Chicago area's best race will be April 28

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Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

Mark your calendars, or better yet, sign up now for the Chicago area's top road race, the Race That's Good for Life, right here in Oak Park on Sunday, April 28. And that top ranking isn't just bragging. Last year's event was voted Race of the Year by CARA, the Chicago Area Runners Association. This year's race will be number 32, and I sometimes marvel that the Oak Park Runners Club's signature event has been around for that length of time.

This year's race is a bit later than its usual early-April running, but maybe that will assure good weather. Race director John Kolman aims to put on as fine a production as the 2012 award winner. Proceeds from this year's race will benefit Oak Park's Collaboration for Early Childhood, a charity aimed at developing and educating pre-kindergarten children.

As always, there are twin 5K races — Women's and Men's — a unique feature of this event for many years, plus a Youth Mile race, a Junior Jog for the little kids, and a 5K Fitness Walk. Again there will be top-three awards for Mother/Daughter and Father/Son teams, emphasizing the family-friendly atmosphere. And the race is again on the CARA Runners' Choice Circuit of top regional races.

The origin of the "hers and his" 5K races is an interesting story. In 1990 I was president of the Oak Park Runners Club, and our race director, Joan Osborne, heard of a race in Minneapolis that featured separate male and female races. Joan's husband, George, owned an airplane, so she asked if my wife Barbara and I would like to fly up with them and check it out. Sure we would!

The double-race format was unusual and worked well. Joan ran the women's race; I ran the men's. We asked if there was a reason why race organizers ran the women's race ahead of the men, other than "ladies first." And yes, there was a very good reason. They had previously tried the men's race first, but the men gobbled up most of the post-race refreshments and didn't even bother to wait around to watch the women's race — the pigs! So it sounded good to us, and we've been doing it that way in Oak Park ever since.

This year, the Youth Mile starts at 8:45 a.m., followed by the Women's 5K at 9 a.m., the Fitness Walk and the Men's 5K. Everybody in the family can run their individual races, leaving one parent to watch the kids. What's not to like?

The flashy-winged foot race logo used last year reappears for 2013 in a new color scheme. It was designed by Brian Koch, a Dominican University graphic arts grad, who works at the Competitive Foot store. Look for the blue race posters in business windows around town, and the logo will, of course, be on the race T-shirts. Sign up promptly to ensure you get one of the technical fabric shirts.

And as always, there is no race-day registration, so please register online at race.oprc.net/run5k.

Paul Oppenheim has been a member of the Oak Park Runners Club since Day One.

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