This weekend I completed the F^3 Lake Half Marathon along Chicago’s Lakefront. It was 13.1 freezing miles.

I have always been one to prefer hot temperatures over cold temperatures, which is unfortunate since I’ve now lived in Chicago for the last ten years. Furthermore, I’ve always disliked running in the cold. I have to put on extra clothes, the cold air can burn my lungs, and my fingers get numb. However, this winter I decided to join some friends in running the F^3 Chicago Lake Half Marathon, which takes place in the middle of January (last weekend). 

As with any race or other challenges, I did my best to prepare for it. While I usually start utilizing the treadmill or an indoor track once temperatures get below 30° F (-1° C), this year I toughed it out to get my lungs and digits use to the freezing Chicago winter. Since our first snow in November, I have tried to get at least one run outside each week. While the first couple runs were undoubtedly a little more uncomfortable than usual, they weren’t as bad as I was expecting.

A crazy past month of family and work obligations led to me not being able to commit as much time and effort to my running as I had initially planned. Furthermore, last weekend ended up being around 0° F (-18° C), but it warmed up to a lovely 5° F (-15° C) by race time. This temperature is 10° colder than it has been on any previous run I’d made all year.

With heavy sox, compression tights under my joggers, two long-sleeved shirts, a windbreaker, a stocking cap, and two pairs of gloves I joined 2,000 other quasi-crazy runners at Soldier Field for the start of the race. The course went around Soldier Field and down about seven miles to Jackson Park and back along Chicago’s Lakefront.

Once I got about a mile in, my body became somewhat immune to much of the cold, at least until my fingers began getting numb around mile 12. It was also annoying that I kept getting a considerable amount of ice in my beard. It was annoying me until about mile four or five when I just learned to ignore it.

The aid stations presented a unique challenge since the ice and sports drinks would become frozen solid after twenty minutes. As a result, pretty much every drink I grabbed had at least some ice in it, which was a unique twist that is not normal of most races. Also, the gel packs at mile eight were much more solid than usual, but not unbearable.

Except about a mile or two of snowy trail around the turnaround, the course was very clear. Anticipating more snow, I wore my trail shoes, but I certainly would have been fine with my regular running shoes, as were most the people who ran.

 At the finish line, the race organizers and volunteers still had a variety of food and drinks despite the cold. Instead of loitering around the finish line, which is more typical of a marathon and half marathon, I just grabbed a bagel, a banana, a sports drink, and a water and hurried back inside to Soldier Field’s United Club to warm up / thaw out.

Despite the freezing temperatures this race was extremely well organized from the pre-race amenities to getting the photos uploaded online promptly. I had enough trouble staying warm in those temperatures while running. I couldn’t imagine standing out in those temperatures for two+ hours handing out drinks, taking pictures, and cheering people on as were dozens and possibly hundreds of volunteers.

This race indeed presented far more challenges then your standard 13.1 miles, but it was a good time.

Join me in my efforts to support Liver Life Challenge!

In 2019, I have decided to run the Chicago Marathon to support the American liver foundation. As a participant in the Liver Life Challenge, I’m helping in the fight against liver disease, but I can not do it without your help. Every step I take and every dollar I raise will make a difference in the lives of the millions of Americans living with liver disease. By donating on my behalf, you will be helping the American Liver Foundation provide critical funding for medical research, public education, and patient support services.