2011 Shamrock Shuffle

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.

2011 Shamrock Shuffle

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.


  1. #1 by Dittman on 04/13/2011 - 5:38 AM

    How’s your pole and shackles this morning? Liked the article, and the day.

  2. #2 by Keith Kappel on 04/15/2011 - 4:10 PM

    Running isn’t for everyone. When I was younger, and about 220 lbs, I used to run five miles a day on the concrete in a small beach towny area of Norfolk, VA. I’d feel great during the run, but about ten minutes into my shower, my knees would actually cease to support my weight. Navy doctors told me my joints were undersized for my frame, and that the high impact activity would cause my tendons and ligaments to swell in size, pushing against each other, and causing pain. I wouldn’t feel it until after the runner’s high wore off, ten minutes into the cool down shower. I didn’t run much after hearing that.

    Fast forward to 2007. My friends decided they wanted to play paintball with some degree of regularity. Being the zealot I am, I start jogging. At this point I am a husky 260 lbs. I reasoned that with paintball, it is short distance sprinting, and since it is a long day, an element of endurance. I ran a single mile every day, getting down to a seven minute mile (which, for a 260 lb guy, is pretty fast). One particular outing, we were getting creamed, and I felt the need to be the guy that stepped up and played more aggressively. While sprinting through the woods in one direction and firing in another, my foot got caught in a tree root and twisted 180 degrees, causing a spiral fracture to by tibia or fibia, I forget which. One of those shin bones. The break was down near the ankle.

    I got hurt because I wasn’t in shape. I was carrying a lot of extra pounds and trying to do an intense physical activity I really didn’t have any right to be doing. After being laid up for 4-5 months, I got put in the boot, and started walking laps around my block. My leg had atrophied to a fleshy, hairy peg-leg from the knee down. Being stuck in bed and unable to reach the fridge for easy snacking had helped me drop twenty pounds in bed, but I wanted to get rid of more. As soon as my ankle would support it, I went back to jogging my mile. After a few weeks, I realized I wasn’t particularly tired after one mile, and decided to see how far I could jog before I just couldn’t anymore. I might have gotten to three miles. It only took a few weeks after that to build up to five miles in under an hour, and I think I capped off that jogging season with a ten mile run in under two hours.

    There really is an addiction to jogging, and I don’t just mean the endorphins that you get for free with the runner’s high. Jogging is the thinking man’s exercise, because of all the other work outs you can do, it really is a mental exercise. Jogging is about mental endurance and focus, similar to writing a novel. To have a successful jog, you need to be able to tune out all outside distractions and focus, in a very intense way, on a single activity. When you finish a particularly long distance run, you feel good because you either raise your idea of what your limits are, or at the least confirm you “still got it”.

    The other interesting thing I get from jogging is a willingness, almost an eagerness, to take on other challenges. It makes you wonder what ELSE you might be capable of. Could I do a staircase race? Could I waterski? Could I mountain climb? Could I ride a bike sixty miles? And if you are a jogger, each question is usually followed by the reassuring “I bet I could, I should try it.”

    Congrats on finishing the shamrock shuffle, Duffer. I had a lot of lady friends participate this year. I actually did go on a five mile run that day anyway, along Loyola Park Beach. As for your ankles, in the future, try doing some simple foot circles with each foot, rotating ten ways each direction. Also, you might consider altering your stride from a heel strike to a barefoot strike, which means you are landing more on the balls of your feet. This splits the impact between all the tendons and muscles controlling your knee and ankle, instead of direct joint pressure on the ankle and the shock and load being shouldered solely by your knees. It makes for a much smoother run, and less painful recovery.

  3. #3 by Duffer on 04/18/2011 - 1:36 PM

    Many writers have paralleled running and writing. To apply the analogy to me would mean I am fit for flash fiction. 260 lbs as ‘husky’ eh Kappel? Your advice on strides and strikes falls into the ‘new tricks’ category.

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