Firefly Run/Photo by Zach Freeman
“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 »
Pre-race Terrapin 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman
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 »
Post-race at the BTN Big 10K/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: Sometimes it’s clear when an organization is doing something right. Last year the inaugural BTN Big 10K sold out (with around 4,500 participants showing up on race day). Solid organization, lots of promotion, the BTN name recognition and good word-of-mouth from last year’s race led to almost that many people showing up for the 5K run alone this year, with registrations for the 5K and 10K together reaching 12,000. So I guess students and alumni in the Big Ten love to represent their alma maters.
While last year’s races started and finished in front of Soldier Field, base camp moved slightly north this year, with runners lining up in their starting corrals along Solidarity Drive in front of the Adler Planetarium. Fans and mascots from all twelve schools lined the starting line to cheer, as corrals of runners were released every thirty seconds. The two distances were appropriately spaced out, with the 10K starting at 7am and the 5K not starting until 8:30. Read the rest of this entry »
Runnin’ With the Horses 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: Starting in the parking lot and finishing at the actual finish line that the horses cross at the Balmoral Park horse track in Crete, Illinois, the Runnin’ With the Horses 5K is one of a kind when it comes to Chicago-area races.
The first quarter mile of the course takes place in the parking lot outside the track, but things quickly get more exciting as runners take a sharp left and head through the outdoor spectating area, passing through the middle of the crowd before circling the perimeter of the track and then entering the horse track itself for roughly the last mile and a half. The gravel of the track provides an ideal running surface and race horses warming up only yards away makes for a memorable racing experience.
After the run there’s plenty of water and Gatorade on hand, but the real treat is a voucher good for three beers at the Brewhaha Beer Festival, where an impressive selection of domestic and microbrewery offerings await, along with a live band and a chance to place a wager on the night’s races. Yesterday’s race marked the fifth annual running of the race and the largest field yet (around 250 total runners). I’m guessing the distance from Chicago is keeping entries low, but it’s well worth the drive. Read the rest of this entry »
Ridge Run 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: This morning’s race in Beverly’s Ridge Park marked thirty-six years for the Ridge Run, Chicago’s oldest 10K event. And for a Chicago transplant who has probably spent only a few hours south of 60th Street in the past five years, the Southwest Side neighborhood of Beverly (also known as Beverly Hills, I’m told) sounded like a distant and mysterious suburban land until I ran through its streets this morning (twice).
See, the Ridge Run has a unique (as far as I know) option for racers. while many races provide more than one distance option at their event, the Ridge Run offers a 10K at 8am followed by a 5K at 9:30, and gives runners the option of registering and running both distances in a single morning (it’s called the Ridge Run Challenge, and I highly recommend it).
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Photo: Brian Hieggelke
Breakdown: A “Superfan” of Da Bears fantasy; in fact, so many Superfan types were in the race I half expected to see someone chowing on an Italian sausage-and-beef combo while running the course. With 17,500 runners, congestion is an occasional problem except when running on Lake Shore Drive, and the wave start is a welcome component, but those of us in the last corrals did not start till nearly a half hour after our appointed starting time. But that minor quibble is more than offset by a beautiful course culminating in one of the most singular finish lines anywhere, a highly organized operation, and a better-than-average after-party featuring the still-running alt rockers Soul Asylum. I biked over, since the starting line is a mile or so south of the “usual” Grant Park spots, and that proved to be the perfect way to get there and back quickly and easily. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago Spring Half post-race party/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: Unlike the gusting winds and rain of the 2012 race, this year’s Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K (newly christened the Magellan Development Chicago Spring Half, for shorthand) offered runners a warm spring morning in the mid-seventies with sunny skies and a light breeze. The course remained the same, with both races starting in DuSable Harbor, following the Lakefront Trail out and back and finishing in The Park at Lakeshore East.
And though the nicer weather was a welcome change for runners of this year’s event, it also meant that there were a lot more non-participants enjoying a stroll, run or bike ride on the (unclosed) Lakefront Trail to contend with. Still, mile-markers were clearly placed and volunteers were readily available with plenty of water and Gatorade. The placement of the starting line does make for a more easily manageable start, but it also leads to a bit of confusion as runners pass back through the starting track on their way to the finish line (which is about a third of a mile further).
It’s the post-race party in The Park at Lakeshore East that makes this event worth the price. It also makes it abundantly clear why Magellan Development Group (creators of Lakeshore East) is eager to host this event: it highlights the manicured beauty of their planned community, with runners being granted tickets to a well-stocked “picnic” (featuring eggs, pancakes, sausage and coconut water) in the park amidst the many sponsor booths. Read the rest of this entry »
Race to Wrigley runners/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: For the eighth straight year, Chicago Cubs Charities organized the Race to Wrigley, a 5K through Wrigleyville that starts at the intersection of Addison and Clark and ends with a brief jaunt through the Wrigley Field ground-level concourse. After being warmed up by WGN’s Dina Bair and Danni Allen (winner of Season 14 of The Biggest Loser), the 3,000 or so timed runners (self-organized into pace groups) took off down a blocked-off Addison.
Organization along the course, including directional information and water stations were heavily attended and clearly marked, with a great deal of fanfare paid to the finish line area in front of Wrigley Field. The pre- and post-race party area in the space between Clark, Waveland and Wrigley Field was less well-organized, with a slow-moving and regrettably unsystematic gear check slowing things up and too many participants crammed into the space after finishing the run. Read the rest of this entry »
Cinco de Miler post-race party/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: If there’s a better way to start off Cinco de Mayo in Chicago, I haven’t found it. Mostly following last year’s five-mile course from a blocked-off Simonds Drive north to Hollywood Avenue and back, this year’s Cinco de Miler kept everything that worked last year and even managed to improve on a few details.
The signature mariachi band was back (with a few additional members this time around) and the finishing chute was a bit more streamlined, curving around a cheering area and directing runners back to the post-race party. RAM Racing knows how to do swag and the race shirts were much improved: last year’s long-sleeve red and white running shirts were replaced with stylish dark gray cotton/polyester blends. The finisher’s drinking mug was replaced with a finisher’s medal that doubles as a bottle-opener (which runners could make use of immediately after the race at the beer tent).
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Start Early 10K runners/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: Despite the race’s name, the Start Early 5K & 10K Run/Walk, now in its sixteenth year, didn’t start until 10am this morning, when it kicked off with a one-mile pledge walk, followed by the 5K at 10:15am and the 10K at 10:20am. That’s because, obviously, “Start Early” doesn’t refer to race times but to the beneficiary of the race. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Chicago chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America coordinates this event to raise both funds and public awareness for their cause.
This morning, with the grass at the southwest corner of Columbus and Balbo saturated from earlier rain and the temperature sticking in the mid-thirties with dark clouds threatening rain and/or snow (a light snow ended up winning out), a late start was welcome. Both the 5K and 10K runs took place almost entirely on public paths, running through Museum Campus and along the Lakeshore Trail. The poor weather kept the trails from being too crowded with other runners but getting back to the finish line for the 10K became a game of navigating a slew of families heading to the Field Museum or the Shedd Aquarium. Read the rest of this entry »