during those 26.2 miles was I running this fast!”

Oh, the 5K. It’s a staple of the running world and an important part of any runner’s race diet/training plan. I like to do the fun little 5Ks as much as the next guy. But actually racing a 5K? I kind of hate it.

This year I’ve raced three 5Ks and recorded two PRs. They all hurt, and I seriously contemplated stopping to walk and giving up on my goals during all three. (By comparison, I can only remember two other races out of about 40 during the last four years where I entertained those thoughts.)

As a distance runner, I often don’t even get comfortable until I’m 3.1 miles into a run, and those first couple miles are almost always the toughest. But when you’re racing a 5K, there are no “warmup miles.” It’s discomfort from the word go, and while that discomfort doesn’t last long in the grand scheme of things, it sure does suck.

I also struggle with pacing at the short distance. I’m always fearful of going out too fast during a half or full marathon, but at a 5K, you’re supposed to go out fast — and then continue to go fast until you reach the finish line and/or collapse. That mental switch is an obstacle I’m learning to overcome, one race at a time.

I’m incredibly proud that I’ve knocked almost a minute off my 5K PR this year — and doing so during Thursday evening races in warm summer temps after a full day of work, no less — but the truth is, the 3.1-mile race just isn’t my jam. — Mags

Race Recap: Jingle Bell Run Chicago

And for my final race of 2013, a little improvisation.

I signed up for the Jingle Bell Run Chicago a couple months ago to finish the year with a fun run for a good cause. Besides, mid-December on the Lakefront Trail, what could possibly go wrong?

It started snowing about 10 p.m. the night before the race and continued all night and into the morning. It was still coming down hard as my friend Will and I struggled to find parking in the snow-covered Lincoln Park neighborhood and as we walked the half-mile (as quickly as we could without slipping and falling) in the 20-degree morning air.

We arrived at the start/finish area 10 minutes before the gun went off. Santa and Mrs. Claus were handing out blinking reindeer noses, someone in a gingerbread man costume was in the chute, and we were laughing at how ridiculous we were to be running at all. Although, if I hadn’t been there, I would’ve run that day anyway to keep my holiday streak alive. Might as well do it with a couple hundred other runners.

Before and after, in one shot.

Before and after, in one shot.

Then, the announcer said: “OK, 10K runners, you’ll start at 9 a.m. and 5K runners will start at 9:10.” WHAT?!? We are NOT standing around in this weather for 10 more minutes! Everyone around us agreed that was ludicrous and when the gun went off, so did we. The course split surely would be well-marked and we’d figure it out, right?


(SIDE NOTE: Neither of us had looked at the course map before the race. Oops.)

We trudged along at a decent pace considering the snow-packed trail and diminished visibility. About a half-mile in, volunteers pointed us to make a turn. “Was that the split?” I asked as we passed. But we kept running. We asked the next set of volunteers, “Where is the 10K/5K split? Where do the 5K runners turn around?” The shivering volunteers responded, “Oh, it’s up there. They’ll tell you.”


After 1.5 miles and no 5K turnaround, we decided to go rogue. We veered off course and turned back on the trail. As we passed the oncoming racers, we noticed 5K bibs mixed in the with 10K bibs, so plenty of people had made the same mistake we had.

We retraced our steps and ended up back on course for the home stretch. As I attempted to sprint to the finish (which the 4 inches of fresh snow made extremely difficult), I heard the announcer exclaim, “Look at that! It’s our first lady 5K finisher! Congratulations!” I quickly realized he was talking about ME. I had to laugh as I was greeted with fist bumps and applause after crossing the finish line.

According to my GPS, our Jingle Bell 5K was more like a 6K. Oh well.

When I got home, I looked up the course map to see where we went awry. I about fell over laughing when I clicked on the link only to see this hand-drawn masterpiece. I then decided to peruse the results. There were 678 5K finishers, and more than 100 of them finished in over an hour — which means, they more than likely ran the full 10K. Good on ya, folks!

On one hand, this race was a disaster, between the weather, misinformed volunteers and the course snafu. On the other hand, I ran 3.5-or-so ridiculously snowy miles on the lake with a friend, then chowed down on a king’s breakfast and came away with a funny story to tell. So when you look at it that way, it might have been my favorite race of the year. — Mags

Bad Angel Rule #138

Meb warms up. You are not Meb. Accept this.

Meb warms up. You are not Meb. Accept this.

If You’re Warming Up, I’m Mocking You.

As we were creeping around to find a parking space at a recent neighborhood 5K, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at over-anxious go-getters who were already out “warming up” for the event. Look, I get it, runners come in a huge variety of ability and intensity levels, but with a few exceptions, you do not need to warm up before a short neighborhood race.

And let’s be honest. If it’s a marathon or half marathon, let’s just consider the first coupla miles your warmup. Aight? Aight.

Unless you are actually in contention for prize money (or if it is frigid at the start line, and you’re literally trying to warm up), I’m going to need for you to calm the eff down and stop taking yourself so seriously. — Aidz

What is Treadmill?

There’s no denying it: Treadmill workouts are rough. And more painful than necessary. But when bad weather strikes, it’s a monotonous evil you can’t avoid. To cope, I’ve developed a 30-minute workout that never fails. You’ll get in a little speedwork, cram an easy 5K in and maybe exercise a little brainpower while you’re at it.

All you need is an episode of “Jeopardy!”JE2010_HeroHR_RGB-21

Basically, this works like a drinking game. Only, instead of taking a shot, you’ll be bumping up your pace at the prompts. Here’s how it works:

  • Warm up during the opening credits, player introductions, and the revealing of the categories. Just choose a comfortable, easy pace for a couple of minutes.
  • Once the game begins, notch the pace faster every time the category changes. If it annoyed you before when people dug around for the Daily Doubles, you’re about to get REALLY PISSED now.
  • When it’s time for the first commercial break, knock the pace back. This should be a little bit faster than your warmup pace, but nothing too exhausting.
  • Continue this pattern through the end of single Jeopardy and knock the pace back again when the commercial break before double Jeopardy begins.
  • Repeat the speed-ups for every category change throughout double Jeopardy.
  • For the last commercial break before final Jeopardy, it’s time to really push it. Amp up the pace one tick every time a new commercial comes on, and hold this fast pace throughout final Jeopardy. It should burn a bit, but it’ll help you come up with the right answer, I swear.

I’ll take running for $1,000, Alex. — Aidz

Get Yer Oink On

DownloadedFileWell angels, it’s that time of year. It’s time to sign up for a spring race. Squeeeee! I’ve run some version of the Flying Pig every year for the past seven years, and this year will be no exception.

Here are a few oinkable arguments to sway your decision:

  • Runner’s World recently named the Flying Pig half as one of the best half marathons in the country. Are you gonna argue with Runner’s World? I think not.
  • It’s a bargain! For the value, I think the Pig festivities are one of the best buys you can get.
  • There’s something for everyone. From the full 26.2 to a kid’s fun run, there’s a distance that everyone can partake in.

So come one, come all and join me at the Pig! If you sign up before the end of January, you can take advantage of the lowest entry fees. —Aidz

12 in ’12

I completed 12 races in 2012, the most I’ve ever done in one year. They ran the gamut — from silly-themed 5Ks to a full mary — and I took away something different from each one.

1. Polar Dash 10K (Jan. 21): A snowstorm pushed this one back a week — meaning Aidz couldn’t make it up from Cincy to join me, sadly — but I soldiered on in the elements. It was fun, and I’ve worn the heck out of my fleece, but the race definitely could use some improvements for the second annual event.


Post-half marathon PR horns with my main man Banjo.

2. Chi-Town Half Marathon (April 1): A flat, fast course and ideal spring weather equaled a big PR for me (1:48:49). Also, the race shirt might be my favorite ever.

3. Flying Pig Half Marathon (May 6): The most difficult half marathon course I’ve ever run, but overall one of the most fun races (and race weekends) I’ve ever had. It was also cathartic as I mourned the passing of Adam “MCA” Yauch with a challenging, hilly run and Beastie Boys blasting on my playlist.

4. Y-ME Race at Your Pace 5K (May 13): As it turned out, this would be the final Y-ME 5K ever. The breast cancer charity closed its doors about a month later, temporarily leaving me without a team for the Chicago Marathon.

5. Chicago Late Night Six Glo Run (June 16): Held on a Saturday night, this 6K was part race, part rave. The shirts were glow-in-the-dark, glo necklaces/bracelets/glasses were passed out and there was a lot of body paint going on. It was a decent “novelty” race, but it could’ve used 1) more race photographers, 2) a better-organized staging area and 3) more black light and strobe light tunnels on the course. Though, it was mighty cool running along the lakefront with all the buildings aglow.

6. Bix 7 (July 28): My third Bix felt just as difficult as my first; those hills don’t seem to ever get any easier. This time, Keith and I raced to the finish … and I beat him by one stinking second. I’m still undefeated in our head-to-head races. I’d like to keep it that way.

7. Elvis is Alive 5K (Aug. 16): A rare Thursday night race, it was fun to scoot down to the lakefront right after work, blow off some steam with a run and enjoy a couple beers in the grass. Besides, it broke up the monotony of marathon training speedwork Thursdays. Have mercy.

8. Chicago Half Marathon (Sept. 9): This one was an unplanned addition. I was one month out from the Chicago Marathon, so I used it as a training run and a chance to practice marathon pace, water stops and staying calm. So, by that measure, it was a success. Gotta say, though, it was a boring course and a pain to get to/from. It won’t be on my schedule for next year.

9. Bucktown 5K (Sept. 16): I soldiered through the fun community race as a recovery following my 20-mile training run the day before. However, the most memorable part might have been the gourmet donuts we got afterward on our walk to the train. Holy Moses were those tasty.

10. Chicago Marathon (Oct. 7): Dare I say this was the best race experience of my life; maybe even better than my first marathon. Perfect weather, amazing spectators, a major PR, and friends and loved ones to share it all with. I could not ask for anything more.

11. Hot Chocolate 15K (Nov. 4): I said it before and I’ll say it again, once was enough for me. But hey, I ran my first 15K and the race sweatshirt is bomb-ass. I’m livin’ in that thing.

12. Cross Country Challenge 8K (Dec. 2): 55 degrees in December? I’m still scratching my head over that one. The marathon notwithstanding, this is the one race I ran this year that I’m definitely penciling in for next year. It’s just that fun.

I doubt I’ll go for 13 races in 2013, but I guess ya never know. Now, Angels, riddle me this: what races should I add to my calendar for next year? — Mags