It’s mid-May and Chicagoans are finally getting to enjoy some warmer weather. And Chicago runners are finally getting to enjoy evening runs during the week. This week the Center for Companies That Care hosted the 2nd Annual 5K March to College in Grant Park, a 5K run/walk “dedicated to increasing college graduation rates among minorities and students with disabilities.”
Unlike most races, the March to College encourages participants to wear their race shirts on race day as each participant chooses a different college-related slogan to signify their current relationship to higher education. While registering, participants were able to choose from “College Bound,” “In College,” “College Graduate” or “Like College.” The majority of runners seemed to fall into the first and third categories, with light green represented the college bound and gray representing those who had already graduated.
And there was a swarm of COLLEGE BOUND green that took off at a full sprint when the race started (about 15 minutes after its scheduled 5:30 start). During this time runners were treated to a brief performance of West African drum and dance by students from Westinghouse High School. There were around 1000 participants (an estimate I got from volunteers at packet pick-up) overall, with around 200 choosing the chip-timed option. The race started and finished just south of the corner of Columbus and Balbo, following sidewalks and running trails to Museum Campus and then along the Lakefront til the turnaround just shy of the Chicago Yacht Club.
The course was fairly well-marked, with plenty of volunteers waving orange flags (both to direct runners and to warn bikers and cars that there was a race taking place). Water stations were at the start/finish line as well as miles one and two, making for a hydrated group of runners. Appropriately for a race dedicated to promoting college, awards were given to the top three finishers in two age categories: 19+ and 18 and under.
But even though the race was well-organized the highlight of the evening (and the real reason for the race itself) was the College Fair, an informational gathering of various Chicago colleges with booths to share information with potential future students. Running may be what draws students to the event but the College Fair is what will potentially help race organizers help students fulfill their full potential.