Street Smart Chicago

Race Review: Chi Town Half Marathon & 10K (April 6, 2014)

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Finish line of the Chi Town Half Marathon & 10K/Photo: Zach Freeman

Finish line of the Chi Town Half Marathon & 10K/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown:  The little patch of trail between Diversey Harbor and North Cannon Drive across the street from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum hosts its fair share of running events throughout the year. And it’s no wonder: it’s in easily accessible Lincoln Park and offers a quick route to the Lakefront Trail—a big requirement for smaller races looking to make use of open trail space. On Sunday, All Community Events put the familiar space to good use for their Chi Town Half Marathon & 10K event.

Just around 1,200 runners showed up at the starting line (with a little more than half opting for the half marathon). The relatively small field allowed for organizers to start both events simultaneously—not a bad idea considering that the courses were identical for the first five-and-a-half miles (though it did lead to some crowding at the start, and a bottleneck right before the starting line). After circling Diversey Harbor once and heading north for a second round, 10K runners turned off and headed back to basecamp and the finish line while half marathoners went as far north as Foster.

Luckily, some lovely spring weather sweetened the event with sunny skies and temperatures in the forties helping runners enjoy the course. The Chi Town Half Marathon & 10K is a fairly no-frills event on the lakefront but the course was clear, the volunteers were smiling and the chip-timing worked (with printed leaderboards being posted as runners were coming in). A cover band played hits from the nineties to keep things lively. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Rudolph Ramble (December 15, 2013)

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The titular rambler/Photo by Zach Freeman

The titular rambler/Photo: Zach Freeman


Early on in this packed race it became readily apparent why it’s called a “ramble” and not a “dash” (though the Donner Dash is the kid’s race that’s tied in with the Rudolph Ramble). With 1,600 participants, the running paths chosen for the course would have a tough time accommodating everyone on a good day—and Sunday was not a good day. With temperatures in the low teens and mounds of snow left over from Saturday, this course became a bit of a cold slog right from the start, with lengthy backups and crowded conditions throughout. In areas where the trail doubled back on itself, dividing the already narrow trail in half, running became even more difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Jingle Bell Run/Walk (December 14, 2013)

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Santa and Mrs. Claus mingle with runners before the race

Santa and Mrs. Claus mingle with runners before the race


Who says you have to go to the suburbs for a challenging trail run? After this morning’s snow-filled Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis, Chicago can boast a race to compete with the best of them —and it takes place right in the heart of Lincoln Park! Starting and finishing in front of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (where most of the brave participants took shelter up until a few minutes before the race kicked off) this large but generally low key charity run morphed under a thick layer of fresh (and constantly falling) snow into a winter wonderland of trail running delight.

But while the snow certainly added a level of difficulty to the proceedings, the temperature (hovering just around 30 degrees) kept it from being a true slog. 10K runners took off on a mostly unplowed course through Lincoln Park at 9am with 5K runners following shortly thereafter. Smiling volunteers lined the course at various intervals, giving out encouragement and high fives. And the picturesque views throughout made any complaints about the course seem frivolous. As runners, when we approach a course like this, we are generally saying (though not in so many words): “My life is cushy enough that I feel the need to introduce arbitrary obstacles into it so that I may overcome them.” This morning the Jingle Bell Run/Walk provided just such an obstacle. And it was a blast to overcome it.

As an added bonus, Santa and Mrs. Claus were waiting inside after the race where runners could get a photo with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: WTTW Kids Fun and Run (August 26, 2012)

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WTTW Kids Fun and RunBreakdown: It’s important to notice that the order of words in the title of this event (Kids Fun and Run) places kids first, followed by fun and then the run. That’s a pretty accurate depiction of the way WTTW structured this ninth annual family event in south Lincoln Park, which felt a lot more like a kid/family-friendly festival/party with a 5k and a 3k thrown in for good measure than a straight-up racing event. Starting off with a countdown from eleven (get it?) the course creatively wound around and through most of the area in Lincoln Park south of the zoo, with only the final mile keeping relatively straight. Volunteers and course markers did a fairly good job of keeping runners on the path but it did seem like the course was unnecessarily complicated (unless you consider that part of the fun). The real draw here was the chance for kids to meet their favorite WTTW cartoon characters (Curious George, Clifford, Arthur, etc) in person, get their face painted or bounce around on an inflatable slide. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Bastille Day 5k/8k Run/Walk & Block Party (July 12, 2012)

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Breakdown: For an event with “Block Party” in its title, it was a bit of a surprise to find a distinct lack of complimentary post-race snacks and beer at the after-party on the Peggy Notebaert second-floor patio. An enthusiastic band kept things lively, but despite several signs promising “Food and Beverages” there was no food to be found and the beer (Old Style) was $4 a pop. Add to that 5K and 8K courses that jumped onto the (already crowded) Lakefront Trail within the first mile and stuck to mostly out-and-back layouts that filled both sides of the trail, and it’s hard to believe that this race, celebrating a French national holiday, is in its thirty-first year. To be fair, this event lived in the West Loop until 2010, so maybe they’re still getting their bearings on their new location. But judging from the disgruntled runners I saw leaving the party and the vocal frustration at the massive gear check line, organizers better already be planning ways to improve upon the many issues faced this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: United Run for the Zoo (June 3, 2012)

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I’ve spent many mornings running through Lincoln Park Zoo on my own, but it was much livelier today with race organizers and volunteers bustling around to smoothly coordinate things for the more-than-3,000 runners (both 5K and 10K) picking up their bibs and race shirts, snapping pictures of the seals and big cats and generally admiring the zoo that the United Run for the Zoo is organized to benefit. The inclusion of a free kids-only event (the Rhino Rush) added a pleasant family vibe. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Streetcar Desire

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John Krause/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Acid jazz pulsed on the sound system as a group of stylishly dressed transit fans clinked wine glasses last week at Vapiano, a sleek Italian restaurant at 2577 North Clark Street in Lincoln Park. They were there to launch the Chicago Streetcar Renaissance, a campaign to create a world-class streetcar line on Clark from the Loop to Wrigley Field, and eventually add lines in other parts of the city.

“Our mission is to grow the economy and the population of Chicago every year while reducing traffic congestion and making the city easier to get around,” says John Krause, the architect who founded the movement, nattily attired in jeans and a dove-gray sports jacket. “That means every year there will be more people and fewer cars, more commerce and less congestion.”

He has a vision of the clogged traffic and the notoriously sluggish buses on Clark replaced by efficient, comfortable streetcars, more pedestrian traffic, on-street cafés and broad bike lanes. “The only way you can get rid of cars is to replace them with something better,” he explains. “In a car paradigm everybody assumes the city is going to grow more and more congested. But a public-transit system is the opposite. The more people use public transit, the better it gets.” Read the rest of this entry »

Constant Contact: Eating pi with the Chicago Nerd Social Club

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Humans, by nature, are social creatures. We literally cannot exist without each other. When it comes to human society, it’s true: no man is an island.

Nerds are human too. While sometimes confused with reclusive amoebae living vicariously through World of Warcraft avatars, “Nerds actually go out and do things too,” says Kevin Harris, who’s helping hand out slices of pie for The Chicago Nerd Social Club at the second annual Pi(e) Day. Held at Firkin and Pheasant in Lincoln Park, this event celebrates the mathematical symbol with the pastry that shares the same pronunciation.

Rachel Baker, co-founder and brainchild of Chicago Nerd Social Club, greets everyone at the door, distinguishing the nerds from the bar regulars with bright blue Hello-my-name-is stickers. “Did you bring a pie?” she asks her fellow nerds upon arrival. “I have two actually!” exclaims Brittany Zimmerman, who learned about the club at last year’s Pi(e) Day. “Pfff, over-achiever,” Baker jokes. Pies are given points for taste (1 point), presentation (1 point), crust (1 point) and nerdiness (0.14) with a total possible score of 3.14. This pie competition is no cutthroat tearjerker—a savory Moroccan pie wins. The “-off,” on the other hand, is taken very seriously, as four contestants take turns sounding off as many digits of pi as they can from memory, all in a quest to take home a $100 gift card to Read the rest of this entry »

A River Runs, um, Near It: Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters courts those who have been called

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Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters’ walls are covered in fluorescent green rabbit fur, feathers and glittery silver tinsel—these materials used for fly tying seem like decorations for a drag queen’s dream supply store. A corner of the shop is dedicated to fishing poles, which line the walls like pool cues. Wading jackets, Merino wool socks and general apparel occupy a room of their own. But this store does not lie next to one of Chicago’s rivers or even the lake—the store sits at 1279 North Clybourn, just a few blocks away from the remains of Cabrini Green.

Andy Kurkulis, the owner of Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters, is very much aware of the store’s unconventional location. “It’s a very unique store,” he says, “It’s different than most of them out there in Chicago. We don’t have a big famous river or beach where we fish but we have two great airports. So we pretty much travel everywhere and fish for everything.” Read the rest of this entry »

411: Green Christmas

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“You want to give a gift to the earth too, right?” asks Lindsay Maldonado, coordinator of Family and Children Programs at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The museum, located at 2430 North Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park, will host a “green gifting activity room” every Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm through December 20. “It’s just a part of our mission here at the museum to be environmentally conscious,” says Maldonado. “What we try to emphasize is creative reuse. When you think of crafts, you think of glitter and consumable goods that are probably just going to get thrown out later.” This year’s activities include making recyclable CD snowmen, envelopes to mail your thank-you letters in and gift boxes made out of old magazines and calendars. The activity room is free with admission($6-$9). “This is a time when we’re buying all of these things, and it’s important to know where everything comes from,” Maldonado says.