Race Review: Carrera de los Muertos

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!

Review: CARA’s Ready 2 Run 20 Miler

Review: CARA’s Ready 2 Run 20 Miler

About time I get back to some race reviews, right? Well this isn’t exactly a race review per se. The Chicago Area Runnners Association (CARA)’s Ready 2 Run 20 Miler isn’t a race, but rather a training run positioned exactly 3 weeks before the Chicago Marathon.

Described as a “fully-supported 20 mile run with a unique point-to-point course along Chicago’s lakefront” it is geared primarily for participants in CARA’s summer marathon training program, but is really great for anyone willing to take on the challenge. The event is open to all. Although for CARA summer marathon training participants (and therefore many, many charity runners) the registration fee is included.

The course offers the only organized and supported opportunity to run the length of the Chicago Lakefront. The start is at the Montrose Lakefront track, with hydration, porta-potties, gear check, and in a good year, lights. Given that runners begin assembling an hour or more before the 6:30am start and official sunrise was only about 5 min prior to the start, well, let’s just say it was hard to get good pre-run photos without a flash. Some snafu with the Chicago Park District created the darkness which was overcome by bright smiles all around in anticipation of the journey.

Some of the 2022 Mercy Home Heroes highlighted with a flash

Everyone assembled according to pace group and each group had numerous official CARA pacers who have been leading group runs at one of CARA’s nine Chicagoland training sites (3 city, 6 suburban) all summer. Since the Lakefront Trail is only 18 miles, the course first goes north to Foster Beach before starting the trek southward. The changing scenery along Lake Michigan as the sun was rising was just breathtaking (as it always is).

There were 10 aid stations with water and Gatorade Endurance, and around the half way point, also gels. It does it’s best to simulate much of the marathon experience and ready participants for the big day. From my own personal experience in two Chicago Marathons, the only thing this training run lacked was crowd support. But that’s okay. Everyone needs the time to work out their race strategy and then the crowds on Marathon day will be a welcomed bouy.

With fellow “Hero” with 7 miles to go.

Construction along Du Sable Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront trail near Jackson Park, the event’s destination, called for a detour to the west and a pass by the Museum of Science and Industry. No complaints here. The course was pretty. It was also a nice flat straight stretch to the finish (the previous course had a climb out of an underpass and the final yards).

Museum of Science and Industry

The finish had refreshments (including Revolution Beer), finisher shirts, massages, more porta-potties, and sponsor giveaways. The only thing it didn’t have was a clock. As I said, this wasn’t a race. And to discourage anyone from making it so there was no timing anywhere. Participants looking to monitor their training progress and assess race day goals used their own watches and apps.

Perhaps the best part? Shuttle buses back to the start where the majority of participants left their cars. I got a laugh from those sitting around me when I commented, “this bus ride is really long.”

CARA does a remarkably good job on this event and creates such a wonderfully unique experience for participants. Yes, they could do some out and back course which would eliminate the need for buses, half the volunteer recruitment, and logistics requiring the need for set up and breakdown in two different park locations. But what fun would that be? This event is one of several reasons I highly recommend CARA Summer Marathon training to anyone doing a fall marathon.

Podcast S1|E24: John Jaeger, 50 Marathons for Mercy Home

Podcast S1|E24: John Jaeger, 50 Marathons for Mercy Home

John Jaeger, board member and long-time supporter of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls has challenged himself to run marathons in all 50 states! He is almost to the half way point having run marathons in 22 states and has also raised a whopping $152,000+ toward his $250,000 goal. He shares what inspired him to do this, what keeps him going, and lots and lots of fundraising tips for all charity runners. This episode will motivate you on your charity marathon journey for sure!

One of 50!

Learn more about John and Mercy Home here: https://www.mercyhome.org/blog/leadership/meet-our-board-members-john-jaeger/ 

John’s Fundraising page: https://p2p.mercyhome.org/diy/john-jaeger

Or call or text John at 708-347-4921 to support him or learn more.

Podcast S1|E23: Lydia Nader, Nutrition for Optimal Performance

Podcast S1|E23: Lydia Nader, Nutrition for Optimal Performance

Lydia Nader, registered dietitian nutritionist, discusses the importance of nutrition for optimal heath and performance, especially for marathon runners. We also talk about her experience growing up with Girls on the Run and how she continues to give back to this organization that shaped her lifestyle.

IG: @fuelwithnader
Twitter: @RUNwithNader
You can also find Lydia on Thursday nights running in Logan Square with 3Run2. For more info: https://www.threeruntwo.com or look for 3Run2/Three Run Two on Facebook, Instagram, and Strava.

Podcast S1|E21: Chris Bowles, American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation

Podcast S1|E21: Chris Bowles, American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation

American Cancer Society Director of Development, Christoper Bowles, talks about ACS, how they navigated the pandemic focusing on the needs of patients, volunteers, and survivors, and the benefits of running with DetermiNation, their charity team. He shares his very unique first marathon story, and has lots of ideas and motivation for all charity runners.

For more information on DetermiNation: www.cancer.org/determination

To contact Chris: christopher.bowles@cancer.org