Small races can be hit or miss. As can inaugural races. So when registering for a small inaugural race you just cross your fingers and hope for the best. And though the weather didn’t necessarily cooperate on Sunday morning for the first Phi Delta Chi 5K Run/Walk, the group of UIC pharmacy students who coordinated it pulled off an impressive (if straightforward) 5K with almost 200 participants.
Sunday afternoon may have seen sunny skies and temperatures in the high 60s, but at race time (9:30am) Montrose Harbor was not an ideal place to be, with the temperature stuck around 38 degrees and a strong wind blowing large drops of freezing rain onto volunteers and participants alike.
The small basecamp, consisting of four tents (food/water, gear check, race day registration and packet pickup), was compact and efficiently run by friendly volunteers, as was the water station around mile 1 and the multiple well-marked turning points along the course.
The race started on the sidewalk in Montrose Harbor, near Simonds and Montrose, following the Lakefront Path north past the Foster Beach House before abruptly hitting a u-turn and retracing the same course south back to the starting point. It was an open course, but non-race traffic was relatively light (most likely due to the poor weather).
For first-time race organizers, the members of Phi Delta Chi, a Professional Pharmacy Fraternity, seemed prepared and well-organized, with plenty of bagels, water and Gatorade to go around and enough volunteers to effectively man all stations. Returnable timing chips were provided in race packets along with bibs and a nicely designed white cotton t-shirt (typically I’m not a fan of cotton t-shirts for races, but this one was well done).
The race started on time, after a brief announcement from a race coordinator, reminding participants (and the few spectators) that all proceeds from the race would benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Like other small events, there was a close-knit sense of community throughout, from packet pickup to the starting line to the finish line, where volunteers helped tired runners remove their timing chips to return them. And the relatively slim pool of registrants made for easy access to the starting line (whether participants were taking public transportation or parking).
If Phi Delta Chi decides to make this an inaugural event, they’ve got a strong base to build on after this year. $35 for a 5K within Chicago’s city limits, especially one as organized as this one and for a good cause, should see an uptick in registration next year (especially if the weather improves).