River Grove FOP 5k

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The River Grove FOP 5k is the best little race that you aren’t running.

It is summertime in Chicagoland and that means community festivals, farmer’s markets, and art fairs. It also means it is 5k season. There are a lot of “cookie cutter” 5ks in the area; almost every suburb has one. There are usually around 200 participants and they all offer “fast, flat courses” that wind around a residential area of the suburb. They have chip timing and age group awards – though not all the age groups have three participants to give awards to – and everyone gets a tech shirt.

These races are wonderful, community events that are great to help spread fitness through each community and show off some town spirit. They also allow some of the more serious runners a chance to break out of the training cycle and get in a solid race effort. It is sometimes hard for these kinds of events to set themselves apart from all the others, though.

The River Grove FOP 5k has found a way to break the mold, though, and it keeps runners coming back year after year.

The race is put on by the River Grove Friends of Police Lodge and the local police have a large presence throughout the event. The lodge members seem to have really bought into how great this event is for their community and their excitement helps make the atmosphere and comradery that much more enjoyable.

The thing that sets this race apart from the others, though, is the after party. The post-race food is obviously a hit with pizza, bagels, and hot dogs from Gene ‘n Jude’s, but the friendly, community atmosphere is what will bring you back. The after party is held inside the Moose Lodge – which is even better when, like on Sunday, the rain was coming down in buckets at the conclusion of the race – and tables and chairs are set up throughout the lodge allowing people to sit and eat with friends. I think this helps highlight the awards ceremony because you aren’t just standing around, waiting for the next name to be called. You can sit and relax as they go through each group, and people seem more inclined to stay until the end, compared to other races.

Since everyone stuck around, a round of applause and pats on the back follow every award winner, which is also something that sometimes lacks at other events. Even though not everyone inside the lodge knows each other, the close quarters make it feel like it was just a bunch of friends that went out for a run.

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Jonathan couldn’t run a mile before his sophomore year in high school but went on to run at Hope College. Now, he runs with the Fast Track Racing Team and races in almost 30 races a year, still managing to run some PRs. He couldn’t win a 100 meter sprint if his life depended on it, but still has a pretty good kick at the end of a 10k. He is the Local Advertiser/Sales employee on Chicago Athlete's staff, and also volunteers as an Assistant XC Coach at Elk Grove High School and has done that for the past 11 years.

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