Local race flourishes over three decades

Named Race of the Year by Chicago Area Runners Association

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

Two in a row! The Race That's Good for Life was named as the 2013 Race of the Year by the Chicago Area Runners Association, repeating the honor from 2012. And this year the Oak Park Runners Club is hoping to earn a three-peat for its signature event.

Race of the Year is a big deal, since CARA picks only a single race from its circuit of top races to be considered as top dog. In the past, the event has been named several times as one of CARA's top few races, but in recent years the award has gone to only one race each year.

This year's race, Number 33, will be on Sunday, April 6th so mark your calendars and sign up soon (advance registration only, no race-day entries).  The website is http://race.oprc.net/race.

The first-ever race dates back to the founding of the Oak Park Runners Club in 1982 when the new club decided that as an organization for runners, putting on a race was just something they had to do.

All the things that have made the race successful over the years will continue. Its unique feature of separate 5K races for women and men is a virtual trademark. The one mile Youth Mile is back, as is the 5K Fitness Walk. And even though some of the fastest runners from the Chicago area show up to compete, the races are also designed to be a family-friendly event, welcoming the not-so-fast recreational runners as well as the speedsters. The age range of 5K participants is from 8 to 88 (and a few even younger than 8).

But the former Junior Jog for little kids will be revised and improved. Last year, the kids' event was held on the mall behind the Oak Park and River Forest High School cafeteria, becoming a bit disorganized when kids, parents and spectators couldn't hear the announcements, and runners didn't quite follow the intended route. Most of the kids seemed to have a good time, but it was a bit chaotic.

Race Director, John Kolman says this year the name will change from "Junior Jog" to "Junior Dash," adding, "The way these kids ran, it certainly wasn't a jog!" And there will be separate races and distances so that 3 year olds won't run the same distance as 5 year olds.

With nearly 1500 registrations for the various race events in 2013, the runners club is anticipating similar numbers this year, and the event returns to its usual early-April time slot, compared to last year's race which was later in the month. As always, the selection of an April race day requires negotiating between the huge Shamrock Shuffle race in Downtown Chicago, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. And there is always our schools' Spring Vacation dates. With so many conflicting dates, April 6th was the one that worked. That's just a couple weeks after the official end of winter, so get off the couch and sign up!

Watch for posters throughout the village and ads in The Wednesday Journal.

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

 

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