Race Review: Carrera de los Muertos

A coach I was working with once told me that a fast 5k during your marathon taper was a good distraction and a confidence builder. So, with the New York City Marathon 8 days out, I toed the start line at the Carrera de los Muertos 5k in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood last Saturday.

Although I had yet to run it, I included it on my “Must Do Chicago Races” which I published in early 2020. We all know what happened to race season in 2020; this was my first opportunity to finally do this iconic Chicago race.

The race website promoted the event as “Chicago’s Most Unique 5k Race. Amid the lively colors and culture of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, runners and walkers come together to celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)!” This years race marked 15 years, or it’s quinceañera! 

Carrera de los Muertos is Spanish for “Race of the Dead” and many participants and their fans were dressed in colorful festive costumes and donned skeleton make-up. Kurt and I joined in. Although next year we’re going to do it so much better. “Day of the Dead” (November 1-2) although somewhat related to Halloween, isn’t meant to be scary, or solemn mourning, but rather a celebratory remembrance of departed family and friends.

Although Dia de los Muertos is a predominantly Mexican tradition, November 2 in my Catholic school youth commemorated the dead as “All Souls Day” where we simply acknowledged our loved ones with their names listed on a donation envelope as far as ai remember.

I was introduced to Dia de los Muertos watching the Disney Pixar movie Coco with my daughter. It’s an incredibly fabulous tradition and such a positive way to retain relationships with our departed loved ones.

The 5k race – a loop through Chicago’s predominately Mexican neighborhood was a celebration – costumes, music, dancing…and running! It was a well organized event. Registration, packet pick-up, staging, course, we’re all executed flawlessly from my perspective.

The field of vendors was an added bonus. My only complaint? They ran out of churros! Our bibs had a ticket for a free churro and they ran out. Kurt was on the injured list, so he was walking the course. When I finished, I stuck around the area to see him finish and then there were no more churros. I know, I’ll survive. But let’s just say seeing the perspective of the back of the packers is educational.

Finally, yes, the “fast 5k” – not my fastest, but fastest in a long while – achieved my personal goal of creating a distraction and building my confidence going into my Marathon. Bring on the Big Apple!

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