The streets of Chicago were flooded with color Saturday morning as 15,000 runners and spectators sported the shirts of their favorite Big Ten college football team.
The BTN Big10K, put on every year by RAM Racing, is a celebration of all 14 Big Ten colleges in the United States and their football teams. At the race, each school has its own shirt and medal that runners can chose from during registration. Each college also has its own tent at the post-race party, which are popular photo spots for the competitors.
“Our fifth year of our BTN Big10k was our best year yet. I’m always so surprised how far people will travel to be a part of this experience,” Erin Harvego, BTN director of marketing, says. “It just shows how passionate Big Ten fans are about their schools and conference. When we started this race we had 5,000 runners. Now that’s more than doubled. It’s just become a destination race.”
Both 10K and 5K distances were available at Saturdays race, which was held in Grant Park. The 10K course is known for being quick, and despite the slight crowding on the lakefront path, it definitely was. The course starts right outside Grant Park, and weaves in and out of the streets for three miles while heading towards Museum Campus. The 5K mark is right outside the Shedd Aquarium, and runners then head towards the lakefront to run the next half of the race.
Although it was a little hot, the windless morning made the course seemingly fast; running along the lakefront created a gentle breeze, and much of the course was shaded as well. Each mile was marked with a clock, and the fourth and fifth miles had a slip ‘n slide for runners to cool off in (I would have gone in if I didn’t have my phone on me, it looked very refreshing.)
The finish was the same for both races, which ended just before the start line. In addition to the race itself, the overall environment on Saturday was a blast — all the college mascots were lined up at the start and finish lines, giving high fives and helping handing out medals to finishers; music played at several locations, and Chicago Cub Kyle Schwarber was seen riding on a golf cart as the Grand Marshal. The post party, however, may be the biggest hit of the entire day.
Every runner received a free beer and chicken sausage upon completion at the “tailgate” party. Here, there were games, more food and alcohol, and vendors for runners to buy swag. Overall, the party was very up-beat, setting a positive mindset before the college football season begins.
Even though I’m not a Big Ten alum, or even really a football fan, the BTN Big 10K race was one of my favorites I’ve done so far, and I’ll definitely sport my general “Big Ten Network” tech shirt frequently.
See more photos here.