Women find the support and inspiration they crave at female-focused events.
Women have trail-blazed the sports scene in the last forty years since the passing of Title IX, which is best known for breaking down the barriers in sports for women. They’ve gone from nine runners at the 1972 Boston Marathon to 42 percent of participants at the 2012 race, according to Running USA. They’ve run Olympic marathons since 1984 and Olympic triathlons since the sport was added to the Games in 2000. They outnumber men in running participation numbers, 56 percent to 44 percent, according to the Running USA 2013 National Runner Survey.
But there’s way more to this boom. Women seek support, community and camaraderie when it comes to endurance sports. “Women like to be social when they run,” says Brae Blackley, the Zooma Run founder. “They’re looking for a community.”
Events and groups have tapped into that sense of community. At Max Multisport, there’s a strong focus on athlete support. “We wait for people, we cheer people on,” says owner and coach Renee Schneidewind. The goal is to create a safe community where women feel good about working out.
“Women want to do stuff in groups,” says Catherine Moloznik, Fleet Feet Chicago’s product buyer. Fleet Feet Chicago has watched its Chicks’ Night runs grow from a handful of women to a hundred, and they’ve added other events like Girls Night Out and the annual fashion show. “The more women we can get into the sport of running, the more events we can create,” says Fleet Feet’s co-owner Lisa Zimmer.
Fleet Feet isn’t the only company creating new events in the Chicago area to offer its female clientele. From cycling to running to triathlon, women are finding more events available to them with appealing swag, amenities, expos and the promise of girl time.
Run Like a Mother
Run It: May 12
You could go out to brunch to celebrate Mother’s Day, or you could run a 5K at Run Like a Mother. What was started by Megan Searfoss, a former Naperville resident who now lives in Connecticut, as her outlet for fitness and friendship is now a national movement that empowers and celebrates women on Mother’s Day.
LoziLu Women’s Mud Run
Run It: May 18
Get down and dirty at this mud run that was designed to spread fitness fun while helping young patients with leukemia and lymphoma. The 5K might seem like a challenge with 10 to 12 obstacles on course, but it promises a non-intimidating environment.
Esprit de She Triathlon
Race It: June 9
From newbies to pros, female triathletes have been racing in Naperville for years. The swim at Centennial Beach that’s walk-able for nervous swimmers, the bike that loops through town, the run that travels Riverwalk Park. But this year the women-only sprint triathlon has a new moniker: Esprit de She.
Race It: June 16 in Lake Zurich, Ill., August 11 in Pleasant Prairie, Wis.
With a mission to empower women to live healthy, active lives, there are two ways to show your Iron Girl triathlon spirit in the area. The sprint tri hits Lake Zurich first and heads to Pleasant Prairie two months later.
Chicago Women’s Half Marathon and 5K
Run It: June 23
What was once the Fleet Feet Women’s 5K, 10K and Festival (and before that the Windy City Women’s Classic) is now the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon and 5K and celebrates women’s running on the anniversary of Title IX. The distance options make it possible for any active woman to participate and the race is expected to draw 8,000 participants in its second year. “We’re motivating each other to get out there and run,” Zimmer says.
Run It: June 29 or June 30
Yes, you will get dirty during this 5K adventure obstacle course run. But that’s the point: to step out of your comfort zone, try something new and have fun all while supporting a great cause, the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Esprit de She Run
Run It: July 18
You won’t have to choose between happy hour and a workout with this 5K/10K. The run simply starts off a festive evening of food, drink and shopping.
Venus de Miles
Ride It: July 28
Put pedal to mettle at Northern Illinois’ first all-women’s road cycling ride that’s anything but a race. The event celebrates sisterhood, supports the Greenwood Scholars, and offers fun throughout the day from the rest stops to the post-ride massages. “There’s nothing close to it,” says Teresa Robbins, founder of Venus de Miles. “The riders are so empowered, so strong, so supportive.”
Run It: August 3
These divas like to get dirty but minus the mud pits. This 5K features an obstacle course that challenges agility, balance, strength and speed. But it won’t force you into a competitive environment: You can tackle every obstacle as fast as you can or you can opt out and pick your pace.
Zooma Chicago Half Marathon and 10K
Run It: August 10
Plan a girls’ weekend with this race as the headliner. The Zooma Run encourages women to train, better themselves, and run a distance that you’ve never run before, Blackley says. And then you get to celebrate the accomplishment with a cocktail hour, yoga, massage, shopping and more.
Run It: September 7
Event organizers removed as much of the anxiety found in endurance races as they could when creating Pretty Muddy. They encourage costume wearing and team names, they don’t time the 5K, and they don’t require participants to complete every on-course obstacle. “It’s more about hanging out with girlfriends,” says Kevin Scharnek, a Pretty Muddy founding member. And having an awesome day from the run start to the post-party finish.
Women Rock Chicago
Run It: September 22
Lace up your running shoes for this half marathon and 10K where the Men of Women ROCK hand out the finish line bling. Then it’s on to the post-party complete with champagne and live music.
Sidebar: Girls Groups
You know you want to get running, riding and tri-ing, but the question now is where. Check out these options where the focus is on women.
Fleet Feet Chicks Night
You’ll find women running every Tuesday at Fleet Feet’s Old Town location and every Wednesday at Fleet Feet Lincoln Square—something they’ve been doing for years and earning perks in the process.
Support, education and safety are three pillars to this female-focused multisport training group. Started by Renee Schneidewind nearly 10 years ago, the company has expanded to offer training programs, one-on-one coaching, clinics and more with the goal of empowering women in sport.
Nike Training Club
NTC Lincoln Park is a new shop offering the best Nike gear for women, but it also features Run Club meetings throughout the week.
Team Luna Chix
These friends, moms, sisters and daughters spread a healthy message and inspire others through their sports participation. The Chicago area has an active Luna Chix Triathlon team that aims to educate newbie triathletes and fitness fans in a supportive environment.
Universal Sole Wednesday’s Women Fun Run Series
Once a month, da SOLE goes all out for female runners with an evening that offers a short seminar, 3-mile run, wine, trivia and hors d’oeuvres.