Street Smart Chicago

Race Review: Chinatown Centennial 5K (July 14, 2012)

Chinatown, News etc., Running No Comments »

Chinatown 5KRECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Beginning and ending in Chinatown Square, this relatively small (around 600 participants) neighborhood run is a bit of a hidden gem in terms of Chicago races. With a flat, closed course through a historic neighborhood—runners take off from Archer Avenue and head straight down Wentworth, passing beneath the “Welcome to Chinatown” arches—and unique pre- and post-race parties, it’s surprising that after eleven years this well-run race isn’t attracting a bigger crowd. This year also marks 100 years of Chicago Chinatown, and the Chinatown Centennial 5K (usually just the Chinatown 5K) celebrated by giving away 100 prizes at the post-race party. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Lincoln Park, News etc., Running 1 Comment »

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: Les Turner Strike Out ALS 5K (July 10, 2012)

News etc., Running, Sports 1 Comment »

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Despite boasting the use of U.S. Cellular Field—made especially impressive since the end of the course involves runners going completely around the interior bottom level of the stadium and then circling the warning track inside the field—the Les Turner Strike Out ALS 5K (now in its third year) feels like the charity run that it is. With about 400 runners and a motivational speech from Les Turner Foundation patient KayLynn Van Driest thanking runners for their participation and letting them know that they are “running for every ALS patient who cannot run for themselves,” this race manages to walk/run the line between selling its unique Chicago sports-based location (a la Race to Wrigley) and being a straight charity event (a la C4 Miles). Having a post-race party in a mostly empty baseball stadium while watching the All-Star Game on the Jumbotron was an experience, but it’s still slightly disappointing that there was no food aside from what was available for purchase at the stadium concession stands. Read the rest of this entry »

Mud Thirsty: The Dirt on the Latest “Running” Craze

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Obstacle in the Warrior Dash

By Zach Freeman

At the starting line for a typical street (or trail) race, you may see a few characters (the guy with no shirt on, the barefoot runner, perhaps even someone with full body paint on if you’re at an especially big race), but at these mud races, they’re everywhere. Costumes are part of the race package. At the Warrior Dash in Channahon, Illinois, I see a pilot, a duo of police officers (complete with handcuffs and fake guns) and a lingerie-clad Victoria’s Secret angel (who happens to be a very large, hairy man). Even those not in costume tend to have some kind of theme going. Whether participants are a member of a team with matching outfits or have just taken an old shirt and written something on it, there’s an amount of showmanship that goes into preparing yourself for race day. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Chicago Women’s Half Marathon (June 24, 2012)

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Chicago Women's Half Marathon starting line

Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Did this being a women’s only event make it feel different than previous races?

For sure. With finisher awards for the top three sister duos and mother/daughter duos, they made you well aware that it was a lady party. Of course, those weren’t the only signals. There’s also the pink yoga mat and floral finisher medal (which also happens to resemble a Chinese star, making you feel equal part feminine and badass). And I thought it was cool to be a part of a race where the first place finisher was a female. Gender breakdowns were irrelevant. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Proud to Run (June 23, 2012)

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Proud to Run finish line

Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Strategically timed for the day before the Chicago Pride Parade, Proud to Run makes use of a few rainbows at the finish line, but otherwise plays it pretty straight, starting on Simmonds Drive in Montrose Harbor and finishing up on the nearby trail close to the beach. Despite being in its thirty-first year, this joint 5K/10K event coordinated by Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago still feels like a plucky startup—a grassroots effort free of corporate sponsorship, complete with energetic volunteers and a long race-day packet-pickup line. With around 1,350 people participating in both distances (with slightly more running the 10K than the 5K) the race announcer’s use of a bullhorn at the starting line to get things going was a bit ineffective, but once the race started the course was clearly marked and plenty wide. The post-race food included cream cheese to spread on your bagels (a quirky, welcome first in my racing experiences) and a raffle had some great prizes from Universal Sole. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Torchlight Run (June 21, 2012)

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Torchlight Run

Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE
 
Breakdown: Open courses are not ideal and not tracking official times is a turnoff, but with nearly 1,000 Groupons sold, Life Time Fitness had an impressive 1,300 or so people out for this inaugural Torchlight Run 5K that began and ended on a grassy knoll in front of the Columbia Yacht Club. The party atmosphere (two free beers per runner), relatively low cost and stylish shirt should create good word of mouth, though not necessarily in running circles. This one is “really about the party afterwards” as the race announcer declared just before blowing the horn to kick things off. I talked to several participants (including a few first-timers) who were drawn in by the Groupon; maybe this will inspire other organizations to up their numbers via similar discounts, but cutting timing chips to keep costs down can also cut out the chunk of the running community that cares about their “official” results. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Warrior Dash, Illinois (June 16, 2012)

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Warrior Dash finish lineDriving up the winding gravel road that is the entrance to the Dollinger Family Farm in Channahon Illinois (about an hour outside of Chicago), the packed parking lot in this rural setting immediately sets the Illinois Warrior Dash apart from the numerous street races that have happened (and will happen) across the Chicago area in the summer months (though it’s worth noting that it might not set it too far apart from the dozen or so mud runs scheduled in the same time period). The crowd also looks different; most runs include at least a few costumed participants, but this one is rampant with them. It’s the first sign that this race is more about entertainment than athleticism. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Run Home Chicago (June 10, 2012)

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Run Home ChicagoFor a race in its first year, Run Home Chicago attracted a lot of recognizable names. From Secretary of State Jesse White and the Jesse White Tumblers performing before the race to Illinois congressman Aaron Schock (declared last year by Men’s Health to be “America’s fittest congressman”) participating in the 10K to Andrea Metcalf acting as pre- and post-race announcer, it was an impressive lineup.

On Waldron Drive just south of Soldier Field, the heat was rising into the eighties as the 8am start time for the 10K neared, which may have affected turnout, but organizers and the roughly 150 participants kept the energy high. The much larger 5K (including several hundred runners and walkers) kicked off fifteen minutes later, following the same southbound course on the Lakefront Trail, which did present a bit of an issue. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Marathon (June 9, 2012)

News etc., Running 1 Comment »

13.1 Marathon finish lineWith several pre-race warning emails regarding race weather conditions, fully stocked water stations at every mile, numerous misting stations and volunteers passing out wet towels and ice cubes, organizers of the Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Marathon showed how to handle less-than-ideal running conditions in a way that ensures participants have a safe race despite the weather.  Though this is the fourth annual running of the 13.1 Marathon in Chicago, it’s the first that Allstate Life Insurance has sponsored. To be clear, the “13.1 Marathon” title is a clever misnomer as this event only includes a half marathon and a 5K. Read the rest of this entry »