The sold-out Chicago Half Marathon promised to bring more than 16,000 runners to Jackson Park on the South Side. Chicagoans are well acquainted with “lake effect,” but this race is to be run in Ike-effect weather, on a day when Cook County is being declared a disaster area due to the rains pushed north by the hurricane hammering Texas. But the run is on, rain or shine, so an odd collection of runners converge in various states of plastic wrap early this Sunday morning.
Many apparently had confused wet with cold, in spite of the seventy-degree-plus forecast, and are bundled up like they are running in a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. Others hopelessly try to stay dry, some even wrapping their shoes in oversized plastic bags. The sponsors’ arena, in a grassy field near the starting line, becomes an unlikely popularity contest: the bigger the tent, the more people willing to seek shelter in your pitch. Nissan has the biggest tent, and the biggest crowd, though one of its reps tries to kick everyone out at one point—“If you’re not signing up to win a car, you have to get out of the tent”—briefly setting back Nissan’s PR a thousand years or so. The Nissan team quickly realizes its opportunity (not to mention the likelihood of a dismal post-race turnout, since runners will be seeking dry clothes and shelter rather than car talk) and becomes welcoming.
The race itself turns out to be a relative pleasure for many runners, as the winds stay calm and the modest rain prevents overheating. The biggest challenge of the weekend, it turned out, had been suffering the waddling hordes of tourists at Navy Pier, which organizers had unfortunately decided would be a good place to make racers pick up their registration packets. What’s a hurricane when you’ve survived a storm of fanny-packs? (Brian Hieggelke)