I came across Fellow Flowers when it was announced that they would be the "official" VIP sponsors of the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon and 5K (race recap here). I contemplated it for a while since I would have to fly solo and after receiving some positive feedback from Facebook and a kind nudge from the hubby, I decided to go forward and purchase the VIP package for $70.
You can check out their message straight from the horse's mouth by checking out their webpage but in short, it is simply a group of women who support each other by running together and running through life together. That's it. No dues, no fundraising, no extra commitments except the one you already make to yourself. That message really resonated with me since I had to overcome my own insecurities and body image issues to start running in the first place.
THE VIP WEEKEND ITSELF
I'm going to just outline this bullet point style and talk about each part of the weekend but just to quickly point out, their VIP weekend promised a Happy Hour, a Black Dress-Orange Carpet Party, a shake out run, a stretch the f*ck out yoga session, a swag bag and VIP race day treatment, including a separate tent and porta potties.
Happy Hour was hosted at Big Bar on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency. I came by after work and immediately saw the flower gals occupying a few tables. I was immediately greeted by Mel and some other gals. I sipped on a bellini and chatted with the ladies for about 25 minutes before leaving to get my hair done.
Okay, obviously not part of the VIP package but I needed an excuse to get all done up. I stopped by Blowtique to get my hair done (Megan was fabulous!) and then went to the Gage to have dinner with my hubby.
My hair is trying to hard to survive in the humidity!
Black Dress - Orange Carpet Party
So this was the scariest part because I would really be solo for a few hours. Upon arriving (early) at the Hyatt, I met Fellow Flower ladies Jaime and Kellie, who instantly took me in. I thought it would just be while we were waiting but they stuck with me the whole evening - how awesome!
Lobby of the Hyatt . A shot of my entire ensemble (in the bathroom, I know) . Flower fun sign
We watched two FF promotional videos and played a game. I think half the room naturally wanted to let out an audible groan but everyone humored the hosts and played. We were to walk around the room choosing petals whose color messages represented us the most. We then stood in a circle and were asked to find our "why"; when a statement resonated with us, we were to step forward. Some questions were silly but others were very serious and deep - some tears were shed! The point was that many of these feelings we feel are for us alone, or for us to deal with alone, but after all was said and done, we were standing shoulder to shoulder amongst each other. It was a very touching and unifying experience.
Shortly after, we resumed the festivities (aka silly picture taking). A nice touch to the evening was the acknowledgement of those who came solo and the assurance that they would not leave solo. After a few more rounds of fun photos, I called it a night and went home.
Shake out run and Stretch the f*ck out yoga
I made the executive decision to skip the 9:15am shake out run. My heart really wanted to go hang out with the ladies but my "first half marathon ever" brain told me not to do anything different, which applied to running the day before a race. I usually take a brief walk and do some yoga before a race so I walked my normal Breakfast Club route at 8:00am and drove down at 9:45am for packet pick up and yoga.
It seemed as though the ladies had a late start because by 10:25, none of the runners had returned for the 10:30 yoga. I picked up my race packet, scoped out a yoga spot and browsed the market before settling down for breathing at 10:35. As suspected, the yoga session was delayed for the runners and we got started at 11:00am.
Photo compliments of Yoga Six
The yoga session was noisy but it was welcomed and I really enjoyed it. At the end of it all, we got $100 gift cards for Yoga Six studios, soon to be opening in the Chicago area! A perk I will definitely utilize!
Fellow Flowers Swag Bag
It was at the market that I picked up the swag bag for being a member of the Fellow Flowers group. What a swag bag! We received race tanks, a cute bag, two inspirational magnets, a flower decal, Ardonne lip balm and other little goodies, including flower gummies!
Race Day VIP Treatment
Fellow Flowers had a secure tent in the post-race area where we could store our belongings and use their porta potties. They had a handful of Clif Shot Blocks for us to use and tables/chairs set up for after the race. My only disappointment was that we were scheduled to take a photo at 6:30am sharp but at 6:40, we hadn't taken a photo yet. It was a little disappointing for me only because I had other non-flower friends who were trying to meet me and the window of time was just growing smaller so I made the decision to leave the Flower tent to join my other friends. We took our own photo and made our way to the corrals with just a few minutes to spare!
After the race, however, I was very happy to have the Flower tent. They were kind enough to allow my support team into the VIP area so we were all able to sit down and take a load off. They had extra water and Gatorade, along with beer-ritas and other lite beverages. And how could I forget, the Chicago deep dish pizza! I usually can't eat after a race but after being on the road for nearly 3 hours, I happily helped myself to a slice.
We took some more silly photos and the DJ called us out for some dancing! We all stumbled out of our VIP tent paradise and joined in some silly dancing. Most of us called it a day after that; I bid my new friends farewell and began my walk back to the car, thus ending my special half marathon weekend.
Wow. What an AWESOME group of women. They were not joking about being fiercely united. I never felt alone the entire weekend and have already made new friends who I hope to stay in touch with over the coming months. I'm glad that I branched out of my comfort zone to join these ladies and that I allowed their message to empower me as an individual.
Believe. Achieve. Bloom. Endure.