Street Smart Chicago

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

Lincoln Park, News etc., Running No Comments »

RECOMMENDED RACE

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: Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle (March 30, 2014)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Shamrock Shuffle starting line/Photo: Zach Freeman

Shamrock Shuffle starting line/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown:  The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle is often called out as being the start of Chicago’s running season due both to its size and its placement in the calendar. Some years Chicago’s fickle weather patterns can make this claim seem a bit dubious despite the large crowds of runners and running teams participating, but Sunday morning as the sun rose and temperatures rose with it (all the way to the mid-fifties!), it was evident that racing season in Chicago had officially begun.

As race announcers made sure to inform runners before, during and after the race, the Shamrock Shuffle is the largest 8K in the world (in fact, it’s one of the largest racing events in the world) and corralling more than 30,000 runners is never an easy task. But organizers seem to have gotten this massive race coordination down to a science and all the moving parts fell into place perfectly throughout the event. The further division of the racing field into three waves (up from two last year) allowed for a bit more space on the course and a more steady stream of runners throughout the morning.

The course gives runners a taste of the Chicago Marathon experience, following part of the course and letting them experience the joys (and pains) of jostling for position in such a crowded field. The post-race party around the Buckingham Fountain featured a live band, a free beer for each runner over twenty-one and plenty of sunshine. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Chi-Town Big Game 5/10K (February 2, 2014)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Runners walking back to the United Club after the race/Photo: Zach Freeman

Runners walking back to the United Club after the race/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown:  It’s amazing how much difference a little sunshine can make. Last year this race was a slog through snow, wind and low temperatures. This year, despite the temperature on race day actually being colder than last year (around ten degrees vs last year’s twelve), the course for the Chi-Town Big Game 5K/10K was actually downright comfortable. Luckily for runners and race organizers alike, both the 5K and 10K courses took advantage of the open spaces of the Lakefront Trail and participants spent most of their time running in the sun, rather than in the shade (where those ten degrees felt a lot less friendly).

Still, most runners didn’t spend much time standing around the starting or finishing lines before or after the race, opting instead to spend pre- and post-race downtime inside Soldier Field’s United Club, which once again served as basecamp for the race. Reasonable start times (9am for the 5K, 9:20am for the 10K) kept runners from waking up too early, an expanded array of food and beverage options from the concession stands were available after the race (each participant was given a ticket for one beverage and one food item) and a live cover band kept the mood 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

Breakdown:

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

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown:
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: University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital RBC Race for the Kids 5K Run (October 6, 2013)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Comer5KBreakdown:

While there are a large number of races taking place in Chicago throughout the year in various northern sections of the city (Lincoln Park, Montrose Harbor and Grant Park come to mind) aside from the two popular halfs (Chicago Half Marathon and the Chicago 13.1 Marathon), there aren’t a lot of racing opportunities south of Museum Campus. The rather lengthily titled University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital RBC Race for the Kids 5K Run, starting and finishing on the University of Chicago campus, provides just such an opportunity. And though it might be a hike for non-South Siders to get to, it’s worth the trip.

With a reported 1,701 participants registered this year (and around half opting for chip-timing), the University of Chicago quad (at 58th Street between University and Ellis) was packed with runners before the race. Setting up base camp in the midst of the impressively historic academic buildings in this location provided an air of illustriousness to the proceedings and a clear boundary for the vendor tents. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Friends of the Poor 5K Run/Walk (September 28, 2013)

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Finishers from the Friends of the Poor 5K and runners of the MMRF 5K/Photo by Zach Freeman

Finishers from the Friends of the Poor 5K and runners of the MMRF 5K/Photo by Zach Freeman

Breakdown: Chicago is home to an impressive (and ever-growing) number of races. From 5Ks to marathons and beyond, there’s typically at least one race happening in the city on any given weekend day. This is a huge plus for Chicago runners. And it’s typically helpful to race coordinators as well, since they can rely on a core group of runners always in the market for a run. But this Saturday morning the popularity of running put a damper on two separate runs happening at the same time.

Starting at 9am, the second annual Friends of the Poor 5K Run/Walk (coordinated by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Chicago and DePaul University) kicked off across the street from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. At the same time, less than a mile south in Lincoln Park, the MMRF Race for Research 5K Walk/Run also started. And while neither race was huge (Friends of the Poor had around 120 runners while MMRF had around 600), flaws in the Chicago Park District permit-application process were witnessed firsthand by members of both races as the two courses directly overlapped (with both courses passing through each other’s start/finish lines). Read the rest of this entry »

Race Revew: North Shore Triathlon

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North Shore Triathlon transition area/Photo by Zach Freeman

North Shore Triathlon transition area/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown:

The triathlon is its own special animal—a hybrid that combines swimming, biking and running into one elaborate event. Mastery of one aspect of the sport does not necessarily translate into competence in the sport as a whole. That being said, this writer may be an experienced runner, but is a complete triathlon novice and this review should be read through that lens, as experienced triathletes may have different takeaways.

The first annual North Shore Triathlon by Precision Multisport started and finished in Gillson Park in Wilmette on Sunday morning. The weather wasn’t particularly cooperative, with a steady rain falling for most of the morning, but the sold-out field of 700 participants (584 finishers) didn’t seem particularly fazed by it, setting up their transition stations between five and six-thirty in the morning using a combination of pale dawn light and event lighting. Transition space was ample with bike racks clearly labeled by wave group. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Firefly Run (September 7, 2013)

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Firefly Run/Photo by Zach Freeman

Firefly Run/Photo by Zach Freeman

Breakdown:

“Who’s going to Bar Louie after this and getting wasted?!?” demanded the race announcer before the Firefly Run last night. Yes. It’s that kind of run.

With a planned tour through eighteen cities across the country (last night’s race in Chicago was number five), the Firefly Run has expanded quite a bit from last year (when Chicago was also on the agenda). With runners grouped into two available distances (a rather sparsely attended 10K and a much more popular 5K), Arvey Field was blinkingly lit up before and after the running events as participants wearing bright colors, flashing lights (including arm/leg bands that were passed out as part of registration) and colorful costumes celebrated their planned (and then achieved) runs. A dance group on a large stage helped with the celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Terrapin 5K and Music Festival (August 8, 2013)

Events, News etc., Running, Sports No Comments »
Terrapin5K

Pre-race Terrapin 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED

Breakdown: Moving from pre-Lollapalooza to post-Lollapalooza may have brought down registrations a bit (from 3,543 last year to around 2,500 this year) but last night’s Terrapin 5K and Music Festival still felt like an appropriately large running event. The word “event” here is especially important to take note of, as the 5K is just the opening act to a whole night of festivities. But I guess if we’re being technical, the 5K isn’t even the opening act. By the time the race kicked off at 7pm, three bands had already performed on two separate stages. It’s definitely an event.

Pace groups were released a lot quicker than expected at the starting line along Waldron Drive, with a dual-release (A&B, C&D, etc.) speeding things up. The course, unchanged from last year, allows for plenty of runners without too much crowding, even when it converges on the open Lakefront Trail. But while the race is smoothly run and well-coordinated, it’s the post-race party that people really show up for. Read the rest of this entry »