Saucony 26 Strong: Sweating In Chicago

Natalie Hopper and Holly Jaeger in Chicago

Two Saucony 26 Strong teams were in Chicago this weekend to run the XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon.

Team 12, with vet Holly Jaeger and cadet Natalie Hopper, traveled from Overland Park, Kan., to take on the race in the Windy City. They were welcome by the warm and humid weather that’s been making running difficult in the Midwest the past few weeks. Luckily things cooled off a big for race-day, but it still meant a tougher than expected race. Here’s Holly’s race recap:

“Natalie has really been running well and we were hoping for her to get a PR, but that didn’t happen. There were a few factors, first our Garmin’s were not working in the city and we could not tell our pace.

“It was also hot. We stopped at all but one water station, which was smart, but we for sure could have gone through those quicker. I know when we got our results, 2:01, which disappointed her and got her a little discouraged. I hate that because our pace felt really good and she finished strong.

“I am so glad we did this race together, I learned a lot about how she runs a race (it is so different than a long weekend run). I have some great ideas that will help with the goal race and hopefully get her to the marathon finish under 4 hours. I am also trying to keep it very positive and take it one run at a time. Natalie is worried about finishing 26 miles, when I’m trying to get her to look at things a little differently. For instance, we are going 16 this weekend and I told her to look at it as running 8 and then 8 again, trying not to get wrapped up in the big number.”

Team 10 didn’t have quite so far to travel. Cadet Marla Brizel and vet Jason Dement both live in Chicago, and were excited to compete in their hometown race. The actually ran into Natalie and Holly just before the finish. Here’s Marla’s race report for the half marathon:

“On our first run together, Jason suggested running the Rock n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon together as a training run. A quick check of my training schedule revealed that a 13-miler happened to be on the books for that same weekend and plans were quickly made. As race day approached, I became increasingly more nervous: though I was used to running on weekends with my Chicago Endurance Sports training buddies, I had never raced with anyone before, let alone a runner as strong as Jason. To further heighten my nerves, I had a less-than-ideal half marathon experience only a few weeks prior to Rock ‘n’ Roll that left me so dehydrated and disoriented that I failed to remember my own name at the finish line.

“Fortunately, none of my pre-race fears materialized during Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. Hot and humid conditions at the start led to an early mutual decision to not run for time but rather for fun. Running at an easy pace allowed for periodic conversation (and a few wildly off-key Whitney Houston lyrics) and plenty of photo-ops. Jason offered support and feedback throughout the entire race, which was incredibly helpful, especially given that I—like many runners—tend to be overly self-critical during a big race. We were able to discuss form and nutrition as we covered the course and develop strategies to avoid repeating past racing mistakes.

“Running with Jason was extremely fun and offered me fresh perspective on the half marathon distance. In spite of the hot temperatures, I finished only 2:30 off of my PR, which makes me excited for cool autumn weather. I can’t wait to apply what I learned during this race to the latter half of my marathon training.”

Congratulations to both teams for great races in Chicago.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, click here.


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