29th Annual Big Shoulders Swim


After a beach and watercraft advisory leading up to the race, organizers and participants breathed a sigh of relief after seeing relatively calm waters on Saturday morning. After conditions forced a cancellation in 2018, Big Shoulders bounced back and showed no signs of rust. Since 1991, this open-water swimming race at Ohio Street Beach continues to be one of the most popular races of the year and sells out within hours of opening registration. With nearly 1,200 participants, it’s one of the largest open-water races in the country.

With water temperatures just over 60 degrees, credit goes to the race organizers for a big focus on participant safety. Leading up to the race swimmers were allowed to switch distances, change to a wetsuit if needed, and even received medical advice on how to acclimate to cold water. During the race, lifeguards, first-responders, and medical personnel were on hand and easy to spot. So with minds at ease, swimmers took to the course ready to go.

The triangular course (1 lap for the 2.5k and 2 laps for the 5k) was easy to navigate with sighting buoys and landmarks from the city. Thank you random black and white striped building on Lake Shore Drive. But few swimming races have the same finish line feel as Big Shoulders. Swimmers from UIC were on the mic and the finishers chute was surrounded with fans all around. The music and energy made for an exciting event and the post-race ribs hit the spot. Who knew ribs tasted so good at 9:00 am?

Overall, it’s easy to see why swimmers keep coming back to this historic event. But it’s time to move on and look ahead. After all, registration for next year’s race opens on March 1st at 10:00 am, so set your alarm now and plan accordingly.

5k Winners

  • Fred Schuster and Britta Miller (wetsuit)
  • Justin Chiles and Anna Wisniewski (non-wetsuit)

2.5k Winners

  • Nicholas Gehl and Jessica Achtstatter (wetsuit)
  • Christopher Mcgue and Kelsey Herbst (non-wetsuit)


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