New 5K with Old Twist


For many people, it’s tough to look back at the 70s without making a joke. However, Fleet Feet’s newest race celebrates the decade that launched the popularity of running. The Original 5K on May 31 hopes to get some old school competition and teach some younger runners about the pioneers.


While running’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, none of this would be possible without the original running boom in the 1970s when the first road races began popping up across America. Unlike many themed races, the Original 5K isn’t just asking for runners to dress up to embrace the spirit. This race takes them back to the 70s in nearly every way possible.

“Running hasn’t always been about the marathon or a color run,” Fleet Feet Chicago’s Director of Brand and New Business Development Mike Bahr said. “Back in the day it was a great, well produced 5K and 10K. There wasn’t one every weekend like there is now. There were 10 throughout the year even in a city like Chicago.”

The focus of the new race is to bring runners back to what a 5K would have been like in the 1970s. From start to finish, the race has retro influences, beginning with the price. Although it is still likely more than a race in 1976, the price of $19.72 for the first 1,000 runners, $24.77 for the next thousand and $29.82 for runners beyond the first 2,000, are more manageable than many weekend city races.

The prices come with a backstory of their own. In 1972, American Frank Shorter won the marathon at the Munich Olympic Games, an event many credit for starting the running boom. Additionally, two famous running shoe brands took big steps in ’72: the first running shoes with a swoosh on them were made in Eugene, Oregon and Jim Davis bought New Balance. In 1977, Jim Fixx published The Complete Book of Running, the first Chicago Marathon took place and Brooks Sports introduced the first shoe designed to correct overpronation in runners. 1982 was the year of the “Duel in the Sun” at the Boston Marathon and the year American Mary Decker set six world records.

Bahr said that he hopes the event will help to teach some younger or newer runners about some of these important names in the sport’s history. The self-described “run-nerd” hopes that learning more about what helped running become what it is today will help new participants take the next step in their involvement, such as joining a racing team. Many local teams, including Fleet Feet’s own team, will compete at The Original 5K, which should speed up the times and boost the competitive level, Bahr said.

The new concept has brought together some of the biggest names in running all honoring the sport’s past. Bahr said that Fleet Feet has worked with Nike, Asics, New Balance and Brooks in various ways to help runners enjoy the race. Also, and for some most importantly, The Original 5K features one of running’s most recognizable drink partners. Each runner of legal drinking age will receive a complementary drink ticket for one Miller High Life.

The race will begin on Saturday, May 31 at 8 a.m. on Chicago’s north side. It will kick off near Cricket Hill between Montrose and Wilson with parking near Montrose Harbor. The course will go north to Foster before turning around and heading south along the lakefront. For more information, visit