Street Smart Chicago

Race Review: Firefly Run (September 7, 2013)

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Firefly Run/Photo by Zach Freeman

Firefly Run/Photo by Zach Freeman


“Who’s going to Bar Louie after this and getting wasted?!?” demanded the race announcer before the Firefly Run last night. Yes. It’s that kind of run.

With a planned tour through eighteen cities across the country (last night’s race in Chicago was number five), the Firefly Run has expanded quite a bit from last year (when Chicago was also on the agenda). With runners grouped into two available distances (a rather sparsely attended 10K and a much more popular 5K), Arvey Field was blinkingly lit up before and after the running events as participants wearing bright colors, flashing lights (including arm/leg bands that were passed out as part of registration) and colorful costumes celebrated their planned (and then achieved) runs. A dance group on a large stage helped with the celebration.

There’s something inherently cool about running down familiar paths in unfamiliar circumstances. In this case, in the near-dark surrounded by hundreds of other runners wearing bright colors and flashing lights. There’s also something inherently dangerous about these specific circumstances: poor visibility and uneven sidewalks. Following sidewalks or the main body of the Lakeshore Trail provided plenty of space and light, helping the Firefly Run to succeed at being a solidly exciting glowlight experience, but the portion of the course between Museum Campus and the Chicago Yacht Club that butted up against Monroe Harbor was a bit of a challenge, both in navigating around late-night Segway tours on the open course and eyeing the cracked pavement for possible derailments.

Arvey Field at night is a much more attractive base camp than you might initially think. The bright Chicago skyline provided a colorful backdrop for this race cum party. Still, at this price point, runners should expect a bit more than a dimly lit course, a few projections and some live entertainment.

Price: $40-$55

Course: Running through Chicago at night is an impressive experience – even when you’re running on an open course on the Lakefront Trail. But the uneven ground at a few points put a bit of a damper on the excitement, as did the lack of visual stimulation, aside from other participants’ glowing costumes.

Organization (gear check, etc.): This is the first race I’ve been to that had absolutely no gear check. Sure, gear check would be more difficult to manage at night but for a run this size its absence was noticeable. The start and finish line were well-managed, as was night-of registration… but what to do with the race shirt retrieved moments before running?

Goodie Bag (includes shirt): A pair of arm (or leg) bands with flashing lights, a glow-in-the-dark wristband with “Firefly Run” emblazoned on it and a stylish grey running shirt.

Weather: A hot day gave way to a cool evening in the low seventies with light breezes making it even nicer. (Zach Freeman)

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