Standing in the neatly manicured, slightly hilly lawn just north of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, in Chicago, and just west of a blocked off Cannon Drive, I admired the clearly delineated basecamp area and the wide starting line that Special Events Management had procured for the Bastille Day 5k/8k Run/Walk & Block Party’s thirty-second year, and thought, “They’ve finally figured this thing out.” By “this thing” I meant coordinating a race on the Lake Shore, something dozens of organizations (this one included) do all the time. Unfortunately, I would soon be proven wrong. They haven’t figured this thing out.
Since relocating from the West Loop in 2011, Bastille Day race organizers have had no trouble recruiting runners for this evening race/party centered around French National Day (this year there were 856 runners in the 8K and 944 in the 5K) but they’ve consistently struggled with race organization. Last year the gear check, after party and a good deal of the race was less than ideally coordinated. This year, the pre- and post-race party stuff was nailed (aside from a lack of volunteers at the gear check leading to long lines). But the courses (both the 5K and the 8K) had a few glaring flaws. Namely, that the courses crossed themselves. Twice.
“Crossing” means exactly what it sounds like – as runners were heading back along the course in one direction they were forced to literally cross through the pack of runners heading out in the other direction. Not only did both the 5K and the 8K cross themselves twice, the two courses also crossed each other as the course crossed under Lake Shore Drive just northeast of Barry. Many runners were visibly (and quite audibly) upset by these crossings and made their dissatisfaction very clear.
Still, the after-party had an ideal set-up, the weather was perfect and each racing bib had a ticket for one free Michelob Ultra ($4 for each additional one) and a live band playing some enjoyable covers. Like last year, the Bastille Day Run is so close to having a great race on their hands, but a few glaring flaws held them back.
Course: This is where race directors snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The starting line involved a clear Cannon Drive and then a stint up a blocked off Stockton Drive, both of which were impressive and plenty wide for a large pack of runners. But having a course cross itself twice is below amateur, especially when that course is on the open Lake Front Trail.
Organization (gear check, etc.): Great volunteers all around, though too few of them at gear check led to lengthy lines after the race. I had originally registered for the 8K and dropped down to the 5K just before the race after only about a minute at the registration table. My results still appeared perfectly immediately after the race. Well done.
Goodie Bag (includes shirt): Not a bad racing shirt. I like the mustache theme and the dark blue color of the shirt.