My Favorite Races (So Far)

Yesterday I posted about how I pick my races. Based on that, which races (of the ones I’ve done) do I think are worth it? In no particular order:

2011 Soldier Field 10

Soldier Field 10: Of all the “Lakefront Path” races that I’ve done, this one is by far my favorite. It’s expensive ($80), but it’s a well done race that finishes on the Bears home field. When I did the race (in 2011), we also received fleece stadium blankets, and parking at Soldier Field was free. Of course there is no raceday packet pick-up, and when I did it, I had to go up to Fleet Feet in Old Town on a Friday to get my bib.


2012 Rockdale Ramblin Run

Rockdale Ramblin Run 10K: I like that this was just a 10K, and not a 10K with a 5K, or a 10K as an alternative to a half marathon. Sometimes it’s nice when they keep things simple. Also, there aren’t many 10K races out there (which is a shame). This race was cheap ($35), and for that you got a closed course through mostly residential neighborhoods, easy (and free) street parking, race day packet pick-up, a hooded sweatshirt, a “finishers medal” (dog tags), and I think there may have been post-race beer. I won an age group award, which was a coaster … and I use it everyday at work.


2012 Midwinter Cruise

Midwinter Cruise 5K: I’m very partial to this race because it is the only race that still exists in my hometown. Sadly. But it’s a great small race (under 200 finishers) put on by the local running club – and when the club has “pancake” in the name, you know you’re in for a good time. It’s cheap ($22), there is free parking, they only do race day packet pick-up, they hand out free leis, you can stay warm indoors before and after the race (and use indoor bathrooms), and they serve all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage post-race for runners and spectators. There is no race shirt (which is good, I don’t need another one), but they do a raffle, and claim that “everyone gets an award.” I won my age group last year, and got to pick my trophy … it has a plastic cruise ship on it. I love it.


2012 Sunburst Half

Sunburst Half Marathon: While this is my PR half marathon, this is also an extremely well done race. It’s out-of-town for me, but we booked a room at the hotel literally next to the start line. You can pick up your bib on race morning. The half marathon field is big enough but not huge, there are TONS of water stations on the course, it’s a mostly scenic, partially shaded course, you end on the Notre Dame football field. They also do a marathon, 10K, 5K and 5K walk, so something for everyone. The only concern is that it’s in early June, and the weather is a gamble.


2012 RnR Chicago Expo

Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half: It is an expensive race ($85 right now, and goes up the longer you wait to register). In the middle of summer. With an early start time (6:30am). And you have to pick up your own bib. At McCormick Place, which can be a hassle to get to. And of course there is no raceday packet pick-up. But as long as none of that poses a challenge for you, the race itself is very well done, and it’s on a closed course through city streets. (No Lakefront Path!!) And it’s a fun race – big crowds, but never feels congested, and the bands along the way are fun. And you can get a ton of swag if you have time to go through the expo.


2012 Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon: This is an event. An amazing, wonderful event. $150 well spent in my opinion. Of course I have no other marathons to compare it to. But it’s on a closed course through like 39 neighborhoods in Chicago, there are TONS of spectators and tons of entertainment along the way. This race has been around for 35 years, so they know what they are doing and it shows on raceday. (As long as they don’t run out of medals, ooopsie!) But even though it’s in October, the weather is a gamble.


2012 Fort2Base

Fort2Base: I’m not just including this race because I was an ambassador, actually I was an ambassador because I think this is a really great race. I love the course – 8 miles on a nice paved trail, then 3.5 miles on a closed military base, and the course goes past Lake Michigan. And it’s not too crowded. I know I said the shirt shouldn’t be counted toward the value of the race, but everyone loves the half-zip pullovers, and there are tons of snacks post-race. (Except beer … hello, it’s on a NAVY BASE, where is the beer? Haha.) This race is extra easy for me because we can book a room on base, but if you’re a civilian, give yourself LOTS of time to find parking and take the shuttle to the start.


Southwest Half Marathon 2012
2012 Palos Half

First Midwest Half Marathon (formerly known as the Southwest Half Marathon, also known as the Palos Half Marathon): My “local” half marathon (if 45 minutes away can be considered local … it is for me). Some people have said the course is “boring”, but I think it’s peaceful. It’s an out-and-back on Route 83, mostly past forest preserves, and it’s closed to traffic. There is free parking, and even though there is no race day packet pick-up, the expo is actually an expo, and your friend can pick up your bib.


I know I won’t do all of these races in 2013, heck, some of them I might never do again just because of cost and logistics. But I think they are all worth considering and if it makes sense for your running ability as well as your schedule and where you live, I highly recommend all of these.

Have you done any of these races? And do you recommend them, or not? Any other fantastic Chicago-area races that should be considered?

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7 Comments on “My Favorite Races (So Far)”

  1. I did Fort 2 Base for the first time ever and it was amazing. I will most definitely be back. (And I wear that half zip allllll the time).

    Some other good ones – March Madness in Cary draws a fun crowd; & the Batavia Half in August has bottle opener medals, pizza, & real beer at the finish. For out-of-town races, my favorite is the Madison Mini.

    1. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the March Madness Half. I don’t think it’ll work for me in 2013 (I’m doing a half in January and pretty sure I’m doing another in early May, and that’s enough for one half of a year), but I definitely have it on my radar to do someday.

      “Real beer” … you mean NOT Micheloeb Ultra?

  2. Great list! I love Sunburst & Palos & the Midwinters Cruise. Not an RNR fan. I’ve always wanted to do Soldiers Field but timing is sooooo bad for me cuz I’m usually traveling (to my parents), or afraid that hubby will want to do something last minute if I’m registered (no need to upset the grump any more than necessary!!). Fort2Base looks awesome but I normally have a conflict with Quad Cities or the Fort4Fitness Half (Ft Wayne, IN). And I have no desire to go to Joliet to run. It seems forever away to me. So strange, I know its not that far. As for the marathon, I totally agree. I think its an amazing experience each and every time. I also love that we are so fortunate to be close to one of the World Majors and we can drive in on marathon morn. Major win, in my “married with children” life.

  3. I continue to hear rave reviews about the Soldier Field 10. I have always shied away from it because of the cost and because it takes place over Memorial Day weekend when I am usually out of town. But now I am getting more and more convinced to give it a go.

    Thanks for your thoughts on Sunburst and First Midwest, those are races that I’ve considered in the past but also didn’t end up pulling the trigger on.

    I LOVED RnR Chicago!!! And obviously LOVED the Chicago Marathon, too!!!

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