Most people in the Chicago area stick to running on the roads. Or, in actuality, the sidewalks or the lakefront path. But there’s a whole other type of running out there that Chicagoans tend to forgo: trail running.
Sure, there are Chicago forest preserves with paved trails or crushed limestone trails but I’m talking about trails forged in the dirt where you have to duck trees and jump over logs and dodge roots and mud. Or, in the case of hardcore trail runners, power right through the mud.
A few weeks ago I volunteered at the Universal Sole 5 Mile Trail Challenge that my friend Kim was running. This was my first glimpse at the trail I’d be running in a few weeks as part of the inaugural Muddy Monk Schiller Chiller 10K Trail Race.
As a road racer who has only run two real trails in her life, I was intrigued by the concept. And thankfully this trail isn’t as “technical” as some. The word technical in trail running parlance means lots of roots, rocks, ravines and other hazards to dodge. The trail in Schiller Woods? There are roots and rocks and logs but overall it’s a nice trail for a beginner.
The race director for Muddy Monk, Art, reaches out to many bloggers in the area and, as such, many of my blogger buddies were also running the Schiller Chiller.
Several of them had also run the Muddy Monk Thriller in Schiller 5K in October and had only great things to say about the race.
Trail races are a lot more laid back than road races. Less emphasis on time and competitiveness and more emphasis on camaraderie, food, and fun. This race was no exception.
When we arrived we quickly picked up our t-shirts and race numbers. Sadly, many of the shot glasses the 10K runners were promised had broken during transport so we were promised they would be mailed to us. Okay.
The port-a-potty line was miles long but I thought I’d have enough time. Turns out I didn’t but I was okay. Just a little bummed about the situation. Oh well.
As I mentioned, the course was great for a beginning trail runner. A few obstacles here and there but nothing too crazy.
I swear to you I did an awesome flying leap over this log. I just fail at getting good jumping photos!
We took the run really easy and, even though the photos don’t indicate as such, we were having fun. Even when we realized the course was going to be a mile short!
Yes, our 10K course ended up being more like 5.3 miles. And for some reason they were having issues with their results so as of this writing I’m listed as DNS (Did Not Start).
Remember, though, this race was about the fun and the experience. And thanks to some abnormally warm weather, we were able to hang out and chat after the race for quite awhile. We skipped the food line, though, because, much like the porta-potty line, it was really long. I don’t think the two were necessarily related, though.
Yes, there were some growing pains with this race. But one of the things I love about the race director is that he communicates really well with his participants, takes ownership of mistakes, and does what he can to make them better. Like a $5 off code for any of the 2013 races for those of us who lost out on a mile due to the mismarked 10K course. And since the races start at $25, that’s a pretty good deal.
Muddy Monk bills itself as Home of Chicagoland's Premier Trail Running and I think they are going to do a great job filling a hole in the Chicago race scene. Most of their races are within 30 minutes by car from downtown Chicago, provide free parking, FREE race photos, and a great atmosphere. With some unique distances, race themes, discounts, and outside-the-norm locations they are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with!
So if you’re intrigued by trail running definitely check out Muddy Monk. From beginner to more experience there’s bound to be something for you!