16 Miles on Lake Michigan.

Sunday morning started out MUCH earlier than I am used to these days.  Months ago, I sent out a plea on Twitter to see if anyone else needed to do a marathon training long run the weekend of the Healthy Living Summit in Chicago.  Almost immediately, I got a response back from fellow marathon enthusiast, Meghann!

And so, an HLS group long run was born.  I was up at FIVE AM, in order to get dressed and ready to run.  I had to change and eat my breakfast in the closet so that I wouldn’t disturb my roommates.  After days of being on the go nonstop, I was so tired.

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But I had THIS to look forward to, which pulled me out of bed. 

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I met up with Meghann, and Jen in the lobby, and before I knew it we had a group of EIGHT amazing runners all planning to conquer 16 miles together.  We headed out to the Chicago Lakefront Trail, a beaaaaautiful trail that runs along Lake Michigan for miles and miles.

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At 6am there were very few other runners out there yet, and the city seemed so peaceful and quiet with the sun still rising.

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Our gang took off and found a comfortable pace all together.  Can I just add that I am obsessed with these new running tanks I got from Target?  They are built in bra tanks, but not the kind that are all tight and bunch up on your stomach – they are loose and flowy!  I am buying ten more.

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If you haven’t figured it out already, I am also slightly obsessed with water of all shapes and sizes.  Running along the lake was pure heaven.  I’m sure I annoyed the group with my constant squeals of “this is SO beautiful!” – but seriously…it was.

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Other perk of the trail – WATER fountains everywhere!  Soo many places to refill bottles and take bathroom breaks.  You can’t ask for much more.  This makes me excited x100 to move to DC where I can walk from my house to the Mt. Vernon Trail – I can’t wait!

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This was the biggest group run I’ve done to date.  In the past I’ve run with one or two others, but never a big group.  I always thought running groups just weren’t for me, but after yesterday I am seriously considering joining a running group when I get to DC.  Getting to know these wonderful seven other runners made the miles fly by, and by the end I felt like I had seven new friends.  From left to right – Leslie, Meghann, me, Monica, Jen, Becky, and Evan (and un-pictured, but totally awesome Theodora!)

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We ran south on the trail to the 8 mile marker, where we all high fived and then turned around. 

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This was by far my best MCM training long run to date, and I totally attribute it to the wonderful group I ran with.  Who runs 16 miles on vacation?  Ahhh the power of group motivation.  This run was also really special because Meghann and I FINALLY got to run together!  We’ve been blog-running friends for a few years, and finally getting to meet and run was one of the highlights of my entire weekend.

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I finished 16 miles feeling TIRED, but strong.  I stopped to take a few walk breaks in the last few miles (thank you Jen for walking with me!), but it was still the strongest run I’ve had in a while.  16 miles – check!

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After the run, I had a few hours left to kill in the city before my plane departed, so we took advantage of the extra time and went walking in search of Chicago DEEP DISH.

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For me, this weekend was all about the people.  The food was good, and the sessions were informative, but the friendships formed are what is still making me glow a day later!

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I love Chicago.  I try not to hold my horrific Chicago Marathon experience against the city as a whole.  :)

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After a crowded 2 mile walk down the Magnificent Mile, we found ourselves at Gino’s East Pizzeria.

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Hungry and ready for FOOD!

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During our run, we declared that we weren’t leaving Chicago without the legendary deep dish pizza, and what better way to earn it than running 16 miles, right?

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Our group split the vegetarian and spinach pizzas – one slice of each.

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Holy crust – cheesy gooey goodness.  I had to pace myself so that I didn’t inhale it in three bites.

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Such a wonderful local indulgence.  :)

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Enjoyed with new friends – the best part!  :) 

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I know that so many bloggers and readers had fun this weekend finally getting to meet face to face.  Since so many of us are runners, and clearly we all like to travel and get together, I think it would be so fun to organize a HUGE blogger running relay.  I am looking for relays around the country as we speak!  Who’s interested?

After a long train ride and journey through the airport with the lovely Diana

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I finally made my way back to Charlotte and into the waiting arms of Casey and the pups.  I had such a wonderful time in Chicago, but it’s nice to be back home too.  Especially knowing that I’m leaving the Windy City with 16 strong miles under my legs, and a huge group of new, wonderful friends.

(A million thanks to Leslie for letting me steal all her pictures!!)