Good Life Race turns 35

Oak Park's highly popular event offers all kinds of races and fun for everyone

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

Number thirty-five! Hard to believe that what started as a little neighborhood event, organized by the Oak Park Runners Club during the club's first year, has become one of the Chicago region's premier races. This year is its 35th anniversary, and I've been involved in every one of them since that first one back in 1982. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, but 35 consecutive races is still a mighty impressive number. So mark your calendars for Sunday, April 10.

For three years in a row – 2012, 13 and 14 – the Good Life Race won Race of the Year honors from the Chicago Area Runners Association, but last year we were narrowly edged out by Elmhurst's excellent July 4th race.

Last year's race proceeds enabled the Oak Park Runners Club to donate $25,000 to the Collaboration for Early Childhood. This year the race will also benefit the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry.

Also this year Keith Strom takes over Race Director duties from the capable past leadership of John Kolman.

"We have an incredible all-volunteer staff, and as Race Director of the 35th Good Life Race, I'm committed to building upon our success as a premier community event," says Strom.

Once again, its unique feature is separate 5K races for women and men, plus a 5K Fitness Walk, a Youth Mile for kids up to 12 years old, and a Junior Dash for little kids. The race is part of the CARA circuit of competitive races, and has again been designated as the state championship 5K event by the Road Runners Club of America.  

This means that there will be some pretty talented runners in the field, but the race is still designed to be very friendly. The "his and hers" 5Ks mean that one parent can watch the kids while the other one runs, and the kids can then run in their own events.

Incidentally, years ago we borrowed the dual race format from a race in Minneapolis. It was a then-unusual concept for road races, and we asked race organizers for their advice. Why, for example, run the women's race before the men's event? In fact they had previously tried it that way, but the men finished their race, scarfed down the refreshments (the pigs!) and went home, not even sticking around to cheer for the women. So it's been "ladies first" for good reasons.

A new competition this year is the Community Team Challenge where employees of local businesses and organizations can compete for bragging rights while reinforcing their employers' wellness plans. The obvious goal is to emphasize personal and corporate fitness.

Again, race day is Sunday, April 10. As always, there is no race day registration, so participants must sign up in advance at

Watch for race posters throughout the village and ads in The Wednesday Journal.  We'll see you on April 10. I'll be the guy with the starter's pistol at the starting line, and I predict it will be cool and sunny -- a perfect race day.

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

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