Race Day Part 2: Hurry Up and Wait. Then Hurry.

See part 1 of Gin and Clare’s Chicago Half Marathon morning here:

Ninety minutes. It felt as vast as Jackson Park.  Invoking the philosophy of “when in doubt, wander,” we set off into the moist grass, avoiding the paths packed with industrious organizers and volunteers carrying barricades, clipboards, tents, cases of bananas, and all other matter of race day essentials. We were like guests who arrive to a party early. You sort of want to offer to help chop the vegetables, but often the best bet is to grab a drink and get out of the way.

As we walked, vapor lights  deepened the darkness around us, and popped the green of  the turf below.  It took a while  to realize we were on a golf course. This elicited  conversations about sneakaway spots we had as teens, which in turn helped pass the time.

We eventually  settled and snacked at the base of the “Golden Lady,” the small scaled, but still impressive, replica of the Statue of the Republic. The original overlooked the White City built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which was held in Jackson Park and surrounding areas.  Two hundred years later, at the Chicago Half Marathon’s Tent City, I tried to channel the excitement and hope of leaning into the 20th century (no Y2K to worry about!). I was glad to be with a friend and not a lone gal wandering the big, sooty city vulnerable to the overtures of an incinerating psychopath.

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At around 6:15am–still 45 minutes from the starting line–we sensed mobilization and hurried to gear check. It reminded me of flying Southwest during the 90’s. Seating was first come, first served, and people would arrive over an hour early  to increase the odds of an overhead bin and a window seat. (That was my motivation, anyway.)The line would snake informally though and around seats and on the floor, with gentleman’s agreements keeping a sense of general order. But eventually–and often unnecessarily early–someone would decide to queue up by the gate, creating a mad scramble of people grabbing their shit and dashing into line. Honor mostly prevailed, but I must tell the truth: there were times I used my sharp analytical skills, lack of height, quick feet, and earnest smile to slip into unearned spots towards the front of the B line.

Our mellow suddenly turned to brisk. Zip over to gear check, then the porta-potty line, which was moving slowly and making everyone near and behind us a little  nervous. It is such a strange thing, this ritual of people hoping to head to the start line with empty bladders and happy bowels. It’s not like a stadium where beer engorged people queue up between innings or quarters with a chuckling “I gotta pee!” spirit. It’s much more serious and collegial. Every time that green half circle clicks the door open, you can see the triumph or defeat; when the people in front of you go in, you think things like “godspeed and may the force (of gravity and peristalsis) be with you.” See what happens next here.

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