Night Races Grow In Popularity


The running explosion over the last few years has resulted in races of nearly every kind, every day and every theme imaginable. Recently, that trend has continued well after the sun goes down.

Peter Starykowicz, the owner and race director of All Community Events, was one of the first to test the waters when it came to night runs. In 2012, All Community Events worked to find the next new thing that would happen in running events. When Starykowicz and his team came up with the idea of a night run, they decided to make it truly unique with the Glo Run 5K.

“Originally, it was just a timed night run with a glow-in-the-dark theme and glow sticks, things like that,” Starykowicz said. “When we first got the permit for the event it really evolved from your typical 5K at night with glow sticks to the experience that it is now.”

What it is now is an experience that Starykowicz said is unlike almost any other race. Rather than trying to run as fast as possible at this year’s Glo Run on May 3, Starykowicz said the true experience is enjoying the 22 different “Dreamscapes,”various attractions that draw in the runners along the course with their colors and size. The idea of it all, he said, is to enjoy what happens to you along the run. During the event, participants will run through the mouth of a 100-foot glow worm filled with bubbles and music, 300 feet of arches synchronized with different colors moving from arch to arch called dream catchers and 8-foot photo frames that glow in the dark.

A new event to the Chicago scene, the Energizer Night Race on June 7, will use less glowing and more shining to set it apart from other events, equipping runners with headlamps to brighten the path in front of them. Similar to the Glo Run, much of the event’s fun will happen on the run with a DJ along the racecourse to keep runners excited throughout their night jaunt,¬†Energizer Night Race director of marketing Nguyen Violette said.

The Energizer Night Race 5K raises awareness for One Million Lights, a nonprofit that works to help bring portable lights to poor areas around the world. Doing this would help those living in affected areas work and stay safe after the sun goes down, a privilege Violette said many don’t currently enjoy. Through races like this one, One Million Lights can provide portable solar lamps to replace the dangerous kerosene lamps many use.

An amazing amount of logistics goes into coordinating any race, and this only increases when the stars come out. Both Violette and Starykowicz said it’s incredibly important to be familiar with the venue. Violette said that the Night Race, which is held in locations across the country, has partnered with a number of local businesses including Universal Sole to help them prepare.

Starykowicz said that the Glo Run’s answer to these added night time problems comes in its preparation and how far it takes the theme. He said that other races that employ the “glow” theme often fall a little short of what is truly needed to embrace the runners. All told, the Glo Run sets up roughly 15,000 pounds of equipment for the 5K.

All of the preparation and fun is for a reason. Starykowicz said he knows that races like the Glo Run don’t attract the same kind of people as some of the historically successful races throughout Chicago, and he embraces that. Races like the Glo Run attract runners who may otherwise feel too shy or nervous to take on a daytime 5K and compete against some of the fastest runners in the city. By joining in with their friends, this race brings in a new group of people, something Starykowicz said is the best thing that’s ever happened in the running world.

“When you go out to your first 5K and you’re not a runner, you’re just trying to get healthier,” he said. “It’s intimidating, you don’t know how the check-in process works, you’re surrounded by all these runners in short-shorts who look super skinny and are doing their special pre-race regiment. The intimidation drives some people from that first step and prevents them from learning how great the sport of running can be.”

With the Glo Run, however, Starykowicz said that the intimidation goes out the door and runners who otherwise may be uneasy with sharing their times can ignore them of the enjoyable course.

“It allows the people who have always wanted to do a 5K but say ‘I’m not a runner:’ now you don’t have to be a runner to do a 5K” Starykowicz said. “Now they’ve done the fun 5K and can do the real 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon.”