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  • Jeanette, CARA 2019 Ambassador

Jeanette Loves The Bank Of America Shamrock Shuffle

I am Jeanette (“JP”) and I am a runner, triathlete, and huge Michigan State Fan. I am thrilled to be representing CARA as an ambassador this year. While I love Chicago and the running community here, the weather leaves a little something to be desired. If you’re anything like me you are tired of being cooped up for months in what has been a brutal and seemingly never-ending winter, ticking the miles away on a treadmill. In order to get through the winter, I tell myself “March is spring, and spring is warm.” To stay motivated even when the March weather does not cooperate with my theory, I sign up for my favorite race, the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K.

Every year thousands of runners take to the streets of downtown Chicago, donning green in what I deem to be an epic celebration of the start of spring racing season (and CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit), St. Patrick’s Day, and (since MSU’s color is green) NCAA March Madness. This is hands down the most fun and festive race in the city and boasts some big-name competitors like Olympian and American record-holder Deena Kastor, and three-time Paralympian, three-time Bank of America Chicago Marathon wheelchair division champion, Amanda McGrory.

Being one of the biggest Chicago races outside of the Chicago Marathon, the Shamrock Shuffle draws a massive crowd of runners and is expertly organized. The Shuffle has two wave starts and multiple corrals spaced 5 minutes apart to alleviate the crowds. The start corrals are set up just like the marathon with separate entrance chutes. I highly recommend running this race if you are a first time Chicago Marathon runner as it’s a great simulation of what to expect on race day including the setup, crowds, and excitement.

If you’re willing to brave the questionable March temperatures for this race you will get some awesome swag. The race shirts are quality Nike dry fit in fun green shamrock designs and there is always some kind of headwear. A few years ago, it was green buffs; this year it was green shamrock beanies. I also snagged some green Shamrock Shuffle sunglasses and a koozie at the expo.

CARA hosted a great race day headquarters at Bar Louie - Printers Row. I showed up around 7:30 a.m. and street parking was easy and inexpensive. My crew gathered with plenty of time to debate our race outfits. One of the toughest decisions runners must make is what to wear. Was it t-shirt weather or long sleeves, should I have worn shorts instead of leggings, was it full hat weather or just headband weather? My friend and I agonized over the decision before checking our bags with the CARA staff and heading out on the short 10-minute walk to the start line.

I always find it exhilarating to watch the Chicago running community and city come back to life. With temps in the 40s and the rain holding off the weather this year was ideal for running. The camaraderie and excitement of the runners at the starting line was palpable. With one blast of the gun, the field was off on a tour of downtown Chicago. The first 2 miles mimic the opening of the Chicago Marathon course with stunning views of downtown and tons of spectators. We ran past several iconic Chicago landmarks weaving our way through downtown and ending with the same finish as the Chicago Marathon, a trudge up the formidable Mt. Roosevelt.

I run the Shuffle every year with the goal of beating my previous time. The 8k distance is the perfect race distance. A 5k is too short, by the time I get warmed up the race is over; a 10k is too long to be as fast as it is. This perfectly flat course makes for a fast field of runners. I always race hard at the Shuffle and this year was another PR for me.

After crossing the finish line, we made our way to the post-race party. This year was the biggest I have seen taking over all of Buckingham Fountain Plaza with Michelob Ultra slinging beers to well deserving finishers. Nike had a huge pop-up tent with all the green swag. And I got a picture with the Green Guys, the iconic unofficial mascots covered in green body paint, wearing green tights, green wigs, and green aviators. These guys fully embody the spirit of the Shamrock Shuffle. CARA also had a post-race party back at Bar Louie where we sipped mimosas while recovering in the NormaTec boots.

The whole day was amazing! If you have not run this race, you should. It is the embodiment of the spirit of the Chicago area running community. And great swag doesn’t hurt.

I am gearing up for my next big race, my first Ironman 70.3 – Steelhead in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In the meantime, you can find me on the Lakefront Path every Tuesday morning, so give me a wave or shout if you pass by.

Secret Insider Tip: Runners who have completed the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K four or more times since 2000 are eligible for a guaranteed entry into the Chicago Marathon.

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