A record-breaking 32,427 runners participated in the 2011 Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago, making it the largest 8K in the world, according to the sponsor’s website. 40,000 people had signed up. Two of them finished the five-mile course in well over double the time of the winner, Simon Bairu, who finished in 23:38. My wife, a marathoner, and I, who was not embarrassed to have stopped once, try to run every year to shed the winter fat and deceive ourselves into thinking we’re still in shape. We’re not.
This was the latest start date in the 32 years of Chicago Shuffles, according to ABC Local, and runners were rewarded with a beautiful 70 degree morning. Today was quite a departure from the last two years, when there was snow in 2009, then cold rain with bitter lakefront winds in 2010. So what if St. Patrick’s Day was over three weeks ago? The race date aligns more with events and availability at Navy Pier for the race expo than St. Paddy’s, according to Carey Pinkowski, Executive Director of the Shuffle. Whatever the case, it actually felt like an official start to race season in Chicago. And for this novice, the start and the end of the race season is fortunately on the same day.
My ankle is swollen, my head aches, and I think I shat out a vertebrae from my lower back. The runner’s high that my wife alluded to, the same one she gets in marathons that I said I could get after a block or two (I call the high ‘dizziness’), has devolved into what will surely be a painful Monday, when my ankles will feel shackled and an imaginary pole will lodge itself into the small of my back. Yet, I feel good. Accomplished. Like I finished something I had no business doing. I got to spend rare time (panting, heaving and cramping) with my wife, sharing what she loves to do. And the kids watched us, being pushed in the jogger by their Busia–a real trooper–and they even jumped out to run with us for a few blocks, their little legs pumping doubletime. They wanted to keep running, despite my face. It’s important to teach them what it’s like to be a fat ass. I still work out a couple times a week but five miles is like 26,000 feet. In high school it was easy. In college it was doable. In my twenties it was nonexistent. Now, for this year, it’s done.