The Casual Runner

2016 Rock n Roll Chicago 5K

Event: 2016 Rock n Roll Chicago 5K
Event Date: July 16, 2016
Event Location: Chicago, Illinois

IMG_6272Why I decided to run this race

I signed Mike and I up to run the Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon back in December and had not really thought much about it until we were at Disney World for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend with our friends Tim and Tracy, who live in Chicago. Tim had said that they were also signed up to do the 5K in addition to the half marathon so that they would be eligible for the Remix Challenge. Which meant for that weekend they would run two races and receive three medals. Well you all know me by now and know I’m a sucker for SMOs. The rest was history for me, but Mike held his ground and decide he was perfectly happy doing the half marathon.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

Mike and I left for Chicago Friday morning, via car from Ohio.  Our only time crunch was that we had to be in Chicago by 7pm for the expo, since I was running the 5K Saturday morning which meant I had to get to the expo before the 7pm close.  We arrived at Tim and Tracy’s around 3:30pm and waited for Tim to get us after work to go to the expo.

The race expo

The expo took place at McCormick Center in downtown Chicago. We arrived at the center about 6:30pm and walked very quickly through the building to get to the expo.  The expo was well laid out with step by step instructions of where to head to first in the expo.  The first place to head was to get your race bib, however prior to doing that they had iPads available to look up your bib number and fill out the race waiver.  After receiving your bib you were then directed to go pick up your shirts/bags.  If your half marathon shirt did not fit you at this point you were able to swap it out, however this option was not made available for the 5K.  When asking about swapping the 5K shirts they stated they did not have enough extra and they could be swapped after the race took place.

After we received our shirts and swag bags we headed to the official merchandise section of the expo, which was sponsored by Brooks.  They had some pretty great official merchandise but I was able to sustain some willpower and didn’t buy anything.  In this area Brooks also had freebies they were giving out if you signed up to be on their mailing list.  In doing this Mike and I both received headphones and Tracy won sunglasses.  After doing this you had the option of getting into the wind booth to win free running shoes.  Mike was the only one to do this and he had a blast, even though his turn in the booth was unsuccessful.  While we were in this area an announcer came over the intercom stating the expo would be closing in ten minutes and please make your final purchases.

The last stop of the expo was a quick visit to the miscellaneous vendors.  We rushed along our way in hopes of finding the runDisney race booth to possibly get a sneak peek of the 2016 Disneyland medals.  I was disappointed that runDisney was not there, because this was the first time I had not seen them at an RnR expo (previously I ran Las Vegas, Washington D.C., and Nashville).  I was also on the lookout for Sweaty Bands and did not see a booth for them either.  Overall I was shocked at how small this expo was in comparison to the one at RnR Las Vegas.


We decided to head over to the Beer Garden pre-ID booth to get our wristband for after the races to prove that we were over 21.  This did not work out how we had planned though and there was an expo worked at the end of the line saying they were no longer checking anyone else out because it was past 7pm.  The next thing we knew all vendors were closing down their booths and the announcer was coming overhead stating the expo had closed for the evening and to please come back the following day.  I will say I am very disappointed with the shutting down of the vendors promptly at 7pm.  I feel that if you are in the expo by 7pm they should continue to service anyone who is in the expo willing to spend money, not hurrying them out.

Swag review

I will say I was very impressed by the 5K shirts.  Most 5K shirts during a race weekend with multiple races tend to be cotton shirts, however these shirts were tech!  I loved the color and the design (made you think of Chicago’s flag).


With our shirts we also received a disposable cinch bag.  The bag was also supposed to double as a gear check bag if you needed to check a bag prior to the race to have after.  In this bag there were several snacks and samples including; Smarty Pants Vitamins, Corn Thins, a Hello Fresh coupon, Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing, Calmoseptine Ointment, Purex Crystals, Hemp Pro 70 Chocolate and Vanilla Protein Powder, and a Sport Clips Coupon.

The gear

I went against Mike’s opinion and did the unthinkable…Tracy and I both wore our race shirts to run in.  I mainly chose to do this because I had been planning on warmer weather and only had a tank-top to run in so it was nice to have a tech t-shirt available to wear.  I also wore grey Reebok compression shorts, VSX Incredible bra, Akron Half Marathon running socks, and a blue Sweaty Band.

The pre-race

Mike was gracious enough to drop Tim, Tracy, and I off at the start line so we did not have to worry about trying to find parking.  We arrived about 45 minutes prior to the race and were able to enjoy some pre-race stretching and photos.  With about 10 minutes prior to the race we headed to the corrals.  Tracy and I decided to run the race together and we picked a random corral to join (no one was enforcing corral placements).  Corral 1 was off at 7:30am followed by subsequent corrals about every 1:30 later.


Along the course

The 5k is a great course, combining some nice downhill sections with gorgeous views of lake front, all amidst the spectacular downtown skyline that is Chicago.

The race started out in Grant Park and headed west on Jackson Drive where we quickly turned right on Columbus Drive.  We took a slight uphill climb on Columbus Drive then into a nice downhill stretch began, followed by turning right onto east Randolph Street.  The downhill section continued and Tracy and I were running an excellent pace (oh the benefits of going downhill!) as we headed on to Lakefront Trail going due south!  Once we were past the mile one marker I decided that I was in desperate need of a walk break.

We then stuck to about a five minute run to a one minute walk interval for the remainder of the race. The next walk break worked out to putting us at the one and only water stop on the course at around mile 1.5.  We continued on Lakefront Trail past the mile 2 marker and took a right to head underneath lake shore drive and take a semicircle around to come up around the other side of Lake Shore Drive.  We then headed north on Lake Shore Drive via the sidewalk and came to the mile 3 marker before turning right on Jackson Drive to dash thru the finish line.


Like I said, the entire race is in downtown Chicago, so what is not to love about it? The Grant Park start and finish is tremendous as it puts you in the heart of this great city.  The atmosphere was fun, especially for a 5k, due in large part to the fact that the same infrastructure would be used the next day for the 10k and the half marathon events. In the end, it all just worked.

The SMOpinion

This was an excellent medal for a 5K.  It is designed to look like the Chicago Theatre sign.  We even made a special trip to the Chicago Theatre sign to take pictures with our medals.  The lanyard is white and has the city skyline going around it.  The event information is printed on the medals.


The post-race experience

There was propel water (not a fan, give me plain old water) and bananas at the finish line. There was also a beer garden and with our bibs we were given one free Michelob Ultra at the finish line.  Tim, Tracy, and I enjoyed our drinks in the grass area and enjoyed taking pictures with the Chicago skyline in the background.

Playlist Peak

I had googled RunDisney playlist earlier in the week to get some more songs that I could add to my playlist that were Disney-oriented.  I made a playlist of mainly all songs that I was not familiar running to.  A lot of the songs worked out great for me and I ended up adding some of them to my half marathon playlist the following day.

Looking back now

I would run this race again if I was going to be in town for it.  I really enjoyed running down Lake Shore Drive and seeing views of the lake. I especially liked that this course was not part of the half marathon course so that both races were completely different.


Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!