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  • Kathie, CARA Ambassador

Kathie Runs The Wintrust 10 Miler & 5K!

My name is Kathie Chong and I am excited to share with you my experiences at the April 13, 2019 Wintrust Lakefront 10 Miler & 5K, a highlight of the CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit.

The thing about a race in April in Chicago is that you can never guarantee there won’t be snow or freezing temperatures. The race shirt was perfect for the sunny Chicago spring race day, in the low 40s. It is long-sleeved, grey, and has a logo design that is a mix of green, yellow, and blue to evoke spring. The best part about it is the thumb holes to layer.

Many Chicago races start in Grant Park or around Soldier Field. This one starts and ends at Wilson Track up north — there is something about being near a track that always makes me feel like a true athlete. Gear check went by quickly and easily, as runners did their warm-ups and stretched on the track and field.

The start line was buzzing with excitement close to the 9 AM start time. Many of the runners were CARA members and knew each other, were greeting one another and pepping one another up. After exciting words of encouragement from the announcer and cheering from the runners, it was time to go. There was no wait time after the start gun went off as the runners seamlessly started after one another.

I had only run one 10-miler before this race. I began the run in full race mode at my 5k pace because I wanted to weave around the tight bands of runners at the start of the course. I had been training for the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon and had already run 30 miles this week and a 20 miler the week before. I felt pain in my shins and tired legs which caused me to slow down significantly during the first mile.

Halfway between miles two and three you weave around Montrose Harbor and the 10 miler and 5k runners split. I absolutely loved the course so far and the atmosphere of all the runners going by me, but my legs were very tired, and I was struggling. I contemplated turning and finishing the 5K instead, but I reminded myself about the ups and downs of running. The hard runs are what make you stronger, and I knew it would help my marathon if I kept going.

Just before the 4-mile marker, I saw leaders from the race coming back and approaching their seventh mile. They looked incredibly fast and fierce, and the folks on my side of the course clapped as they ran by. At the 5-mile marker, there was a large cheer squad waiting. I gave about 10 high fives as I passed them, and this put a huge smile on my face. The endorphins kicked in, the pain in my legs was gone now, and my training run had become a race again. I now had a shot at a 10-mile PR.

The course ran south to Fullerton and then turned around between miles five and six to head back up north. My training runs usually take me south on the Lakefront Trail, so I really enjoyed taking in the scenes going north. Assisted by the hydration stations every 2-3 miles, we turned east a little bit before mile nine and started to curve around. After I passed the 9-mile marker, I knew I had my PR.

It was time to approach what this race is best known for: Cricket Hill and the final lap around the Wilson Track. As we curved around again, I could see Cricket Hill approaching. I had run “Mount Roosevelt” many times before during races, but Cricket Hill looked twice as steep. It was covered in grass and there was a use trail where runners had run up before. Some runners chose the packed dirt, and others like myself chose to run up the grass.

Cricket Hill looks large from a distance but going uphill for me did not take long. I dashed down so excited to enter the track I almost tumbled over my own feet. The final victory lap around the track was incredible. I ran by a couple of people I knew from CARA and they were chanting my name and cheering me on. My struggles from earlier on in the race were quickly forgotten. I ended up with a 10 miler PR by 4:42!

I picked up my medal at the end of the track with pride. It had a similar spring-themed design to the shirt, with a lot of green colors. This was a race where I had felt defeated, but kept going and ended up with a PR. I learned that is okay to make adjustments during races and not to give up. There was also a lively post-race party with people hanging out on the grass, taking in the different booths and various beverages and snacks.

I recommend this race to anyone who has never run a 10 miler or is a seasoned veteran. This race is truly one of the more unique ones I have run in the city of Chicago with its north side course, Cricket Hill, and the Olympic style track finish. There is a great sense of camaraderie during the race from all of the CARA members and others who run it. 10 miles is a unique distance – it is more than a 10k and less than a half, and there is a lot to learn about pacing for this challenging but fun distance.

This race was an excellent way for me to start my taper before Flying Pig. I plan on running with CARA for summer marathon training and I hope to see a lot of you. I also lead the Lincoln Park group runs at 6:30 PM with CARA so please reach out to me if you are interested. Hope to see you out on the Lakefront Trail soon!

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