Designating the starting line of its third annual race with an extensive pre-existing crack in the bridge on Sacramento Avenue that sits roughly in the center of Humboldt Park, the 5K for Earth Day makes its intended “community event” vibe more than clear. Standing on a small platform, with a microphone hooked up via several extension cords, race director Roberto Chavez exudes excitement, announcing the race’s sponsors, bringing up a participant to sing the anthem, warning of speed bumps on the course and then leading the roughly 400 runners through a series of increasingly intense pre-race exercises, concluding with ten “burpees.” Warm-up indeed.
In true sustainable fashion, the (solar-powered) electricity is provided by GOBI Energy and the pace car (a nice addition for such a small race) is a Nissan Leaf. The course is flat and clearly marked (basically just following Luis Munoz Marin Drive in its loop around the park) but it’s slightly disappointing not to see any clocks at the mile markers. Even a volunteer calling out the “approximate” time would be helpful. Having the timing chip built into the bib is convenient, though, as is the QR code sticker that takes you to the results page when scanned.
The collection of booths (sponsors and vendors) gathered near the finish line at the Humboldt Park boat house really makes the race into an Earth Day event, with various green products and services on display from Green Planet Water to The Plastic Bag Solution to Door to Door Organics. A special mention for an unorthodox (but welcome) addition to the goodie bag: including a $1 scratch ticket from sponsor Illinois Lottery is like giving each participant a chance for an instant refund (for the record, I won $2). (Zach Freeman)
Course: 3. Nice open roads around Humboldt Park. Points off for no clocks at the mile markers and a duplicated portion of the course.
Organization (bag check, etc.): 4. Quick and easy bag check and packet pick-up. So many “sustainable” race sponsors make for an ideal post-race collection of booths.
Goodie Bag (includes shirt): 4. Among other things: a simple, understated shirt design (“walk. run. recycle.”), a bottle of water from Green Planet Water and an Illinois Lottery ticket(!).
Weather: 4. Slightly chilly, but with just enough sunlight escaping through the clouds to make for great running weather.
Overall: 3.75. Recommended Race. This race is small but shot through with an air of excitement and commitment to local community and global environment.