While the skeptics still live in fear of one last cold blast, it looks like warm spring weather is here to stay. That means there's no excuse to stay indoors. It's time to get outside for golf, tennis, or a long walk in the woods.
However, if you're looking for something a little more challenging than a stroll on the beach, you're in luck. This time of year there are dozens of organized athletic events nearby. Whether you want to run your first 5k or try a two-day, 200 mile bike ride, there's something for everyone. Thanks to the web, finding an event has never been easier. Check out sites such as Chicago Athlete, the Chicago Area Runners Association, Running in the USA, BikeRide.com and TriFind for comprehensive listings.
To get you started, here are some notable local running, cycling and triathlon events.
For runners and walkers who are looking for a short race close to home, the Evanston Race to End Polio is a 5k (3.1 mile) fun run on April 15.
A little later in the month, the Chicago Area Runners Association Lakefront 10 Miler is on April 28 and the Ravenswood 5k, sponsored by FleetFeet, is the following day, on April 29. Both CARA and FleetFeet consistently put on good events, so that's sure to be a solid weekend of running in Chicago.
May brings a new event to Wilmette, The Pink Moon Run and Walk 8k on May 5. An 8k run is just about 5 miles long, so it's a nice distance as a step-up from a 5k. This inaugural event raises money for breast cancer research.
The following weekend, the Magellan Chicago Spring Half Marathon and 10k will take place in Chicago, on May 12. I ran it last year, and while the course along Lake Michigan was lovely, the rain and wind were brutal. I'm planning to run it again this year, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for better weather.
For those seeking a shorter option, there is the Mother's Day 5k Run/Walk in Barrington the next day, on May 13. It should be a great way for moms young and old to get out an enjoy Mother's Day with a relaxed, supportive event.
The next weekend brings a race with a more fromidable distance: 26.2 miles. The Chicagoland Spring Marathon and Half Marathon takes place in Schaumburg on May 20. While I've never done this race, and have absolutely no desire to run a marathon anytime soon, I've heard good reviews of it.
The end of May brings a popular event, the Soldier Field 10 Miler on May 26. This is one of my favorite races in Chicago. In fact, it's one of the best organized races I've ever done, and because it's at Soldier Field, it offers useful features like indoor gear check and restrooms, as well as plenty of parking. What's more, runners finish the race by going through the players' entrance and onto the playing field, seeing themselves up on the Jumbotron as they cross the finish line. Even if you're not a Bears fan, it's a great experience.
Run for the Zoo is a family friendly event on June 3rd. There's a 10k run, a 5k run, a 5k walk and a free kid's race. I've never done this one, so I can't say much about it, but who doesn't like a day at the zoo?
The following weekend is a busy one for Chicago area runners. On Saturday, there is the 13.1 Chicago Half Marathon and 5k on June 9th, offering a scenic run along the southern part of the lake front path in Chicago. Closer to home, the North Shore Half Marathon and 5k takes place the following day, on Sunday, June 10th, in Highland Park. This event marks the highlight of the North Shore running scene. But be warned, the half marathon course includes the notorious Park Avenue Beach Hill. The good news is that once you get to the top, the rest of the route will seem easy in comparison.
For the ladies, there's a new event this year, the Chicago Women's Half Marathon and 5k on June 24th. The event starts and ends in Grant Park and should be a nice addition to the Chicago race calendar.
Later in the summer, there's the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon July 22. RnR events are notoriously expensive, but in my experience they are pretty well organized and have a fun atmosphere. So if you are looking for a fun 13-mile run through the streets of Chicago, start saving up your pennies for the RnR half.
The cycling season tends to peak in the fall, but spring offers a few events for those interested in getting out on two wheels.
Whether you're an experienced female cyclist or a woman who's just getting interested in biking, check out this women's-only cycling clinic on Sunday, April 22nd. Sponsored by local bike shop Higher Gear, this all-day event is designed for female cyclists of all levels. There will be on-the-bike coaching and group rides, as well as off-the-bike talks about bike maintenance and injury prevention.
Once you have your ride legs under you, you can put them to use at the Arlington 500, a recreational bike ride on May 20th that starts at Barrington High School and offers several routes ranging from 28 to 69 miles.
The following weekend brings the once-a-year chance to ride on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, when the road is closed to cars and open to bikes for Bike the Drive on May 27th. This family-friendly event allows you to customize the route to whatever distance you want. Whether you ride 5 miles or 30, you'll have the chance to soak up some great views of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
A bit further afield, the Tour De Farms is a popular two-day cycling event with route options from 15 to 200 miles. It takes place June 23-24 in Dekalb, IL.
For those interested in jumping into the sport of triathlon, you have not one but two events in June in southern Wisconsin to check out. The Pleasant Prairie Triathlon and the Big Foot Triathlon in Lake Geneva both take place on June 24th, and both offer Sprint and International (Olympic) distance courses.
So as you can see, there's no shortage of options this time of year. Now you just need to pick an event and sign up. Happy racing!