Story and Photos by Sarelle Caicedo
I’m going to be very frank. I am not a runner. Never have been, and never attempted to be one. Don’t even consider myself an amateur. I’ve done the occasional jog. Have I read Born to Run? Heck yes. Did I love it? Yes! It stands out as one of the most inspiring sports books I’ve ever read-which is a whopping total of say, 5. Do I admire running shoes and gear? But of course! The colors, the lightweight fabrics, the movement, it’s all gorgeous and I’m so impressed that there’s an entire industry and science that goes into this specific sport, which is ultimately beautifully simple.
Am I a fan of live events? Always. Particularly ones in scenic settings? Duh. Sponsored by an increasingly popular shoe brand? For sure! Who wouldn’t want in?
Though I wasn’t a participant of the race itself, or the sport in general, I knew it was going to be too good to miss, and an experience worthy of watching even from the sidelines.
The Chicago Half Marathon & 5K presented by HOKA last weekend was splendid! If you’ve made it this far, you’re fully aware of the fact that I, the one covering the event, am not a runner, but am fascinated by a runner’s diligence and dedication. To gain a deeper insight into the event, I invited a friend who’s an avid runner, and recently completed a triathlon-so a half marathon was a nice way for him to keep the momentum going. (Ok, Dillon, SLAY!)
The race kicked off with a pre race party at Vertiport, close to Pilsen, which is always a great neighborhood to explore. Vertiport is actually Chicago’s state-of-the-art heliport, the largest in North America, which served as the exclusive venue for this innovative event. It has a sprawling 30,000-foot indoor-outdoor helicopter hangar, and red and yellow helicopters parked in the expansive lot lent itself to a visually titillating experience. There were several food trucks, several music and comedy acts throughout the day, vendors like Hoka, Hydroflask, Everywell, Revolution brewing and more. Hydroflask had a creative set up, where attendees could custom mix and match a new cap, handle and holder for their water bottles, and watch them get made. There were also muscle compressor devices from NormaTec, which is phenomenal for those in need of muscle recovery, the participants looked to be having the time of their lives!
And next, is the race itself. The next morning at 7 am is when the half marathon started, so participants had to arrive no later than 6 am. That alone is a feat, so way to go to the runners and volunteers! The runners also ranged in age – an incredible 95 year old woman participated in the half marathon, and I saw a few 8 -12 year olds running the 5k! That was the most beautiful thing, if I’m being honest – the fact that before attending, I always had an image of what a runner looked like: slick ponytail, long, gazelle type legs, perfect poise, very toned. These assumptions I had all these years were not good ones to have, full stop. In reality, there were so many body types, ages, nationalities, running paces and styles, that it completely made me throw away my previously misconceived notions of who runners are. I was glad to be proven wrong, because it made running finally look accessible to me. Seeing people from all walks of life challenge themselves to a physical feat in the early morning hours was genuinely inspiring, and the most amazing thing is that running can be, and is for everybody.
However personal of a connection I was able to make with the event, it was not about me. From the event producers, sponsors, runners, friends and families (attending with such passion in supporting the runners), and the volunteers – it took all sorts to come out and make that morning at Jackson Park a success! It was a true testament to what the body can do, and whether I watch or partake, I can’t wait for the next one.