A race for a quarter?
That’s how much Brandon Gittelman of Carol Stream paid for the inaugural Chicago Quarter Marathon, happening April 5 at Soldier Field. Gittelman was one of 25 who snagged the early bird price of 25 cents within the first few minutes of registration opening.
The quarter theme doesn’t just stop at price, but carries over to everything from start times and deadlines to, of course, race distance: a quarter marathon, or 6.55 miles.
Although it’s Chicago’s first quarter marathon, the race joins a growing number of running events offering distances outside the traditional 5K, 10K or half marathon.
Throughout the country, people are running 7Ks on St. Patrick’s Day, four miles on the Fourth of July and, in the southwest suburb of La Grange, 3.14 miles on Thanksgiving for pie.
THE MAGIC OF THE MARATHON
“The race market has become saturated with 5Ks and 10Ks, so you have to think outside the box with races these days,” Karyn Serota, race director of Special Events Management, says. “Our goal was to bring a new type of race to the Chicago area. We wanted to offer the hype of running a marathon without having to run the distance of a marathon.”
Essentially, participants are running a 10K, but by attaching the word ‘marathon,’ the race takes on new meaning and bigger purpose, Serota adds.
For Jeff Chamberlain, years of sitting in traffic helped him realize the magic behind the numbers of a marathon.
“I’ve been sitting behind cars with their 26.2 bumper stickers and always thought it would be fun to move that decimal point over,” he says.
Today, Got2Run is a 2.62-mile race in Arlington Heights that encourages children and their families to pick up the sport of running.
The third annual Got2Run takes place May 17 and includes a training program for beginners, along with an 8K route for those looking for a longer run. The race committee designs both routes so parents are able to start the first 2.62 miles with their children and continue on a bit farther.
“Although we advertise in the school districts, the 2.62 race is for anyone who is just starting to run,” Chamberlain says. “Even though it’s a shorter distance, people are really proud of themselves when they finish.”
Even if beginners are still intimidated by the concept of running a 5K, the race website offers a time converter for those who wish to calculate how their 2.62 mile race time would translate into a 5K finish.
Serota says the Chicago Quarter Marathon serves as a stepping stone, both for beginners and those training for a half or full marathon, which is why it takes place in April: the start of race season.
Gittelman plans to use the Quarter Marathon to train for the 2014 Boston Marathon, set for Monday, April 21.
“(The Quarter Marathon) is a few weeks before Boston, so it’s kind of a last tune-up run for me,” says Gittelman.
While Gittelman was one of only a few to take advantage of the Quarter Marathon’s initial 25-cent price, organizers wanted to increase participation by offering reasonable “quarter themed” price increments.
The next 225 to register got in for $25—“which we did honor for quite a few more individuals,” Serota says—and continued to a $50.25 fee through Feb. 25 with $60.25 for day-of registration. A portion of proceeds will benefit Chicago-headquartered Prevent Child Abuse America.
As of mid-January, 1,000 runners have signed up to run Chicago’s first quarter marathon, which starts and ends at Soldier Field with a 6.55 out-and-back course along the corridor of Lake Shore Drive.
“Honestly, I don’t do a lot of races in the city so I’m looking forward to it,” Gittelman says.
In the heat of summer race season, the Fort2Base run on Aug. 24 offers two course options: a three nautical mile or 10 nautical mile route, which run between Naval Station Great Lakes and through Fort Sheridan on Chicago’s north shore.
Despite the terminology, racers won’t be getting wet, aside from some perspiration. As a way to celebrate Chicago’s historic and contemporary military command and training centers, this completely on-land course uses nautical miles for its measurements.
“The nautical mile is a unit of length that is about one minute of arc of latitude measured along any meridian, or about one minute of arc of longitude at the equator,” the race website says. “By international agreement, it is 1,852 meters (approximately 6,076 feet).”
In other words, three nautical miles equals 3.45 miles while 10 nautical miles translates to 11.5 miles.
“We easily could have made it a half marathon,” Beth Salinger, Fort2Base race organizer, says, “but there are already so many in the city and region that I thought it would be cool to do something different.”
Plus, runners who have never participated in a nautical mile race automatically earn PRs for the new distance, Salinger adds.
Many participants use the nautical mileage race as training for the Chicago Marathon (Oct. 12) or Ironman Wisconsin (Madison, Sept. 7), Salinger says.
“It’s also a great idea for those individuals and families tied to the military,” she says. “Last year we had about 30 percent participants who were military personnel.”
Jay Wight, the USA Track & Field road course certifier for the state of Illinois, has measured over 500 races and certified nearly 2,500 courses since 1988. He believes the concept of providing out-of-the-box distances is more a marketing tool than anything, but that those quirky numbers still need to be accurate.
“This isn’t about setting records,” he explains. “It’s about having courses where all the right points from start to finish are the right distance from one another. The runners have an expectation it’s going to be properly measured.”
While finishing a marathon will continue to romance beginners and speedsters will chip away at 5K personal bests, there seems to be plenty of room for events of all distances and measurements on the race calendar.
Regardless if the decimal shifts from 26.2 to 2.62 or that it’s as easy as “Pi ,” if you build a race for a distance, the runners will come.
Non-traditional races in the Chicago area:
Get Lucky 7K, Chicago, March 15
Chicago Quarter Marathon, 6.55 miles, April 5
Team Read Challenge, 7K, Elgin, April 6
Cinco de Miler, 5 miles, Chicago, May 4
Got2Run for Education, 2.62 mile & 8K, Arlington Heights, May 17
Elmhurst 4 on the 4th, 4 miles, July 4
SwedishAmerican State Street Mile, one mile, Rockford, Aug. 2
Fort2Base, 10 nautical miles (11.51) and 3 nautical miles (3.45),
Highwood, August 24
Trick or Treat Trot, 6K, Evanston, Oct. 26
Dick Pond Cocoa Run and Walk, 8 miles, Wheaton, Oct. 26
Hot Cider Hustle, 8 miles, Wheaton, Nov. 1
Hot Chocolate 15K, Chicago, Nov. 2
Northwest Trail Run, 5 and 10 miles, Crystal Lake, Nov. 9