The good times rolled on Saturday as I raced for the first time in 2019 and ran the Back on My Feet Chicago Mardi Gras 5k/10k. That’s a longer title than usual for a race, but every aspect of the name highlighted something special about the event. Participating in the race helped me learn about Back on My Feet, a national organization that uses running and community to address homelessness. The organization was out in full force with people participating in the race, volunteering, and promoting their mission. Watching their group warm up and team cheer was inspiring and another reminder of how the running community can bring together a unique group of people to help one another.
The Mardi Gras theme was alive and well as many people wore their best masks and beads. The props kept the mood light and spirited and you couldn’t help but smile; for a beginning of year race, I was happy for the reminder to just have fun and enjoy the day.
The raced started on Thursday/Friday with mandatory bib pick-up at Fleet Feet in Old Town, which is always a struggle for me. It’s not easy to get there during the week because I don’t work or live near the area. Race organizers did add the benefit of being able to pick up others bibs without too much trouble, but you’re out of luck if you’re racing alone. There was a little swag with bibs and I give the race credit for handing out water bottles instead of shirts as I always appreciate something different.
Race day was a little cold, but like any good Chicagoan knows, it could have been way worse. The course started and finished at Montrose Harbor and ran along the lake path. I’m a huge fan of out and back courses because it’s easier to pace when there is a clear mid-point turnaround. I’ve also trained on the lake path for years, but this was my first race on it. I’m usually ‘that guy’ running upstream from the rest of the racers and I have to say racing in the direction of the runners was much more fun. The new lake path routes only created minor confusion as the course was marked fairly well.
No race can be complete without the commitment and positive energy from all of the volunteers. It was great to see participants of the Back on my Feet organization handing out medals and congratulated finishers. Other volunteers filled multiple aid stations along the course and cheered us on.
Overall, I’d recommend this race to anyone in 2020. The ease of race logistics, clear and flat course, and fun energy made this a great day for so many different types of athletes. I met one woman who can now say she’s run a 5k, two friends who used this to keep their New Year’s resolutions alive, and elite runners who used this as a check-in point on their training.
The winners of the 5k were Jonathan Seabold and Kevin Bertram (17:46) and Kayla Blas (20:13). The 10k winners were Derek Johnsrud (32:43) and Allison Webb (43:05)