Run Review: Five Reasons to Run the Shamrock Shuffle (And One Reason Not to Run)

On Sunday, I joined over 21,000 green-clad runners for the annual Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K in downtown Chicago. This being my first time participating in the event, I thought I’d pass along a few reasons you may want to give it a go next year (and one reason it’s not worth the hype).

Credit: Shamrock Shuffle

1) You’d eventually like to run the Chicago marathon

The Chicago Marathon has two forms of entry: guaranteed and non-guaranteed. Non-guaranteed entries involve entering a lottery and hoping for the best. So, you may ask, how does one go about getting a guaranteed entry? According to the race’s website, you must do one of the following:

  • Time qualifier: Runners who have met the event’s age-graded qualifying standards or qualify for the event’s American Development Program.
  • Legacy finisher: Runners who have completed the Chicago Marathon five or more times within the last 10 years.
  • 2017 Cancelled entry: Runners who cancelled their 2017 entry through the event deferment/cancellation policy.
  • Charity: Runners who are fundraising for an official charity as part of the Chicago Marathon Charity Program.
  • International Tour Group: International runners (non-U.S.) participating in the 2018 event with an official International Tour Group Program partner. Requirements include cost of entry, air travel, hotel, etc., and vary among tour operators.
  • Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle: Runners who have completed the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K four or more times since 2000 and have signed up for the 2018 Shamrock Shuffle.

Looking through that list, it’s clear that running four 8Ks is one of the easiest ways to gain an auotomatic entry into the Chicago Marathon. After all, alternate methods include being really fast  or acquiring foreign residency to then book a trip back to Chicago. If you’re interested in eventually competing in Chicago’s signature road race, becoming a Shamrock Shuffle regular is one of your best bets.

2) You’ve never run a race in the Loop

The Shamrock Shuffle is one of several races (including the Chicago Marathon, Chicago Spring Half Marathon, and Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon) that start and end in Grant Park. While the scenery is nothing new for locals, the perspective certainly is. From the view of the river on the Columbus Drive bridge after emerging from lower-level darkness, to the stillness of blocked off Loop streets, the experience of a quiet downtown is jarring for those of us who are used to seeing it in rush hour.

3) You’re looking to stock up on gear for next year’s St. Patrick’s Day

No race is complete without not-exactly-free gear, and The Shamrock Shuffle gives away predictably Irish-themed swag. While I found this year’s black shirt with green accent to be a bit too sleek for such a festive occasion, the green and white socks will be perfect for next year’s river-dying festivities. In fact, it blows my mind that I managed to graduate from the home of the Fighting Irish without ever owning a pair of socks like this.

I will warn you, however, that you probably shouldn’t run the actual race in these stockings if you’re at all worried about blisters. Most of the runners who I saw wearing them had them on over actual running socks.

4) You want to record an 8K time

The 8K is a weird distance. It’s between the 5K and 10K, two extremely common road race distances. It’s also 0.08 miles short of 5 miles, so you could easily move the finish line a bit and just call it a 5-miler. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to run a nice time at this distance, the course is fast, flat and surprisingly uncrowded. One word of warning, though: I waited for over 20 minutes in the cold from the time my corral closed and the start of the race because I was in the last corral of the first wave. While I would never actively encourage dishonesty in my readers, those who are anticipating a race pace between 8:30 and 9:00 per mile might want to round up a bit to get into the first corral of the second wave.

5) Friendship

Before the race, I saw plenty of skinny people in matching windbreakers who were warming up at a faster pace than I would race. They were part of the Deloitte Elite Club competition. For those plebeians who still enjoy running with our buds, there is the Deloitte Open Team Competition with competitive, open and corporate divisions. Sign up as a team if you’d like to all work together toward a common goal (just showing up and running with your friends informally is fun too).

Don’t get fooled by the offer of free beer

Look, if you really enjoy Michelob Ultra, then take your free beer ticket and enjoy it. Otherwise, skip the post-race freebie and treat yourself to something tasty at the brunch you earned. Personally, I went with a Founders Breakfast Stout on nitro at The Vig on Wells. Point being, enjoy the race, then enjoy your post race beverage of choice, but don’t feel like you need to bundle them.

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