For myself and my friends the racing season begins with the Frosty Five Miler in Channahon. Located an easy 40 mile drive from Chicago down I55 the race draws more than locals. With a major snow event expected the race director was quick to send out informational emails in the days leading up to the race.
Pioneer Path School was opened earlier than usual to allow everyone to arrive and relax. Pre-race snacks and coffee were plentiful and the gym buzzed with warmth as friends greeted each other. Jacqueline O’Hara, the race director, met runners at the door as she thanked them for braving the weather. At 12:50 p.m. an announcement was made calling runners to the start line. A 1 p.m. start allowed the sun to do its work. Most of the course was dry or just a little slushy.
The horn went off sending out the 179 runners. The course winds through the neighborhood then settles into a 3.5 mile out and back along Front Street. With the Des Plaines River on one side and open fields on the other, wind can often be a factor here. This year it was felt the most on the return trip.
Since it is an out and back it is fun for a back-of-the-packer like me to see the speedsters as they head back to the finish. The top three males were in a tight pack as they passed me. This a friendly, hometown race and more than a few runners coming back at me called out encouragement or high-fived me. After the turnaround I saw the sweep car following the last runners/walkers. The driver stuck her head out the window while cheering “You just made it to the top of the worst hill!” Front Street is hilly with a couple long, gradual inclines. In the winter you can see local run clubs doing training runs there when the towpath is too sloppy. There is an almost 100 feet elevation change throughout the course.
Back in the gym there was plenty of pizza and runners were sporting their swag hats and medals while waiting for the award ceremony. The top finishers were meant to receive snow globes as awards but due to weather delivery issues most of the globes didn’t arrive. Jacqueline had the idea to give out snow shovels and they were well-received. Ray Witty was the overall winner with a time of 29:21. He did receive the only snow globe, a shovel and a cool award hat.
The weather can be iffy for this race and I’ve run it in everything from shorts to 4 layers and rain gear but it is definitely worth it to take a chance on the weather and the trip down to Channahon