Street Smart Chicago

Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15/5K (November 4, 2012)

News etc., Running 1 Comment »

Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown: This year, RAM Racing’s Hot Chocolate 15/5K cemented its reputation as one of the most consistently maligned and yet best-selling races in Chicago, selling out 40,000 spots to a combination of 5 and 15K runners in only its fifth year in existence. By early Friday afternoon (the first day of packet pick-up), RAM had issued an apology on their Facebook page for inordinate pick-up times (up to three hours in some cases) and promised improvements the next day and a race that would be “worth the wait.” While there were no major hiccups in the execution of the race today (a notable feat in itself) there also wasn’t much to be impressed with, aside from the sheer magnitude of the event; the course was unimaginative and the promised post-race chocolate was delivered in a disposable plastic mug. There’s something magical and promising about a gigantic race held in the center of a major city that continues to draw runners in, but this year’s Hot Chocolate didn’t leave a good taste in too many mouths. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Carrera de los Muertos (November 3, 2012)

News etc., Pilsen, Running No Comments »


Breakdown: Since 2007, the Carrera de los Muertos has been taking place in Pilsen, combining colorful Day of the Dead celebrations with a 5K supporting UNO (United Neighborhood Organization) Charter Schools. The result is a medium-large, well-organized neighborhood race that both honors the neighborhood’s heritage and draws others into the community. There were volunteers aplenty at the start and finish, as well as along the wide, closed course. Ethnic food and drinks were available at base camp (an UNO parking lot) with the purchase of Carrera Cash (food tickets). This is an outstanding local race that effectively mixes tradition, athleticism, community and plain-old fun. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Men’s Health Urbanathlon (October 13, 2012)

News etc., Running No Comments »


Breakdown: With 10.8 miles to cover and eleven sets of obstacles to overcome, the Men’s Health Urbanathlon is a pretty tough event. In fact, it’s tough enough that there’s an option to break the course into three legs and run it as a relay race (which around a third of the roughly 3,000 participants did). This is the sixth year that the Urbanathlon has taken place in Chicago and the first time it’s started south of Soldier Field (typically it starts and finishes in Grant Park), and despite some uncertain weather before the race, things ran pretty smoothly, with the overcast sky providing near-ideal running conditions. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: WTTW Kids Fun and Run (August 26, 2012)

Lincoln Park, News etc., Running No Comments »

WTTW Kids Fun and RunBreakdown: It’s important to notice that the order of words in the title of this event (Kids Fun and Run) places kids first, followed by fun and then the run. That’s a pretty accurate depiction of the way WTTW structured this ninth annual family event in south Lincoln Park, which felt a lot more like a kid/family-friendly festival/party with a 5k and a 3k thrown in for good measure than a straight-up racing event. Starting off with a countdown from eleven (get it?) the course creatively wound around and through most of the area in Lincoln Park south of the zoo, with only the final mile keeping relatively straight. Volunteers and course markers did a fairly good job of keeping runners on the path but it did seem like the course was unnecessarily complicated (unless you consider that part of the fun). The real draw here was the chance for kids to meet their favorite WTTW cartoon characters (Curious George, Clifford, Arthur, etc) in person, get their face painted or bounce around on an inflatable slide. Read the rest of this entry »

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

News etc., Running No Comments »

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)

News etc., Running 1 Comment »

Burgers and Beer 5k


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)

News etc., Running No Comments »


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)

News etc., Running 1 Comment »

Chicago 10K


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)

News etc., Running 1 Comment »

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)

News etc., Running 2 Comments »


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 »