The 17th Annual Chicago Lakefront 50/50 took place this past Saturday. I know, shocking that there was anything else going on besides the World Series (Go Cubbies!)
It was my first go round at this, “grassroots, low key or whatever you wish to call it” race. Although the 50K distance has always been one that I enjoy as an ultrarunner, I have never experienced racing it right in my own backyard. When I saw that the start line was just two miles from where I live, I knew I had to jump in the 50K race.
This ultramarathon race is put on by Chicago Ultra; it offers a 50K and 50 mile distance, and taking place right on Chicago’s Lakefront Path, it is one of the flattest ultramarathons you’ll find. In fact, the record for the fastest 50 mile was set on Chicago’s lakefront in 1984.
On Saturday, the 50 miler started at 6:30 a.m. and the 50K started at 7:30 a.m., which is not too bad for an ultra start. With the sun rising over Lake Michigan and a warming temp of 64 degrees, how could you not be excited to test some speed for a good part of the day?
Around 70 runners toed the line for the 50 mile race, while about 175 runners came out for the 50K race. The start and finish line stood at the Foster Boat House, which placed you alongside beautiful Lake Michigan and the beaches that go along with it. Following the Lakefront Path south, you round Cricket Hill and travel through Belmont Harbor, then pass Diversey Harbor, up to the Fullerton drinking fountains and straight down to North Avenue, where you catch the turnaround at Castaways (aka the boat).
After the turnaround, you make your way back to the Foster Boat House. For the 50K, we did this 10.3 loop three times, while the 50 milers finished it four times (50 milers also went a bit further south before their turnaround). With stacked aid stations and porta-potties available (impressive!) every two and a half miles, it was easy to stay fueled and stay fast.
The course follows gravel trails with some twist and turns from the Foster Boat House. Once you round Cricket Hill and make your way past Montrose Harbor, you have the option of gravel trail on the side or pavement path.
With the Lakefront 50/50 being known as a flat and fast course, don’t mistake it for an easy one. By the third loop, I was reminded that ultrarunning can take us to some dark places, filled with negative thoughts. But, like everything else in life, when you keep moving forward you eventually make your way to the finish line. The ups and downs are always worth it.
When I crossed that finish line, I looked up at the finish flag that read, “There is no place I would rather be,” and that’s just how I felt! This race truly was a grassroots ultra. No fuss, no crowds, room to move while you ran and appreciation for one another on and off the course. Chicago will always be my kind of town and this race is one I suggest entering if you are in the city.
Thank you to all the volunteers and the crew at Chicago Ultra. As a first timer to this Chicago Lakefront race, I’d say the gorgeous sunrise over Lake Michigan, well organized and friendly crew, make this one all worthwhile.