The Shamrock Shuffle continues to be one of my favorite races of the year. It’s big, it’s crowded and finishing makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Small races are great, but there is something special about a huge race. It’s like being in a parade.
These kinds of races are great for first time runners as it gives you a pretty good sense of what running the Chicago Marathon is like. There are lots of runners, lots of spectators and a huge after-race party. Unless you line-up in the front, don’t expect your fastest time ever (it’s too crowded) but you can certainly expect an enjoyable race.
For a juggling runner, this race has great spectator support and few running snobs so you’re really appreciated. The crowd does make it extra challenging so be sure to stay to one side and try like hell not to drop a juggling bag.
Joggling the race
For me, Sunday’s race went something like this. It was unusually sunny and warm for mid-March in Chicago. Maybe there is something to this global warming thing. The over 70 degree weather (22C) was good for standing around but was a little warm for a juggling runner.
I woke up that morning around 5 am and did a little blogging. At 7:15am I woke up my wife. After convincing her that the cooking accident she suffered the night before wouldn’t effect her running, we were off. We took the Blue Line el down to the race along with nearly every other runner. There were so many riders we had to push our way in. I felt almost as squeezed as Alberto Gonzales.
We got downtown in plenty of time and even got to meet with my parents, brother, sisters, nephews, and slew of other friends that were running. My main competition was my younger brother. He’s smaller, lighter and a more talented runner than me. In fact, he had an excellent showing at the Tampa Bay Half Marathon. But I finished ahead of him in this race last year so there was a chance.
My brother, sister and I lined up in our preferred coral and waited. After a decent rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, I started up my iPod. The They Might Be Giants tune “Doctor Worm” was playing. The gun sounded and we were off. I darted out of the gate and didn’t look back. The cheering crowd was incredible, I got goosebumps.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my brother pacing with me. We stayed together through the first mile. When I passed it, I was first able to see how fast we were going. 6:15. (My chip time was actually 10 seconds faster than the clock). Exactly the speed I’d wanted. But clearly my body didn’t agree as I already felt sore and winded.
My brother slowly pulled ahead and was out of site. I missed the 2-mile marker but I was able to grab a little Gatorade. One quick gulp and I was off joggling again.
The next clock was at the 5K mark which read 21:20. While I continued to pass lots of people, I had slowed down significantly. But undaunted I forged ahead down Van Buren street over the river and past Union Station. Spectators would smile, point and yell, “Look that guy’s juggling!” Despite the significant overall pain I always tried to make eye contact and smile. Although some of the smiles might have looked more like grimaces.
At mile 4, the clock read 27:20. Not a bad time and a 6 minute mile would get me a better time than last year. But alas, the hill on Roosevelt Rd at the 4.5 mile took its toll. As I struggled and juggled up it, a 13 year old kid passes me and says, “Hey, that’s cool!” I reply, “You’re ahead of me…that’s cool! Keep it up”. Secretly, I vowed that I would catch him in the last 100 meters.
Around the final turn, the finish line is less than a quarter mile away. A big guy in a red shirt edged past me which inspired my final kick. I began passing runner after runner. I couldn’t catch Red Shirt guy but he helped pull me along. With 200 meters left I passed the 13 year old. But I had my sites on Red Shirt. I steadily edged closer. With 50 meters I was right on his heals. And with 20 meter left, I past him. Success. No drops, no stops.
When I looked at my watch it read 34:21. About, 30 seconds slower than last year but still a sub-7 minute mile pace.Â I really can’t complain about that.
My brother Paul had a pretty good time, 32:55. A much better showing than previous years.Â My sister Fay was a bit disappointed in her time at 37 minutes but she’s too hard on herself.Â My wife, Shannon, came in just over 50 minutes and I was proud.Â That morning, it seemed she wouldn’t even run it.Â With spirit like that, she’s a runner.Â My other sister, Alina finished as did her husband Ron, my friend Carla & her fiance Dan, John Kelly, Chris, Lisa, Christy and a few others I’m probably missing.Â Most everyone seemed happy with their times.
Afterwards, I laid down my hat and started juggling on a street corner.Â As the runners left for the el, we collected their extra free beer tickets.Â Each runner gets a beer ticket attached to their bib number.Â I must’ve gotten over 50 tickets.Â At the party, we enjoyed a few beers, chatted about the race and planned our next great adventure.Â Perhaps the relay race from Madison to Chicago.Â What, it’s only 190 miles?Â No problem.Â As long as I get to juggle.