The racing season in Chicago typically culminates with the Marathon in October. Many athletes retreat to the warmth of indoor training to recover and prepare for the next year. But, perhaps not surprisingly, the “City of the Big Shoulders” does indeed have a shoulder season that starts with the November Turkey Trots and in recent years has carried on with December holiday themed events.
Lacie Flannery of Blistering Pace Race Management and her husband Doug hoped to tap into some of the whimsy of the season by bringing the inaugural Christmas Sweater Shuffle 5k to Glen Ellyn this past weekend. Just shy of 300 participants arrived on race morning in their “finest” festive attire to challenge a new course and have some fun.
The race started promptly at 7:30 am and sent us off through the quaint downtown streets. I had neglected to look at the course elevation as this was a last minute addition to my schedule. I was quickly reminded how hilly the Western suburbs of Chicago can be! I have been nursing an injury since mid-September and realized when I was passed by a gentleman in a Grinch “onsie” that today would be a challenge and could have made my heart shrink two sizes too small! Fortunately, there was plenty of holiday music coming from participants and volunteers portable blue-tooth speakers all along the route to keep everyone’s spirits up!!
The course wound its way down through neighborhood streets and along scenic Lake Ellyn where many members of the community came out to cheer on the runners. The only aid station on the course was at mile 1.6 just before the second steep incline up and around Glenbard West High School. After being rewarded with a nice decent; the third and final hill in the second mile seemed to go on forever! Fortunately, a friendly abominable snowman showed up just at the end of mile 3 pointing us back down Main St. to the finish line where cookies, donut holes, milk, hot chocolate, fun sweater medals and even a special someone who made the trip from North Pole awaited all the finishers.
While there were trophies for “Most Festive Sweater”, “Ugliest Sweater” and “Best Overall Ensemble”, the real reward was seeing a number of friends from all over the Chicagoland area come out to support this fantastic event! Everyone seemed to have a great time even in the chilly conditions and I have a feeling this small town, well organized race that had a big city feel will be on a number of good boys and girls wish lists next December!