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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Race Review: Biggest Loser RunWalk 15K

It is really difficult to approach the review of the Biggest Loser RunWalk 15K race. The packet pickup/expo occurred on Saturday and the race occurred Sunday, and both days were just really some of the best days of my life.

My SparkPeople vlog I did can probably best describe my expo day, which essentially had me leaving the expo in happy, honored, and speechless tears. It also had me feeling like I could have run a marathon Sunday. It was very smart to do the expo with lectures on Saturday prior to the race -- it was the perfect motivation for the race the next day.

Race morning
I woke up early Sunday morning feeling nervous and tired. Thankfully, I was armed with ENERGYbits and so on the el train on the way down to the Museum Campus, I downed the requisite serving. You can read my bits review for further info on that, but I'll go back to the race itself.

My mother and I walked to Soldier Field from the el station and got there about half an hour before race time. We checked our bags at gear check and hit the portapotties (which had a super long line) before we went to the start line. Got out of the stall and, bummer, no hand washing station. Gross.

But there was no time to wander around looking for hand wipes or sanitizer or anything, as Dolvett was on the stage at the starting line and we had to make a mad dash for the incredibly crowded corral. It was a little bit too crowded, especially considering that it really seemed that the number of entrants was not hugely massive.

The starting line
But I took to heart the advice that Francelina gave me Saturday: "Let everyone go ahead of you. The first few miles should not feel like work." So I let it slide that I was sitting in like the 11:00 corral and just went with it. Luckily, when our wave came up to the start, I realized I was actually in the very front of the roped-off wave, so I was golden.

As we passed the start, just off to the left was a platform on which stood Dolvett, Danni, Dan and Jackie, cheering us on as we started off. My wave was released and I headed off. I followed Francelina's advice to the T and started as slow as I could muster, busting ahead of the handful of folks in front of me in the wave but feeling no further need to get ahead of anyone.

I was feeling phenomenal throughout the entire race, but it particularly opened up after the 5K and 15K courses split, which was only after about 1.5 miles. It was also at the Inspiration Station featuring Pam and Jackson. I reached out to Pam, who knew who I was at that point. She immediately recognized me, grabbed my hand and said "Hey! Run with me for a minute!" and she fell into my stride next to me. "How you doing, doing good?" and I said, "Yeah feeling great!" She said, "Great! Good luck, and see you at the finish line!" She then returned back to the little event tent she shared with Jackson.

After the split, the course opened up. With fewer 15K run participants than, well, anything else, there was just a huge amount of open space for the remainder of the race, which was such a luxury on the lakefront trail.

I literally was smiling throughout the entire race. I don't even know what was going on, but I felt I could have run for a decade. I was just so happy and excited and empowered that I just kept pounding the pavement with pure delight. Particularly around Mile 6, there was a little outcropping in the trail and the entire Chicago skyline was on a big vista right in front of the course. Several racers in front of me stopped to take photos -- I didn't, but that provided a huge boost for me. It was a perfect day weather-wise, completely clear, and the entire city was basically on a platter on this vista.

Rounding the finish
Around Mile 7, farther than I have ever run before in my life, I pounded a Gu. It was my first experience with gels, but I think I timed it properly (not only did I intend to take it at Mile 7 but it was also the exact time I felt a pang of hunger).

I was just happily running and then realized that I was about to round the corner to the finish. From the corner to the finish, it was really only about 0.1 or 0.2 miles, and I turned it on. I have never before found the power to sprint for a finish at any distance, but I saw that the finish was super close and I all-out sprinted. There were all these people lining the finish cheering and screaming and pushing me onward.

Francelina and me after the finish
I then saw my mother, who had been waiting at the finish since she completed the 5K about 40 minutes earlier. She was snapping photos and I quickly hugged her on the run before I crossed the finish line. One of the organizers was at the finish with a microphone to meet me, and she gave me a high-five as I happily passed the finish with music and cheering pounding in the background.

I got my medal, my first 15K medal, and dug into the boxes lining the post-finish line: water, banana, bagel.

My mom and I wandered down to the finishers' area where 5K awards were being handed out. I picked up my bag from gear check and did my post-race interview with Biggest Loser RunWalk after having done the long background interview with them during the expo the day prior.

Mom, Jackson, me and Pam after finish
I finished with a 1:34:25. I'd told Jeff during the expo that I hoped to finish in 1:30. However, I was perfectly happy with the 1:34:25 time. It was my first time running that far and long ever and the fact that I finished feeling so good and not like I was going to die was so important for my first 15K.

Again, more is in that vlog on SparkPeople, but even after the race was a continuation of the phenomenal experience. Afterward, I still ended up being OK. I was sore and had to get on a plane just a few hours later for work, but I wore some compression socks for the remainder of the day, including in the airport and on the plane, and I felt OK.

Jeff, me and Francelina after the finish
If you ever have the opportunity to do a Biggest Loser RunWalk event, I highly recommend it. It was probably top to bottom one of the best experiences of my life. It was not only the race but the expo as well. The entire weekend was so phenomenal that I cannot say enough about the race series.

Keep an eye out for my video interviews on the Biggest Loser RunWalk website! I will definitely alert everyone when I see it, but keep an eye.

Biggest Loser RunWalk 15K
August 4, 2013
Chicago, IL


  1. What a great race vibe huh! Super glad you have these memory and run to work off of! Great first shot at the distance!

  2. Sounds like an incredible experience! (Nice time too!) Not only did you get to be part of a great event after training and running a distance you have never run before, but you also got to meet people that helped inspire you to find out that you have been inspiring them! Great post and moving video ('SparkPeople vlog' above)!