Breakdown: Starting in the parking lot and finishing at the actual finish line that the horses cross at the Balmoral Park horse track in Crete, Illinois, the Runnin’ With the Horses 5K is one of a kind when it comes to Chicago-area races.
The first quarter mile of the course takes place in the parking lot outside the track, but things quickly get more exciting as runners take a sharp left and head through the outdoor spectating area, passing through the middle of the crowd before circling the perimeter of the track and then entering the horse track itself for roughly the last mile and a half. The gravel of the track provides an ideal running surface and race horses warming up only yards away makes for a memorable racing experience.
After the run there’s plenty of water and Gatorade on hand, but the real treat is a voucher good for three beers at the Brewhaha Beer Festival, where an impressive selection of domestic and microbrewery offerings await, along with a live band and a chance to place a wager on the night’s races. Yesterday’s race marked the fifth annual running of the race and the largest field yet (around 250 total runners). I’m guessing the distance from Chicago is keeping entries low, but it’s well worth the drive.
Course: Truly impressive course that puts runners directly onto the Balmoral Park race track for a majority of the run and finishes on the actual finish line.
Organization (gear check, etc.): Cones and volunteers marked the switchbacks along the course and packet pick-up lines moved quickly. The table for cashing in the voucher from the goodie bag wasn’t ready for a good stretch after the race ended, leading to an extremely long line for redemption.
Goodie Bag (includes shirt): The racing shirt isn’t much to get excited about (maybe if the logo were a bit bigger), but the goodie bag is one of the best (especially at this price): a voucher includes three(!) free beer tickets for beers at the Brewhaha Beer Festival, a free race program and a two-dollar voucher for a race bet.
Weather: Sunny and warm with a light breeze. Nice for a run around the track. (Zach Freeman)