“Classic” is the perfect word to describe everything about the Universal Sole 4 Mile Classic; a more perfect name really could not have been picked for this longstanding Chicago tradition.
The Universal Sole 4 Mile Classic is one of the first Thursday night races in the city for the summer. The Chicago race calendar is filled almost every week from May through August with these Thursday night races and though that fact may be known to Chicagoland runners, whenever it is mentioned to people from out of the area, the look of awe on their faces is enough to tell you that Thursday night racing is the envy of other running communities.
Thursday night races have a different feel to them than the typical Saturday or Sunday morning race. There is always a sense of relaxation and fun that isn’t masked by the early morning tension you usually get on a race start line. Universal Sole is great at these kind of loose feeling events, mostly because the majority of its races are on the trail. The 4 Mile Classic, while not a “trail race” by name, still incorporates a lot of the same kind of logistics that you’ll find at a typical trail race, but run on the lakefront path with a beautiful city backdrop.
You may not always be running on a constant surface – in fact, you switch from limestone to blacktop to grass several times throughout the race – and the course itself is much less an “official USATF, every inch of it measured twice” type course and more a “there is the start and finish and this is the course, so we’ll see you at the end” kind of race.* That just adds to the fun and challenge of the event and brings back the feeling of being a kid again, racing against your friends.
Adding to that aspect this year was the fact that Chicago Run brought out what seemed like an endless supply of youth runners to the race. The excitement of the kids and their supporters really added to the fun and camaraderie of the evening.
The Universal Sole 4 Mile Classic is a “classic race” in that it is just that; a simple race to the finish line. Don’t worry about your time. Don’t worry about keeping an even pace. Just go out, run hard, beat the person next to you, and have fun.
*One note to race directors everywhere: If you use those little electrical flags to mark your course as it passes through a grassy field, don’t use red or orange flags. Those of us that are colorblind can’t see them until we are six inches away from them, if we are lucky. It makes for a much more interesting race experience when you can’t figure out where you are going.