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Memorial Day Weekend Running - Soldier Field 10 Mile

Runners shaking servicemembers' hands before the Soldier Field 10 Mile
As you are well aware, this past weekend was Memorial Day, which is all about celebrating freedom and remembering the men and women who have died serving the country. Like every other holiday, there are plenty of races in Chicago to help those who are so inclined celebrate appropriately: by going running.

Because of the long weekend I was able to make a double-header race weekend out of it (perhaps it can be classified as a triple-header, but more about that later) while still getting a rest day in between the races; I ran the Soldier Field 10 Mile on Saturday morning and the Ridge Run Challenge on Monday morning. Both races celebrate Memorial Day and both are races that I've done in the past (past Soldier Field and Ridge Run reviews) and knew I would enjoy. And I did: the weather was nearly ideal (it got a little warm on Monday morning), the races were well-organized, the themes were solid and inspirational and I felt great during both of them.

Saturday morning I took the CTA to Roosevelt and then a Divvy to the Field Museum (without public transportation and the sharing economy I would be lost in this city) and got to Soldier Field around 6:15, only to find out that my wave wouldn't start until around 7:30 (the obvious lesson is: when the race has a guidebook you should probably read it. Start times were clearly described in the guidebook). Luckily the Soldier Field 10 Mile is a fairly large race (almost 13,000 people finished this year) so there was plenty going on to keep me occupied before I started.

Runners heading towards Lake Shore Drive for the Soldier Field 10 Mile
I was in corral 12 and a new wave was released every two minutes. At seven, after an impressive rendition of "Taps" and some words from the race announcer and Fleet Feet owner Dave Zimmer (after thanking the men and women the race was created to honor, as well as the Fleet Feet staff for coordinating the race he even thanked the day itself with a well-deserved "Let's hear it for the weather!") the race officially started. The race announcer reminded us to think of one word as we ran past each mile marker: "Freedom." I can't say that I remembered his request a few miles in but it was certainly well-intentioned.

I got to talk to Zimmer after the race and he said that after eleven years the pre-race ceremony is still his favorite part of this race. "It's why we started the race," he said. "The stories we've been told over the years always make me pause and think how absolutely lucky we are. And to be able to take a full pause and really think about what Memorial Weekend is all about." Here he reiterated what the race-announcer asked us to think about at every mile marker: "Freedom."

As I said earlier, I've run this race a few times before and knew it would be well-organized and fun to run. On the way south, the entire northbound side of Lake Shore Drive (four lanes) was blocked off, giving runners plenty of room to spread out despite the large field of participants. When it comes to waves things can get a little frustrating, since wave assignments aren't necessarily done by anticipated finishing time. Having so much space really lets you focus on running and not on getting around people. It also lets you safely turn around and run backwards while taking pictures, though I wouldn't recommend it.
Runners heading south in the northbound lane of Lake Shore Drive for the Soldier Field 10 Mile
On the way south I looked towards the lake at a few points and could see runners already heading back (which makes sense, considering that I started 30 minutes after the lead runners). The weather was ideal (mid-50s with a light breeze) and the sun was shining. It was essentially a perfect day to be running, and considering the long, cold winter we've had there was a special kind of runner's high that came with looking around and seeing so much green and so much sunlight.
Runners heading north on the Lakefront Trail for the Soldier Field 10 Mile
And as anyone who's ever run far enough south on the Lakefront Trail can tell you, there's another level of runner's high in seeing the Chicago skyline from a distance and knowing you're running towards it. Having that experience with so many other runners on a volunteer-heavy course like this was especially motivating.
The Chicago skyline on the Soldier Field 10 Mile course
Coming off the Lakefront Trail, you turn off of Museum Campus Drive and head directly into Soldier Field. This is where the whole "Finish on the 50" comes into play. The race shirt this year (a dark blue running shirt) says on the back of it, beneath the race logo: "It's All About Where You Finish." Turning into the shadowy concrete confines of Soldier Field after ten miles in the sun can be a bit disconcerting at first.
Runners head into Soldier Field to finish on the 50 for the Soldier Field 10 Mile

But when you see the tunnel that opens out on the field and the spectators cheering it's one of the most exciting finishes I've taken part in in Chicago (or anywhere for that matter - the Athens Marathon still has the best finish line though, for obvious reasons).
Runners coming out into Soldier Field at the end of the Soldier Field 10 Mile
When you run out onto the field you can see yourself on the Jumbotron which is a pretty sweet experience, but just running into a stadium this big is an experience in itself. Combined with the triumph of finishing a ten-mile race it's a pretty memorable race finish and you can easily see why it remains a popular part of the Chicago race calendar.
Finishers at the Soldier Field 10 Mile
And then there's the post-race party. Live music and one free beer - pretty standard post-race stuff but a nice way to wrap up the morning. I hung out for about 15 minutes or so - long enough to grab my gear from gear check, get my free beer, listen to a few songs and stretch. Then I headed back to the Divvy station to go celebrate Memorial Day the more typical way: with friends and a grill.
Post-race party for the Soldier Field 10 Mile
 And here's my parting shot:
Runners going the WRONG WAY during the Soldier Field 10 Mile


  1. I keep forgetting that you appear on the Jumbotron as you finish the race... Must. Remember. Next. Year.

    And it really was great weather for the race!

  2. I had no idea you were there though I should have expected it since you run so many races! Sorry I missed you. Love the pic from above of the runners running into Soldier Field!


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