Deciding to go to the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) Convention in Chicago a year ago was easy. Having the opportunity to immerse myself in my profession for several days has always been something that I’ve enjoyed. But now that we were on our quest to run a road race in every state, the opportunity to go to Illinois and check off another state was the clincher. We decided that I would go to Chicago on my own for the Convention and Mike would meet me Friday night. We used our trusty runningintheusa.com site and found what I thought could become the most festive race yet.
Once I took a peek at the The Ugly Sweater Run website, I knew we had to do it. The video of hoards of people dressed in “ugly sweaters” with gigantic blowup Christmas decorations lining the route looked awesome. It’s an un-timed run that is just for fun. Substitute hot chocolate for water stops and wool hats for t-shirts, keep the traditional beer party at the end and you’ve got an Ugly Sweater Run!
Before heading to Chicago, I did my best to find Mike and I ugly sweaters. Since we had been hitting thrift stores on a regular basis as we collected white plates for Amelia’s wedding (see previous post for more details on that), it was not hard. So I headed to Chicago with my special ugly sweater in my suitcase.
The conference was great but I was eager for Mike to join me. Unfortunately, there were a number of flight delays that resulted in him arriving at our hotel very late on Friday night. However, he made it in time for the Saturday morning race. Carefully planning and packing my race day attire is always my first priority when traveling. So although it felt very bizarre to be getting ready for a race by putting on our hideous acrylic sweaters we were ready to run. We looked ridiculous. It was perfect!
I guess I was feeling a tad self-conscious about our attire as we waited to take the elevator downstairs because as soon as the elevator doors opened I blurted out, “We’re doing the Ugly Sweater Run!” The people on the elevator thought my disclaimer was humorous but I wasn’t taking a chance that they would think we dressed like this for real.
We had debated about taking a taxi or public transportation to the race but our decision to go with the bus was perfect. There was only one other obvious race participant on the bus when we got on but within a few blocks every stop added in more and more people who were obviously headed to the same event. Suddenly my ugly sweater looked pretty mundane compared to the festive outfits and accessories that many people had donned. I have to admit I was actually having some sweater envy as I eyed the array of attire before me.
The pumping Christmas music blasting from the start told us we had arrived even before we saw the enormous inflatable decorations. It was extremely windy and some of the inflatables looked precariously close to ditching their moorings. The mood was incredibly festive and obviously the participants were not in it for a PR. Although we are used to having beer at races (and basically consider it an essential component of a good event) we were not used to seeing runners drinking beer before the race. But they were.
After getting the crowd jazzed up with holiday music and an enthusiastic announcer, they began to release waves of runners. The course wound around the park-like area surrounding Soldiers Field and along Lake Michigan. The water was so choppy that waves splashed up onto the concrete sidewalk lining the lake. Along the route we were cheered on by a variety of holiday characters. When we came to the hot chocolate/water stop I definitely was not in the mood for hot chocolate and happily nabbed my paper cup of water. Despite the cool temps and brisk wind, I was hot. Apparently acrylic ugly sweaters don’t wick away sweat. However, we finished the race feeling enthusiastic and energized. It was a great race that we would definitely think of doing again in another location
We sampled some Sam Adams and soaked up a little more Christmas spirit before heading back to our hotel. After changing into much less festive attire we ventured to the Navy Pier for lunch at Riva Cafe.
There was a great view of Lake Michigan and we enjoyed watching large ferries/tour boats (?) maneuver into their moorings.
That evening we enjoyed dinner at an upscale beer pub recommended by our hotel concierge.
The beer and drink menu was extensive so we celebrated the completion of our 15th state.
The presentation of our dessert donuts and dipping sauces was adorable.
The next morning we awoke to a thunder storm so opted out of an early run. The storm passed but it was incredibly balmy and windy as we walked to Millennium Park after breakfast. We were enthralled with the Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “The Bean”. The skies were intense which made for some dramatic photos.
I love this shot where you can see me taking the photo of Mike.
We reluctantly left the city for the airport. With the intense winds and previous thunder storms we were anticipating that our flight might be delayed. But American Airlines kept indicating it was on time…until exactly five minutes after we arrived at our gate at which point the flight was cancelled! Very intense storms were suddenly pummeling the airport. “Cancelled” statuses were filling the flight screens. We miraculously found a desk with a gate attendant who was able to book us on a flight the next day AND gave us vouchers for “a good rate” at an airport hotel.
We checked into our hotel and found that it was indeed a very good deal, i.e. free! We felt lucky to have been given this perk. However, as we watched the news coverage of the storms, we learned that more than 40 tornadoes had touched down just south of Chicago. Sadly, four people were killed by these severe storms. We felt so fortunate to have only been slightly inconvenienced by having our travel home delayed by a day.
Despite the unexpected ending to our trip to Chicago, we had enjoyed a fabulous time in the city and had a very merry Ugly Sweater Run. Although my runs at home this time of year don’t have quite the excitement of the Ugly Sweater Run, I am loving running to this festive Spotify holiday playlist that Amelia created. Hearing sleigh bells as I run or doing intervals to “Run Run Rudolph” really adds to the Christmas spirit. It’s a perfect soundtrack for actual running or for running around doing holiday prep and just enjoying the season.
Quest Race #: 15
Date Run: November 16, 2013
The Bottom Line: The Ugly Sweater Run was definitely the most fun race we have done in our quest. We think that doing Ugly Sweater Runs in other locations would make a great holiday tradition.