Hard word to say; great race to run; fun festival to attend.
Oak Forest Fleadh Festival – pronounced “fl-ah”- is a pre-St. Patrick’s Day Irish celebration that runs all up and down Cicero Ave., which is closed off for the whole morning.
The Fleadh 5k, now in its ninth year, is a great rust buster race for those looking to shake off the winter legs and get a good, hard run in before the spring racing season. The course has a few, gentle hills throughout the first two miles and then is almost all a straight downhill* for the last mile into the finish. (*The final 100 meters is slightly uphill, just to keep you honest.) It is a great way to practice trying to get faster throughout the race and to get your legs turning over in the last mile.
The support along the course is very spirited as people are out getting ready for the rest of the day’s festivities. However, one of the things I was most excited about happened just after the race ended; at the finish line, I was handed a bottle of water that was wrapped in a koozie! As someone who has had his hands go numb many, many times while cooling down holding onto a cold water bottle in late fall and winter, it was the most welcome sight of the day.
After the race, the post-race refreshment tent has goodies of all kinds — Muffins, hot chocolate and more were consumed while waiting for the awards ceremony and being under the tent was a welcome way to get out of the wind when no brick building was available. A must-have for a race in March.
When you leave the race site, you can head down the street to one of the many pubs and restaurants that are taking part in the Fleadh Festival. Irish music, food and drinks are in large supply. (I highly recommend the corned beef sandwich at The Blarney Stone.) In between pub hopping, pop your head out to see the parade and bring your bike or roller skates and enjoy the “open streets” along Cicero for the rest of the morning.