Activeland Chicago


What to do, where to go, to stay active in Chiberia

A November Turkey Trot used to end the race season for Chicago runners, but not anymore. As race organizers add events to the winter scene, runners fill them up.


“We’re finding that you’ve got a lot of serious runners in Chicago who want to keep running and staying active through the winter, and they’ll come out to race,” Polar Dash Director Zach Edmonson says.


Gone are the days of shutting it down until the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle. Check out some of the best running, riding and skiing opportunities for active Chicagoans to keep your training calendar full and fun through the winter.


Ted Haydon Holiday Track Classic

When: Dec. 20, 2014

Where: University of Chicago



The Ted Haydon Holiday Classic is a city running tradition. Haydon launched the classic in 1953 as a winter competition for the University of Chicago Track Club and area athletes on holiday. Today it draws 550 individuals to compete on the track once again.


Held at the Henry Crown Field House on the University of Chicago campus, the classic has hosted runners age 2 to 70. Put a relay team together, go it alone or bring the family to this unique event.


New Year’s Day 5K

When: Jan. 1, 2015

Where: Lincoln Park, Chicago



Make amends for New Year’s Eve debauchery with a shakeout run to kick off 2015. Now in its 30th year, the New Year’s Day 5K draws 1,500 runners to Lincoln Park to wind along the Lakefront Trail to Diversey and back to the Lincoln Park South Field House.


A merciful 11 a.m. horn buys you time to get to the starting line. Get some hair of the dog at the post-race party at O’Briens in Old Town, with raffle prizes and complimentary drinks. At $25 before Dec. 1, the early-bird price makes for an affordable commitment.


S-No-W Fun Run

When: Jan. 10, 2015

Where: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin



This race is less about the workout, more about the party… and there’s nothing wrong with that. The Lakes Area Running Club hosts what many call the best party race of the season. It starts with a five-mile run but ends at the Grand Geneva Resort, where shots of schnapps await to start a party inspired by the old Playboy Club.


Though known for its party, this race draws competitive runners as well, with medals awarded to the fastest and second fastest male and female of each age year.


Chicago Polar Dash

When: Jan. 10, 2015

Where: Lakefront, Chicago



Organizers have added a 1500-meter race to the event in addition to 5K, 10K, and 15-mile distances. Almost 4,000 registered for the dash in 2014, and race director Zach Edmonson says he hopes to move the starting line to Columbus Drive in 2015.


Icebreaker Indoor Marathon and Half Marathon

When: January 23 – 25, 2015

Where: Pettit National Ice Center, Milwaukee



Yes, a marathon on a track sounds boring, but give this race a shot. With a 5K, two half marathons, a marathon relay and a full marathon, the Icebreaker offers a distance for everyone on its 445.2 meter track, the largest indoor track in the country.


“I’ve never had anyone tell me it’s boring,” Race Director Chris Ponteri says. “The camaraderie is great. You’ve got fans cheering you constantly, and inside the oval there is probably an Olympic speed skater training.”


The race features over 800 runners across all events and about 100 in the marathon. Most of us never have the lead pack in our sights for an entire race, but at the Icebreaker you’ll see them all day (as they lap you).


F^3 Lake Half Marathon,

When: Jan. 24, 2015

Where: Lakefront, Chicago



Started on a whim in 2009 by a group of running friends, the F^3 Lake Half Marathon quickly grew into something more than founder Kimberley Stedman imagined.


More than 100 runners joined her the first year, and by 2012, 1,200 runners took on the icy winds of the lakeshore. The race starts at Soldier Field and ends with a post-race party at the United Club. Great race swag includes a bottle opener medal, beanie hat and running gloves you may just need on race day.


Long Runs at the Pettit National Ice Center

When: All winter

Where: Pettit National Ice Center, Milwaukee



Hate the cold, but hate the treadmill even more? Take the trip to Milwaukee for your long runs at the Pettit Center track.


The center saw a dramatic increase in winter runners in 2014 thanks in part to the polar vortex, but its new $110,000 track funded in part by the Badgerland Striders running club certainly didn’t hurt matters, either.


You can run inside for less than $4 a day at a run-perfect 55 degrees.


Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park
When: All winter
Where: Milwaukee

This little-known haven for mountain bikers and BMX riders 30 minutes northwest of downtown Milwaukee provides a great break from the norm for cyclists. Instead of going dormant for the winter, take your bike-handling skills up a notch and gain new confidence in your riding. The park offers all terrain, disciplines and challenges for all skill levels.

Ray’s bills itself as a welcoming “fun, not attitude park,” so you don’t have to be an X Games aficionado to put your tires down.

The 110,000 square-foot park, housed in a former Menards store, offers great deals for first-timers. If you don’t want to haul your bike, it’s just $25 for a day pass and bike rental. If you bring your own bike, a day pass runs you $21 on weekdays, $27 on the weekend.

Cross Country Skiing
When: All winter
Where: Forest Preserves of Cook County

Cross-country skiing is a great low-impact off-season workout for runners. There aren’t many places to ski in the city, but all areas of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, excluding golf courses and most nature centers, are open to skiing.

The Sagawu Preserve in Lemont hosts a Nordic Ski Program with weekend lessons for adults and children of various levels of four miles of groomed trails.

For those in the city, Northerly Island is open to skiing and snowshoeing in January and February, allowing you to ski with the skyline as your backdrop. There’s no admission charge and rentals are available.

Finally, if you want to try a suburban trail outside the forest preserves, try the Morton Arboretum, which is open to skiing and offers rentals as well.

H-F Racquet and Fitness Club Indoor Triathlon

When: Feb. 20 – 21

Where: Homewood, IL



If you’ve never done a triathlon, consider testing out the sport with an indoor tri. If you’re a veteran, this is a great way to stay in shape and hone your transitions with far less time and financial commitment than a full triathlon.


The sixth annual H-F Indoor Triathlon is capped at 75 participants who race in four-person wave starts. Participants swim 10 minutes in the pool, pedal 20 minutes on the exercise bike, then run 15 minutes on the treadmill, with five minutes allotted for each of the two transitions.


Warm Your Heart 5k

When: February 2015

Where: McCormick Place, Chicago



McCormick Place is one of the few places big enough to host an indoor single-loop 5k. Prepare for a lot of turns as you maneuver through the convention center with 3,000 runners raising money for Northwestern Medicine’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.


Organizers were still finalizing the 2015 date at press time.