Street Smart Chicago

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

Lincoln Park, News etc., Running No Comments »
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)

-Neighborhood/Suburb, Hyde Park, News etc., Running No Comments »

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)

News etc., Running No Comments »
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

Bicycling, News etc., Running, Sports No Comments »
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)

News etc., Running, Sports No Comments »
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 »

Race Review: BTN Big 10K (July 27, 2013)

News etc., Running No Comments »
Post-race at the BTN Big 10K/photo: Zach Freeman

Post-race at the BTN Big 10K/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Race Review: Runnin’ With the Horses 5K (June 8, 2013)

-Neighborhood/Suburb, News etc., Running No Comments »
Runnin' With the Horses 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

Runnin’ With the Horses 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Race Review: Ridge Run (May 27, 2013)

Beverly, News etc., Running No Comments »
Ridge Run 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

Ridge Run 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED

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).

Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Soldier Field 10 Mile (May 25, 2013)

Running No Comments »
Photo: Brian Hieggelke

Photo: Brian Hieggelke

RECOMMENDED

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 »