How does one even begin to sum up a week of 5 races? Especially when that week of races happened during Chicago’s first major heatwave of the year. Of course, I didn’t have any idea the weather would throw me for a loop when I signed up so I just had to make the best of it. I wasn’t planning to all-out race each event anyway so, really, it worked out for the best. Each race was unique and each had its pluses and minuses. So, if you’re more of a visual person, here’s a quick chart I put together of all 5 races which were, in order, the Burgers and Beer 5K, the Strike Out ALS 5K, the Friendship Run 5K, the Esprit de She 5K, and the Wheels and Heels Rush on Festa 5K. Click on the image to see it full sized.
So, how did each race stack up? Well, here are the highlights, the lowlights, and my overall thoughts on each.
- Burger and beer included in the registration fee!
- Familiar course with few turns
- Hit the aid station twice
- Easy access to post-race food for those who finished in under 30 minutes
- The sun went away and the temps cooled off slightly
- Hilarious sighting of a couple full-on making out in full view of the entire race
- Running into friends from my running club who I didn’t know would be there
- Easy packet pick-up & gear check
- Pre & post-race festivities in a beautiful “hidden” downtown park
- Free race photos!
- Race started a bit late
- A little crowded in some parts of the course on the lakefront path
- Course was a bit short. My Garmin measured 2.99 and my friend’s measured 3.01
- Line for beer was CRAZY long if you finished after 30 minutes or so
- Apparently there were some parking snafus but I’m lucky enough to work and live within easy walking or public transportation access
I finished this race with an official time of 25:49 but since the course was short I bet I ran closer to a 26-something. I wasn’t planning on full on racing this one but it seems when I run 5K races by myself I can’t just run a nice, leisurely pace! It was lovely to run into my running club friends so that I had someone to sit and chat with post-race while I ate my burger and drank my beer, too. I’m happy I knew to head directly to the beer and burger line after crossing the finish line. That food line gets loooong! Also, I highly recommend taking public transportation to this race if possible.
Strike Out ALS 5K
(Amusing side note: I keep typing ALA instead of ALS because, as someone with a library science degree I’m more used to typing ALA – American Library Association – rather than ALS)
- Easy, free parking
- Easy gear check
- Small town race feel
- Running with friends (including Kelsey who, while miserable, still managed to look pretty)
- Unique post-race experience ending in US Cellular Field (my first visit!)
- Free race photos!
- Mostly boring course. Interesting to run through the inside of the stadium and on the field, though.
- Only one aid station
- Late start. Pre-race announcements and thanks, etc didn’t start until 2 minutes before 6:30 and race was supposed to start at 6:30
- Water stations didn’t have enough water pre-poured, especially considering the heat and humidity
- No free post-race food. Only basic concession items available for purchase (hot dogs, pretzels, chips, beer, soda)
- Apparently the race leaders missed a turn due to the lack of course marshals and ended up skipping almost half a mile of the course
- Course markers weren’t accurate
- Lack of first aid at the finish line even though it was a really hot evening
This race is really unique with the way it finishes on the baseball field and coincides with being able to view the All-Star game on the Jumbotron. It also raises money for a great cause. Lindsay indicated that they raised over $60,000! I ran this race with Lindsay at a nice conversational pace but there were several other bloggers there, some of whom had run the race before. They all indicated that this race seems to make improvements every year so I’m excited to see how it goes next year. I stayed afterward with Emily (since she was my ride) and it was a lovely evening to sit and enjoy a beer in the quiet stadium. Note: I received a free media entry to this race. Blogger perks!
Friendship Run 5K
- Cheap! Only $17 with optional tech shirt for an additional $5. I skipped the t-shirt option.
- Amazing (free) post-race food: pizza, watermelon, cookies, granola bars, popsicles, and ice cream
- Chip timed but only at the finish. However, since there weren’t very many runners I was able to start at the front
- Men started at 6:30 PM and women started at 6:35 PM
- Course was one loop of a mostly shaded park with a little out and back for the last .75 miles.
- USATF Certified Course (although, when I searched for the course on the USATF site it said it was an inactive certification)
- Traffic from the city of Chicago at 5:15 on a Wednesday night was kind of brutal. About a 45 minute drive.
- A guy who I’m assuming worked for the timing company came up to me after the race and told me that because I had my bib pinned to my sports bra it might not register my time. His explanation was that the chips don’t register though water and the body is 90% water so having the bib up that high causes errors. When I asked him if the chip they used was different from a regular B-Tag he seemed to have no idea what I was talking about.
This actually might have been one of my favorite races of the week! I love small town races! You tend to get lots of perks for less money as well as a more laid-back atmosphere. This one was a nice mix of laid-back and competitive since it was highly attended by the Calumet Region Striders. I was thankful, though, that my husband was able to come with me and drive since sitting in traffic by myself would not have been much fun. I pushed myself a little harder at this race hoping to place, but I only came in 6th in my age group with my time of 26:11.
- Pretty course that went through the Lincoln Park Zoo boardwalk area
- Two aid stations plus on-course misters and finish line cold towels
- Easy gear check and packet pick-up
- Two free post-race drinks (wine or champagne)!
- Cute race tank top (yay for not another t-shirt!)
- Good race management staff who were quickly able to adjust the course and hydration support due to the weather
- Running with blogger buddies!
- Very little post-race food. Only options were popsicles, vegan chocolate avocado pudding, and grilled flatbread with hummus. And yogurt. The line for food was quite long when I finished the race.
- Line for drinks got very long
- Gear check closed down while people were still waiting in line for drinks
- Course was very narrow and had some hairpin turns in spots which might make for a difficult race if you were trying to run fast (I wasn’t).
- Original course map had mislabeled streets (did you know that Fullerton Ave is now Diversity Pkwy?). I found this hilarious.
This event originally had a 5K and a 10K but because of the weather the race organizers decided to move everyone to the 5K. No one at the event seemed particularly upset by this. Looking back, though, I wonder how that affected the food and drink situation. Since the race started at 7PM and it appeared that everything was shutting down around 8:00 PM I know that if they had done the 10K people would still be running until possibly 8:30! Anyway, this is definitely a race you do for fun. Come out early, visit the vendors, hang out with your friends, run together, and then enjoy the post-race activities! Definitely more of a fun run than a race. Emily, Sara and I ran super easy and just enjoyed chatting before meeting up with everyone else and getting our drink on.
- Pretty course along the lakefront and through parks downtown near Milwaukee’s art museum
- Small race that raises money for the National Spinal Cord Injury Association
- Free entry into Milwaukee’s Festa Italiana (a $13 value)
- Extremely friendly race volunteers
- Two aid stations on course
- Tons of fruit post-race, including watermelon, oranges, grapes, bananas, and pineapple
- Free chair massages
- Incredibly ugly shirt
- No gear check
- No course map online
- Online race results are….nowhere to be found
As you can probably tell from the lack of lowlights, this race was another favorite of the week even though the “big city” aspects such as a course map and online results were lacking. And, yes, the drive to Milwaukee is LONG, especially on a Friday afternoon. Man, Chicago traffic is brutal. But it was definitely worth it! Not only was this an incredibly well-run race, but I FINALLY came home with some hardware. Yep, I got 3rd in my age group with a time of 25:44. So now we know my ratio of 5Ks to medals. Also, I loved that we got free entry to the Italian festival after the race. Yes, the food was expensive but the festival was really nice and it looked like there was a ton of stuff to do. I was there by myself, though, so I just walked around and looked at the sights.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how well my body held up with five days of running. Alternating between running hard and running easy seemed to make a huge difference. Also, I didn’t do any other running, strength training or physical pursuits. Just running the 5Ks (with no warm-ups or cool-downs at the races, either). I have a desk job so I basically get to sit all day and drink water so I consider that to be getting paid to recover. Things I should have done? Foam rolled. My left piriformis did start to act up but usually calmed down after a night of sleep.
And speaking of sleep, I was getting pretty tired during the day at work, though, I attribute that to not getting home until late in the evening every night. I missed just sitting on my couch for a bit each evening and hanging with my husband! By the time I got home it was usually just enough time to eat something more substantial than the typical post-race fare and go to bed!
Also, although the weather was very, very warm, I just made sure to drink a lot of water before running as well as taking at least one cup of water at each aid station. I didn’t always drink it but I always swished it around in my mouth.
Still, doing 5 5Ks in 5 Days is a doable challenge for just about anyone who has been running consistently. And since evening 5Ks are plentiful in the summer months in Chicago it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a few. In fact, I might do this again next summer but look for different races!
But don’t look for a 10 10Ks in 10 Days challenge or anything else. 5 5Ks was just enough.