Chapter 31. The Race That's Good for Life 5K is a traditional annual spring event here in Oak Park, organized and presented by the Oak Park Runners Club. With its long history of over three decades, the race is now one of the well-established "senior citizens" in the annual Chicago Area Runners Association's circuit of the region's top road race.
It takes place on April 1st this year (no fooling), a bit earlier than usual. There's always a problem scheduling a race in early April, with Easter, the Shamrock Shuffle mega-race in downtown Chicago, spring vacation and numerous other spring races all competing for calendar space. Even the fabled Boston Marathon can have a local impact since some of the better runners are into their marathon training schedules, and our race may not fit their training programs. So this year, April first it is.
Last year's big 30th anniversary event was a flawless production on a beautiful day, but early April is obviously subject to all kinds of weather, so race organizers are keeping their fingers crossed. But warm, wet or chilly, the race will be run.
I've been involved with every one of them, and I recall one of the first races in the early 1980s (Wednesday Journal was a sponsor way back then, too) with my wife helping out in Lindberg Park, where the run originally started and finished. She was then on the newspaper's board, and a couple of board members hung the WJ banner on the ball field backstop.
And as always, there are twin 5K races — Women's and Men's, plus a Youth Mile race, a Junior Jog for the little kids, and a 5K Fitness Walk. Again this year there will be top-three awards for Mother/Daughter and Father/Son teams, emphasizing the family-friendly atmosphere of this event.
The 2011 women's winner Columba Montes, of Chicago, had some injuries late last year, so she is a question mark for 2012; and Chad Ware, the 2011 men's champ, is now an army captain, a chaplain, serving on active military duty, so the fields are wide open. Local running standouts Meg Sullivan, Holly Porter and Helen Nuttall could all be factors in the women's race. It would be nice to have an Oak Park winner.
This year's flashy winged foot logo was designed by Brian Koch, a recent Dominican University graphic arts graduate who works at the Competitive Foot store. Designing the race logo has given him an opportunity to see his work appear in magazine print ads, posters and well over a thousand T-shirts that will be worn by runners and volunteers throughout the region. Look for race posters and information cards in retail shops throughout Oak Park and River Forest.
And as always, there is no race day registration, so please sign up early, online at http://race.oprc.net.
Paul Oppenheim has been a member of the Oak Park Runners Club since Day One.
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