If you’ve read any of my other posts over the last few months, you’ve probably noticed I’ve mostly been writing about races I did a few years ago and I really haven’t written about any new ones in a while. There are a couple reasons for that. The first is because I’ve been working with the race directors of some of the races I’ve been writing about on a project which I’m hoping to unveil sometime during the second half of this year (so stay tuned for more details…). The second one is more straightforward – I simply haven’t done any new races in a few months. That’s going to change now that spring is coming, but the last race I did before this morning was the Outer Banks Half Marathon in November.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been running at all though. In fact, I’m currently on day 88 of a run streak that started on the day before Thanksgiving. The reason I haven’t been doing any races lately is because I’ve already crossed all of the warm weather states off of my list so I don’t have anywhere left to travel to in the winter. And yeah, there are other races in those states that I can go do, but it’s hard to justify spending the money to travel somewhere to do a race in a state that I’m already done with until after I’ve finished all 50. Also, until recently I thought I had already done all of the winter races in the Chicago area that I was interested in at least once too. That is until I found out about the Mardi Gras Chaser 10K….
Back on My Feet
The Mardi Gras Chaser 10K is a race to support Back on My Feet Chicago, which is an organization that uses running to create self-sufficiency in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. It’s a really good idea actually: train people to run and before long, they’ll start to build confidence as they apply the same disciplined approach that they used to become runners to other areas of their lives and see great results. The long term goal is an overall lifestyle transformation for each participant that results in employment and independent living opportunities. Back on My Feet started in Philadelphia in 2007 and since then it’s expanded to 11 chapters nationwide and has also received a great deal of media coverage and accolades since 46% of the people who have participated in the program so far have gone on to find employment and housing (a very high percentage for programs like this).
Mardi Gras Chaser General Info
I learned about Back on My Feet and the Mardi Gras Chaser 10K through BibRave. Being a BibRave Pro, I was given the opportunity to get a free entry into this race and after checking out the overall theme, I decided to jump on it since it looked like a lot of fun. I also did a little bit of research on Back on My Feet and really like what they were doing as an organization so I was glad that I got the opportunity to do this race and do what I can to help get the word out.
The Mardi Gras Chaser is held the weekend after Mardi Gras each year in Montrose Harbor on Chicago’s North Side and for obvious reasons, it has a Mardi Gras theme. New Orleans style Jazz music plays at the start line and race volunteers wear Mardi Gras themed outfits with various combinations of masks, feathers, and beads. A lot of runners dress up for the race as well and every runner gets a couple handfuls of beads when they cross the finish line, along with one large set that has a fleur de lis hanging from it.
Runners who sign up for the Mardi Gras Chaser have a choice of doing either a 5K or a 10K. This is not a huge race as far as the number of participants go. It has somewhere between about 500 and 1000 runners total, which is pretty standard for races of these distances that are held in Chicago in the winter.
Mardi Gras Chaser Course
The race features an out and back course that starts at Monroe Harbor and heads south on the Lakefront Trail for just over three miles before turning around and heading back. The 5K course is the same as the 10K course with a turnaround just past the 1.5 mile point. There are a few small hills on the course but nothing more than about a 1% grade – it’s mostly flat and even with all of the snow we’ve gotten over the last several weeks, the trail was perfectly clear. There are two water tables along the course, but since it’s an out and back course, that actually gives runners four opportunities to get water (one at around mile 1 / mile 5 and the other just past mile 2 / just before mile 4). The number of volunteers at the water tables and at other spots along the course seemed to be just right for a race of this size.
A couple other quick notes: the Lakefront Trail in Chicago is always open to the public (it’s required to be kept open by law so there’s nothing the race organizers can do about it – any other race that’s held anywhere along the Lakefront Trail has the same issue). Since the Mardi Gras Chaser is held during the middle of February, this really isn’t a problem since the trail isn’t very crowded during this time of year, but if you decide to do this race, don’t be surprised if you see some other runners, walkers, bikers, etc. using the trail at the same time. Also, the race starts at 10am, which is a little later than a lot of other races. I’m not really sure what the reason is for the late start, but given the time of year that the race is held, I think it’s a good idea because it gives the temperature a couple extra hours to warm up. I’ve done other races that started at 8am during winter in Chicago and my feet always ended up being so frozen by the time I finished running that I could barely feel them. It was also nice to be able to sleep in a little bit on race morning.
As far as bling goes, every runner gets a ton of beads at the finish line, along with a ton of food. Runners pick up their goodie bags in advance at Fleet Feet Sports in Old Town. The bags contain a couple Mardi Gras masks, some coupons for local shops and restaurants and also a fleece neck warmer instead of a t-shirt. Given the time of year, this is perfect. Temperatures were in the low 30’s on race day so I didn’t need to wear it during the race, but I’ll definitely be getting good use out of it during future races and training runs.
Overall, I thought that the Mardi Gras Chaser was a great race. It was well organized, a lot of fun, and the Lakefront Trail is always scenic to run on. Back on My Feet also seems like a great organization so I wish them all the best for 2015 and I hope to run this race again next year!