Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | June 13, 2010

Soldier Field 10-Miler (I had to get up early, but I got Molly Conway’s Autograph)

Psychologists, sociologists, child development experts and others are currently engaged in vigorous debate regarding the benefits and drawbacks of social media and its impact on our society.  It seems as if every week there is another study documenting the adverse impact social media has on children’s development. Are we raising a generation of social incompetents who can’t read nonverbal cues and facial expressions? Will this new generation be unable to read books because their attention span stops at the 141st character? Will they be so involved in their “online” lives that they no longer have face-to-face, old-fashioned interaction with “real life” people?  On a more personal level, is social media a benefit or a time sucker; a useful tool or a way to avoid cleaning the house?  I will admit that since I’ve gotten on Twitter, my house is pretty much a mess. (Some would argue that it was a mess long before Twitter was invented, but I just ignore comments like that.)

While I am willing to concede that Twitter might be a bit of a time sucker, I also credit it with  making me a better runner. What’s more, thanks to Twitter, I have now become part of a running community – not just online but in real life. I chat regularly with other runners in Chicago and meet up with them at local races.  As as result, I am now signing up for substantially more races than I used to.  Of course, that might be a good or bad thing, depending on what day you catch me, and what time the race starts.

For any given running event in Chicago, you can be sure that at least one of the Chicago Twitter Runners will be there. And for some Chicago events, it seems to be de rigueur.  The latest example was the Soldier Field 10-miler. A large number of the Chicago Twitter Runners were doing it. What’s more, it is a unique event: the race finishes on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field itself. I had to do it.  But like all events that start before 10AM, I quickly wondered why in the world I had signed up.

I was over at a friend’s house the night before the race but I had to leave early to go home and get a decent night’s sleep. I was looking at a 5:30AM departure to get to the race on time. My friend asked, quite simply, “Why the hell do you do these things?”  And it was an excellent question, the question that inspired this blog, in fact. Because who wants to get up at 5AM on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend?  Most of my “real life” friends would never, in a million years, get up at 5AM on a holiday weekend to do a race.  What is it about me that propels me to do these things, when instead I could simply sleep late and then go for a run or ride on my own time, or better yet, stay out late over-imbibing and then just hit a spin class to sweat it all out the next day? Why don’t I just stick with the easy, tried-and-true routine? Why do I do these things?  My feeble answer: “Because it’s fun?”

At 10PM on a Friday night, as I am waving off more food and beverages, it certainly didn’t seem “fun.” And at 4:45 Saturday morning, when my alarm went off, I guarantee “fun” was not the f-word that came to mind.  In that moment, precisely 4:45, I was at my lowest.  That was when the race seems like a SUPREMELY stupid idea.

Reluctantly, I hauled myself out of bed. I donned my race outfit, carefully laid out the night before. I went downstairs, grabbed my protein shake, let the dogs out, and then drove my sorry, sleepy self to Chicago. Fortunately, I had arranged to give Heather (@flourgrrrl on Twitter) a ride, so I had an incentive to get going. Heather and I have run a couple of races together, and I think we make a good team. Sometimes she is faster, sometimes I am faster, but usually we pace each other along for the first part of the race and then split up at the end. I met Heather through Twitter, and being able to run with her has made these races much more enjoyable. Knowing her and some other Twitter Runners has transformed these races from solitary experiences to social events. Of course, I generally don’t feel very social at 5:30 in the morning.

Fortunately, by the time I got Heather I was a little more awake and alert. We arrived at Soldier Field without a hitch and had plenty of time to check our gear and get ready for the race. The race was put on by Fleet Feet (@FleetFeetChgo) and was supremely well-organized.  The weather was perfect, the lake was shining, the city looked beautiful, and soon enough we were off.  Heather and I stayed together until about mile 6, then we got separated. I have to admit, even though I am not much of a Bears fan, finishing in Soldier Field was fantastic.  We ran straight onto the field through the players entrance. What’s more, the JumboTron had a live feed of the runners entering the stadium, so you could actually look up and see yourself.  Without a doubt, it was the most unusual race finish I have ever experienced.  I took a moment to pause and look around.  The stadium appeared even larger from down on the field. The seats, of course, were mostly empty, just a few spectators and earlier finishers cheering on the runners. But for a moment you could get a sense of what it must be like to be in the center of the action when it is filled with thousands of cheering fans. I gazed at the gleaming stadium stretching up around me, humbled by it enormity, wondering if this is what Bono felt like during last summer’s U2 concert at Soldier Field. Of course, Bono  didn’t have a security guard telling him to move along. My moment of imaginary stardom was over.

After finding Heather at the finish, we proceeded to meet up with the rest of the ChiTwitRunners at our predetermined location. Everyone was there: my pal @chanthana, @krzimmer, @MailorderAndie, @Jor_Dash, and several others, including @daRevoluCHIN who came just to cheer us on. We stood around recapping the race and enjoying the weather. I was able to meet some new Chicago runners I hadn’t encountered before, including @edschober and @elizabethtowle. We were just about to move along when we saw @MollyConway.

Molly is one of the ChiTwitRunners I had met before; we had run together a few months ago for one of the Saturday morning brunch-runs.  However, that was before Molly became famous.  She had previously run the Soldier Field 10-Miler, and the race photographer had taken a great photo of her crossing the finish line. It was such a wonderful photo that it was blown up and put on display at Fleet Feet. What’s more, it was selected to be the cover photo on this year’s race brochure.  Want to double-check the race route or start time? Just look for Molly Conway’s photo on the cover and you will find all the details inside. Curious about what parking is available on race day? Look for the picture of Molly and you will find the answer. When it comes to the Soldier Field 10 miler, Molly Conway is a celebrity. So, when she showed up post race, we cried “Look, its Molly Conway!” and asked her for her autograph.  People around us seemed quite confused.  I guess not everyone recognizes celebrity when they see it.

Before we knew it, it was time to move on to the brunch that Chanthana had graciously organized. Heather and I were both planning to go, but then we started to feel the weight of the day’s to-do lists bearing down on us. Pressed for time, we decided to head home. We bid goodbye to our runner friends, saying we would see them at the next event. I dropped Heather off and made it home by lunch, ready to dive into the rest of my day. While it would have been nice to skip it and sleep until 10, it was certainly worth getting up early for the race. As usual, life is more fun when you do stuff (even if it doesn’t seem that fun when the alarm goes off).


  1. And you also race for the bling 🙂 It was so fun seeing you twice that week (Cubs game!). Great job on the race (and drafting off that runner during the last miles – haha). We’ll have another bRUNch soon and hope you & Heather can make it. We certainly missed you ladies! Merci for the mention and hope you are enjoying France!

    • Forgot to mention the bling! I wear my medal proudly. And the cool shirt!

  2. Great post! I didn’t run the SF10, but I worked the aid station at mile 10. Have to admit, “fun” was not the f-word I thought of when MY alarm went off at 4:45 either, but the day did end up being great fun. Like you, I’ve come to love the camaraderie of the Twitter running community. And it’s a real charge when I meet Twitter friends “IRL.” Hopefully, I’ll get to meet you soon too. Oh … and the famous Molly Conway, of course!

    • Don’t forget to bring your autograph book when you meet Molly! On a more serious note, all the volunteers like you deserve a huge thank you – you have to get up just as early as the rest of us, and you aren’t even racing. These events could not happen without you – so thanks! Hope to see you at the next one.

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