My Memorial Day tradition for the past 20 years, has been the Fred d’Elia Memorial Day Ridgewood Run. It’s been a local cornerstone road race for over 40 years here in Northern New Jersey. I have been there in some capacity- running the 5k, 10k or 1-mile Family Fun Run when my daughter was small, or serving as a volunteer, every year since 1997. I wrote about that event on International Running Day last year.
Last July, I wrote about running races for every holiday. The Memorial Day weekend suggestions included, in addition to that local race, Chicago’s Soldier Field 10 Mile, one of my “bucket list” races. This year I decided to do away with tradition and head out to Chicago for the holiday weekend to check another “must-do” destination race off my list.
The start of the race (which was moved inside the stadium this year), included a moving opening ceremony. The founder of the race, Fleet Feet Chicago owner Dave Zimmer, said in his remarks that the location was to serve as a reminder of the men and women who have served in our armed forces and made the ultimate sacrifice and “freedom isn’t free.” He knew that for those us there waiting for the race to start, it was through running that we could best honor and remember those soldiers. “Running changes everything” he said, at which my boyfriend and I gave each other a knowing glance. It certainly does.
The opening ceremony included personnel from Great Lakes Navel Station, home to the Navy’s only boot camp, serving as the color guard, providing a gun salute and the playing of taps. I hadn’t heard taps in over 2 and a half years. That was more emotional than I was prepared for.
I was in the first wave, B Corral. So the start was swift. We navigated our way out of the stadium through some pedestrian walkways, out on to a service road and eventually onto Lake Shore Drive heading south. It was a cool overcast morning that quickly gave way to full sun. As the turnaround at mile 5 neared, I knew any hope of a decent time was lost (especially considering I was still in recovery mode a week after the Brooklyn Half.
The Second Half of the race, following the Lakefront Trail, was magnificent! The best views of Chicago are clearly from the south in the park along the lake. I took pictures to prove it. That’s when I said to myself, “I’m definitely coming back again next year.” The finish in the stadium was just as spectacular as the start. Military personnel placed the finishers medals over our heads making me feel probably as underserving of a medal ever, but I made sure I responded with the biggest expression of gratitude possible.
I have yet to do Spring Lake 5, which was also Saturday. Many in New Jersey kick off the summer season “down the shore” and some even make it back up to do the Ridgewood Run on Monday. Some year, I will do that.
Another Memorial Day weekend race to consider putting on the list is the Boston Run to Remember which was held on Sunday morning and features five mile and half marathon races. As one of my running club mates who ran the half put it, “Closest I will come to running a race with the words ‘Boston’ and ‘marathon” in it.” In an informal review on our club’s FaceBook page, he added that it was “a bit challenging course” but also a great race and absolutely the best half he’s run so far.
My Memorial Day destination races also include Bolder Boulder in Bolder, Colorado. With over 52,000 participants, it is one of the largest 10k races and is the largest Memorial Day tribute in the United Sates.
So there you have it. Five races you can put on your calendar for Memorial Day weekend next year. And since you will have a full year to plan, some creative time on your travel apps could get you on the starting line for one each day.
- Saturday: Soldier Field 10, Illinois or Spring Lake 5, New Jersey
- Sunday: Boston Run to Remember (5 mile or Half Marathon), Massachucettes
- Monday: Bolder Boulder (10k), Colorado or The Fred d’Elia Ridgewood Run, New Jersey (5k or 10k)
If you want to add some of your own local races to your future Memorial Day weekend plans, Running in the USA lists over 200 races on Memorial Day including Bolder Boulder and the Fred d’Elia Memorial Day Ridgewood Run.
By the way, I did get to The Ridgewood Run this year. I was able to use a minimal amount of reward miles by booking my flights at odd hours. So I flew back late Sunday (technically early this morning) and although I wasn’t sleeping until after 2 a.m., I made it in time for our running club’s group photo and to cheer for my fellow Harriers running the 5k. Some traditions never quite die.