September 17, 2008
Banco Popular Chicago Half Marathon
I needed to wait a few days to recover and gain some perspective before sharing my Chicago Half Marathon experience. Spoiler alert: Chicago had its rainiest weekend in 137 years. That’s right, 137 YEARS. More than 10 inches of rain fell between Frday afternoon and Sunday afternoon — it rained for at least 42 hours straight, and I was outside for 10 of those.
I was recruited by my friends at Vision Event Management to come to Chicago and assist with the event they had been hired to direct. i went up on Thursday, helped set up the Expo (where runners pick up their numbers and timing devices, as well as shop for gear and other cool stuff from sponsors and exhibitors) and then worked the Expo on Friday and Saturday. Mostly, I solved problems like people whose names were misspelled, genders or age were wrong, or who had registered for the 13.1-mile race and only wanted to run the 5K. Torrential rains began in earnest on Saturday afternoon and we had to keep the Expo open an extra hour and a half because people had such a hard time getting to Navy Pier. Various expressways were closed due to flooding and there were lots of other traffic problems.
Saturday night, the whole event team met for pizza and an update. The entire finish line area had been reworked since Jackson Park was flooded. I was thankful that I wasn’t in the group that had to move all those tents, etc. Those people were out in the rain Saturday AND Sunday!
I reported for duty on Sunday at 4 a.m. and loaded shuttle buses at University of Chicago, then reported to the race site on the last shuttle. I got there at about 7 a.m. and I have to tell you, I have never seen anything like it. The rain was a steady downpour (while at times it might have been lighter than it, it was never light enough to call it a drizzle), and runners were seeking shelter anywhere they could. I was also amazed at the number of spectators who had come out to cheer on the runners. My friends and family would have said, “Yeah, have a great time. We’ll be home, dry and cozy. E-mail us when you get home!”
Overall, with the exception of the rain, the race went really well. We did the best we could with a situation we had no control over, and runners seemed to genuinely appreciate it. I was working the end of the runners services chute (where runners get their medals, water, cookies and fruit after finishing) and there were so many who thanked me for coming out.
Once the last runner finished around 11:30 a.m., we packed up as quick as we could. There was a lot of fencing, signage and other materials to salvage for future races and the tent and park people came in really qucikly to do their job. Leftover food was donated to a charity and all the gators, forklifts and support vehicles were rounded up and ready for return. I think we got back to the hotel around 1:30 p.m. and everyone jumped into hot showers as quickly as they could. I wish that I had thought to take a photo of my pruny fingers, but I was scared that my iPhone would never work again if exposed to the elements.
The cold I had almost gotten over by Sunday is back in full force, and I’m sure that standing in the rain Sunday didn’t help! Nonetheless, someone had to do it!
Here’s someone who did have a camera at the event:
Needless to say, the sunblock I had remembered to pack went unused.