Street Smart Chicago

Race Review: Chicago City Chase (August 25, 2012)

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City Chase starting lineRECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: While traversing the city on foot or using public transit (with CTA day passes included in the entry fee) brave teams of two complete challenges as varied in difficulty and duration as letting a millipede crawl on your face while a snake slithers down your shirt to bowling in the buff to chicken wrangling to getting down in the sand for a mini Marine basic-training camp. Believe me, the list goes on. The organizers claim that those competing in City Chase will have done more in six hours than most people do all summer. That may be a bit of an exaggeration but participants will definitely be doing a lot of work (both physical and mental) and covering a lot of ground. There’s no set course, with thirty challenges scattered around the city and a cryptic guide sheet that must first be obtained via clues and deciphered before being used. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Burgers and Beer 5K (August 20, 2012)

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Burgers and Beer 5k

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: After more than three years as a monthly Universal Sole fun run, starting and finishing at Universal Sole Lakeview before heading to the nearby Fizz Bar for, well, burgers and beer, the Burgers and Beer 5K made its debut as an official 5K run in Montrose Harbor tonight. And though both the burgers and the beer were likely the major selling points for most registrants, the out-of-the-ordinary Monday evening race time (in keeping with B&B tradition), smooth Montrose Harbor course and relaxed post-race party atmosphere helped make this race feel like a success. With around 600 participants showing up for the inaugural run, race director (and Universal Sole owner) Joel Feinberg proudly proclaimed at the starting line that “when the city sees how many runners we had tonight they’re going to let us block off the street next year!” Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Elvis is Alive 5K (August 16, 2012)

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RECOMMENDED RACEElvis is Alive 5K

Breakdown: What better way to show your respects on the eve of the thirty-fifth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death than by running a 5K that declares that he never died? Now in its fifteenth year, the Elvis is Alive 5K—promoted as the “original night race and party”—followed an open course along the Lakefront Trail, starting and finishing across from the Columbia Yacht Club. Organized by Fleet Feet, it included an all-Elvis starting corral (reserved for runners dressed as Elvis from head to toe), live music from Elvis tribute artist Joe “Elvis” Tirrito and beer from Goose Island (the first was included in the price of the race and they were $5 each after that). Despite the damp ground from a steady rain all day, it looked like runners were enjoying the post-race party area, which included one of the inflatable slip ‘n’ slides from last month’s BTN 10K. Though it’s an untimed run, awards were given to the top three finishers of each sex as well as the fastest Elvis. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Chicago 10K (August 12, 2012)

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Chicago 10K

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Making good use of a nice location at the southern end of Grant Park for its base camp, the inaugural Chicago 10K mostly relied on the Lakefront Trail for its course, improving the familiar path with a hefty amount of hydration stations, excited volunteers and a clearly marked course. Though the race was sold out, it was clear that coordinators kept the number of runners at a manageable number for this race’s first go-round (around 2,000). Chicago 10K is a bold name for a new race in a city that already has so many 10Ks, but from the smooth way this race was run it seems race organizers are strategically looking to make their mark and let positive word-of-mouth help make this an annual event. A very entertaining live band—Ear Candy—played an eclectic mix of pop covers before and after the race. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: The Champions Run 5K and 10K (August 11, 2012)

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BChampions Run 5k and 10kreakdown: Overall, this is a well-organized, medium-sized (around 1,000 participants in both distances) race starting and ending near Montrose Beach and mostly following the Lakefront Trail. The post-race party was especially generous, including a free breakfast of sausage and eggs as well as a 312 beer (or orange juice for those under twenty-one) along with some peppy live entertainment. Unfortunately, there were two major flaws in the course organization for the 10K—both involving turnarounds—that really affected the racing experience. At the two-mile turnaround between Hollywood and Ardmore, the first fifty or so runners (including this reviewer) ended up completing an additional two-tenths of a mile due to a lack of on-course direction. Similarly, the southernmost turnaround near the totem pole was unclear and a bit unsafe for an open course. A few participants in the 5K (which started thirty minutes after the 10K) told me there was also confusion near the mile-and-a-half turnaround of their course. Race organizers should either recruit more volunteers or mark out a clearer course next year. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Terrapin 5K and Music Festival (August 2, 2012)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: The Terrapin 5K and Music Festival has grown quickly since 2009, selling out this year after hitting the registration cap of 4,000 runners (of which 3,543 showed up on race day and completed the run). Milking the pre-Lollapalooza music festival vibe that’s in the Chicago air in early August, RAM Racing has expanded the music-festival part of the event, with race grounds including two stages, merch tents, LOTS of port-a-potties and plenty of food and beer (runners get one free Magic Hat beer along with a quesadilla and donut as part of their race entry). The 5K itself is tightly run, with pace groups setting out every two minutes to keep the course from getting too crowded. And when it comes to post-race partying, Terrapin delivers the goods in the form of six musical acts and a relaxing festival environment. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Teb’s Troops Miles for Melanoma Chicago 5K (July 29, 2012)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Despite being in its sixth year, the Teb’s Troops Miles for Melanoma Chicago 5K is still a relatively small charity race focused on fundraising and its mission, highlighted by the inclusion of a series of tents where racers can get a free skin screening from a dermatologist before the race and an inspirational post-race speech by WGN midday anchor and cancer survivor Dina Bair before the awards ceremony. Cheap for a 5K that takes place within the city limits, this is a fairly no-frills event, aside from the uber-generous goodie bag that’s packed to the brim. The course is fast and well-marked, making use of existing lakefront trails. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: BTN Big 10K (July 28, 2012)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Combining team spirit with athleticism in a way that even those of us who never represented our alma maters in an official competition could take part in led the BTN Big 10K to sell out before race day, despite the fact that this is only the race’s inaugural year. The promise of a tailgate party afterward probably didn’t hurt. Runners were able to choose which school within the Big Ten Network they wanted to represent when registering for the race, with each school getting a unique shirt in their color. It sounds a bit gimmicky but it made for the most race shirts I’ve ever seen worn on race day (aside from the Nike Human Race, obviously) and a more exciting event all-around. With inflatable slip and slides on the course and near the starting line, school mascots dancing around and a booth for every university, the BTN Big 10K sometimes did feel like a big tailgating party. Except that you had to run at least three miles to get to it. Though it’s standard to start longer runs first (since they take longer to finish), the 5K started twenty-five minutes before the 10K, providing a clear course for both races. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Undie Dash (July 26, 2012)

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Undie Dash finish line

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Yesterday I heard a news story discussing the benefits of wearing less to stay cool when exercising. So running the second-annual Undie Dash tonight with several hundred other scantily clad runners seemed like a sensible option. We were just being smart about the amount of skin we exposed for efficient sweat evaporation, right? But it wasn’t just skin on display at the event (though there was plenty of that), there were also a good deal of creative—and appropriately skimpy—costumes as well. As an untimed 5K executed on an open course along the Lakefront Trail, the eye-catching costumes and post-race party with a free Mike’s Hard Lemonade at the Columbia Yacht Club created an atmosphere geared more toward celebration than competition. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon (July 22, 2012)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: The Rock ‘n’ Roll brand may make the case that the post-race party can be more important than the run, but they clearly know how to handle both. Competitor Group, which acquired Rock ‘n’ Roll in 2008, is currently running thirty racing events under that banner around the world and constantly expanding. Today in Chicago the mixture of high-energy rock music along the course and big sponsors at the expo and post-race party made the entire morning feel like a music festival that you run through with 20,000 of your friends. It doesn’t hurt that the post-race party (with musical performances) takes place in Grant Park in an area used by Lollapalooza. I’ve also never been bombarded by so many goodies (water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, pretzels, popsicles, Jamba Juice shakes, Snickers, etc.) at a race finish line. Read the rest of this entry »