The sign reads 35th St exit 1 mile. Southbound Lake Shore Drive has been closed to allow for the Soldier Field 10-mile run to use this novel running surface. The runners have navigated through this turn-around point. Now we walkers are approaching the half-way point of the race.
In Spring, 2011, Kevin and Dave decided to improve their stamina. They set their initial sites on the Hot Chocolate Run, 9.3 miles from Grant Park to the United Center and back. After its successful completion, they sign up for the Soldier Field 10-mile run. The novelty of this race is completing the run on the 50-yard line at Soldier Field. What Bear fan could pass up this opportunity?
Dave has discovered that walking in a race is a bit different than sauntering down Michigan Av. Participants are required to average 4mph, or a 15-minute mile. Most of us typically walk 2.5-3mph. As Dave nears the turn-around point, his son, Kevin, waves from the northbound path. Kevin has done a combination of jogging and walking. Dave checks his left knee with its titanium insert—no more running after the knee replacement the prior year.
In Dave’s driving mind, 1 mile to the exit at 35th Street should be reached in a minute. When one is on an expressway, a mile takes a minute. After that minute, Dave doesn’t feel any closer to the exit. His body reminds him that he’s not driving today. Dave looks around and sees ‘the bus.’ Race organizers have paid a pretty penny to have the city shut down Lake Shore Drive, and they are strictly enforcing the 15-minute mile race standard. ‘The bus’ picks up stragglers and returns them to the starting line, without accolades and without the race medal. Fortunately, the bus is a good half-mile away—Dave is a little ahead of schedule thus far.
He notices the next 1/10-mile marker. Each marker should be passed every 6 seconds—10 markers per mile, one minute per mile. That 5/10-mile marker remains annoyingly fixed in Dave’s sights.
Dave maintains a steady pace, staying a little ahead of the 15-minute-per-mile. He is joined by many weekend warriors. There are folks of all ages that seem to think they can run 10 miles but instead have to make frequent stops. It’s the tortoise and the hare all over again. Some folks are actually wearing dress shoes or flip-flops. Dave’s feet ache just thinking about going 10 miles in that footwear.
5 minutes have gone by and that 35th St exit sign looms just as far in the distance as it did 5 minutes ago. Not really, but it feels like it.
After 15 minutes, the crowd reaches the exit ramp. Another revelation. Dave’s mind is in driving mode again. One zips down an exit ramp only worrying about whether to turn left or right at the end. But Dave is still walking. He wonders if he will have to move into the left-turn lane to legally stay in the race. The exit ramp is interminable. He’ll have plenty of time to figure out which lane to get into.
Dave finishes the race a couple of minutes before the 2 ½ hour time limit. He goes into sprint mode for the final 200 yards, including that magical run on soldier field. His sprinting self-image is dashed as he reviews the photo-for-purchase that shows a lumbering 60+ y/o fellow rather than an athletic 30 y/o. Kevin finished 15 minutes earlier and the father and son team take a couple of pictures of themselves on the field. They proudly wear their medals through the park and cab ride home. They are feeling every mile, but they’ve made it.