New date for best race in Chicagoland

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

Last month the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) named The Race That's Good for Life the Best Race of 2012. That's right; our own race is the best, from among the hundreds of road races every year in Chicagoland.

Previously, the race has shared recognition among the region's best, but a couple of years ago CARA decided that "Best Race" should mean just one – The top event. And this year the Oak Park Runners Club takes pride in seeing its race so honored.

Every year CARA selects a number of high-quality local races of various distances (this year there were 16) for its Runners' Choice Circuit, where runners compete for age group and overall standings through the season. The "Circuit" is usually where the region's leading age-group runners show up, so individual races on the Circuit must be well-run events, conforming to CARA's high standards. Our race has been on the Circuit since 1991.

However, the upcoming 2013 edition (No. 32) has already faced a challenge. Back in August The Race That's Good for Life was announced for April 7th in its traditional early-April slot. But recently the huge Shamrock Shuffle 8K in Downtown Chicago also set its date for April 7. Dang! This is a bit beyond the Shuffle's focus on St. Patrick's Day (March 17), but you simply can't compete with a running event that attracts 40,000 participants. So, back to the drawing board. A survey of open dates and potential conflicts with other races resulted in a new race date for The Race That's Good for Life of Sunday, April 28 

Recognizing that things can go wrong with any event, the CARA Racing Committee (of which I was a member for many years) understands that sometimes stuff happens, even with good events. Several committee members have "been there and done that," so they know there's lots of work in putting on a good race, relying on volunteers who only show up on race day, but still have to make things happen. Those that do a good job year after year have done their advance planning, and have the experienced people to make things work right. Those are the ones considered for year-end recognition.

However, most veteran runners love to tell about various race disasters, and I've got a bunch myself — like the time a local cop got lost in his own town. The main 5K was done, followed by a one-mile kids' race, led by a police car. But the cop misread his map, and the kids were led way beyond a mile. So the fire department sent out their ambulance to give the exhausted stragglers a ride back to the finish line — thus making the leading kids envious of the slower ones. However amusing, I hope those stories don't ever include our race.

But, back to the subject. Visit The Race That's Good for Life online by clicking here; there's a discount for early registration. We intend to make 2013 just as good as the 2012 race. And again, it's on April 28.

Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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