This week I participated in my first J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. My company was offering to partially subsidize anyone who ran for their race fees. I registered and then promptly forgot I did. The race date grew nearer and it dawned on me that oh yeah, I signed up for this. I wasn't paying attention at registration because I also realized that it was 2 days before a marathon I had signed up for. I figured I'd just turn it into a shake out run.
As race day grew nearer I looked at those who registered at my company for familiar names and didn't find very many. It looked like I might be in for a lonely night, or trying to make new friends from other departments. I also spied on last year's results and noticed something with the times... they were very achievable for my abilities. The top runner from my company ran the same pace as my 5K PR pace I ran just last month. My half marathon pace would also place me in the top 10 for my company. I was now debating whether to go for broke and try to get top honors for my company and bragging rights at the office.
Race day came and I worked from home so I could get downtown fairly easily. I got to Grant Park and found my company's tent. Good thing I had my head on a swivel because I saw our flags in a spot that wasn't where we were told we were going to be. I walk over and there's no formal check in or anything so I grab some water and a seat and wait for familiar faces. Eventually a former colleague who had transferred departments showed up and we chatted and I met others who I had only know by name and through email. We took team pictures, warmed up, and off to the start corrals we went.
The start was extremely crowded. I found out later that there were somewhere around 25K runners and walkers compared to 10K finishers last year. I found a gap in the gates and squeezed myself into corral A since I learned from others of how awful the start can be since no one lines up where they are supposed to. After the national anthem and some words and thanks, including some from my company's CEO, we were off and running. Sort of. It was very crowded and sure enough there were walkers clogging up things up front. I spent the first half mile moving in spurts through gaps when they opened up.
As the race progressed I quickly realized I was unable to find a steady rhythm with all the dodging and weaving I was doing. So I just settled in and rode it out moving through openings when I could get them and just conserving strength for the marathon. I passed several coworkers along the way and yelled words of encouragement. Heading down the home stretch I saw that people still hadn't even started the race yet. I crossed the finish and had to detour way around the corrals to get back to my company's tent. I was the 2nd person back to the tent which was encouraging. I had finished the 3.5 mile race in 24:28 for a 6:59 pace and wound up finishing 5th of 113 out of my coworkers. Our lead runners were faster than last year so I would of been hard pressed to catch them. After post race snacks and chatting with coworkers I went over and caught up with Maggie who's tent was 2 down from mine. I finally decided to head home since I had to be up for a road trip the next morning.
All in all it was a successful night in that I ran relatively well and at the effort I had wanted to without jeopardizing my marathon. I made a few new connections with coworkers as well. I'm not sure if I'd do the race again though just because the crowds were a bit much.