Okay, we took poetic license with the title of the Lovin' Spoonful's 1960s classic. They sang "hot time." We say "fast," as in your predicted finishing time for The LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic--a pancake flat, scenic half-marathon that runs along the Chicago lakefront and through the WindyCity--on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007, at 6:30 a.m. We'll also add "great," as in the predicted time you will have during your summer stay in the city (of Chicago).
"It's Chicago in summer, you can't beat it," said John "The Penguin" Bingham, a noted author, Runners World contributor and Chicago native. His company, John Bingham Racing, LLC, manages the Chicago Distance Classic, as well as other races around the country.
"There are boats on the lake. Museums. Ball games. Restaurants. Come out and do Chicago in the summer!" exclaimed Bingham.
Runners, after finishing the half marathon (in a fast time, see above), will not only feel a great sense of accomplishment but should also feel fresh enough to experience all Chicago has to offer, including a splendid spread after the race at Grant Park, where the race starts and finishes.
"There will be a big post-race celebration," said David Babner, President of John Bingham Racing. "There will be lots of food, lots of tents and a band. Grant Park is a great place for people to hang out and enjoy the day."
Runners will be taken care of during the race as well--with eight "really well-supported, well-staffed aid stations along the spectator-friendly route," said Babner, who noted the 6:30 a.m. start time was chosen to ensure runners will "beat the heat."
Another plus is running along the city's lakefront path, "Coming up from the south of the city, there are spectacular views," describes Bingham.
The LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic, formerly a 20K before Bingham's company took over the race in 2002, is not only a "celebration of exercise and the active lifestyle"--one of Bingham's tenets--but also a perfect tune-up race for those running a fall marathon.
"During the summer everyone in Chicago is training for a fall marathon," said Bingham, noting that many of the same athletes running the Chicago Distance Classic will also be participating in The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon on Oct. 7, 2007. "For the vast majority (of runners) this is a check-up race."
The Chicago Distance Classic is a dry-run for the Chicago Marathon--without the extra 13.1 miles of pounding--where runners can experience miles of the marathon course, along with the same starting and finishing lines at Grant Park.
In addition to being a great tune-up for The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, the race is part of Chicago's "triple crown" of road racing with The LaSalle Bank Shamrock Shuffle 8K (held in March) and the aforementioned Chicago Marathon, said Babner.
"Running is very popular in the city of Chicago. And these three races are the biggest in the city," Babner said.
While running is an individual sport, there's also team competition offered at The LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic as runners may partake in the Chicago Challenge team competition (see website for details).
Just as pro sports teams have coaches and trainers, The LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic has an event coach: Jenny Hadfield.
"Jenny is there for people to get advice on training, ask questions about nutrition and find out anything they want to know. Sometimes people just need to know they are doing things okay," Bingham said.
Expo, Lodging in the Windy City
In the days leading up to the race, a free two-day Expo (open to the public), where Bingham and event coach Jenny Hadfield will speak and where runners must pick up their race packet, will be held on Friday, Aug. 10, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 11, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Avenue in the North West Hall.
The Hilton Chicago is the official headquarters hotel of The LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic and is situated less than a quarter mile from the race's start/finish area in Grant Park. Special room rates are available for runners but you must mention the race when calling for reservations. To reach the Hilton Chicago, call 312-922-440 or 800-455-8667.
All finishers of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic will receive a "Big Honkin' Penguin" medal, said Bingham, inscribed with the words: "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
"That's what it's all about," Bingham said. "As anyone who has ever read my column knows, I am not talking about VO2 max. I am not talking anaerobic threshold but I am talking about healthy lifestyles which include exercise. For a lot of people, the hardest thing about exercising is starting. It takes courage, and we want to celebrate exercise. We want to create an environment where everyone is exercising."
And since Bingham took over his hometown race in 2002, more people are exercising. "In the late '90s I had run the Chicago Distance Classic. It was a great race, and I had a nice time," said Bingham, who grew up on the west side of Chicago and moved back to Chicago in 2000. "At the time I jokingly said to the race director, 'If you want to sell the race, I'd be interested in buying it.'
"Well, in the spring of 2002, I was running on the lakefront path (in Chicago) and a woman going the opposite way asked, 'Do you still want to buy it?' In an oxygen-deprived state, I said yes, and a few weeks later we owned it."
"In 2002 (after buying the race), I had no idea what to expect. I had a vision of what the race could be because it was the oldest race in the city with a rich history," Bingham continued. "The first year of the race we were sitting in the field prior to the race unwrapping medals. We had 2,400 runners, but since then the growth has been astronomical."
Last year's LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic had over 8,000 finishers with Brian Sell winning the overall race in a swift 1:04:25 and Hiromi Ominami topping the women's field in 1:11:56. This year's race will be capped at 12,000 runners, according to Babner. "It's a great community running event," Bingham said. And it's a great event to run a fast time in a summer in the city.
For information on all aspects of the race, including registration and lodging, visit www.chicagodistanceclassic.com . Runners will save $5 by registering online. Online registration closes Monday, Aug. 6, 2007, or when the maximum (12,000 participants) has been reached.