October had the marathon and Halloween-spirited races. November had the turkey trots. December had Santa Hustles, Jingle Bell Runs. But what happens come January? The holiday themed races might be on hold until St. Patrick’s Day at the earliest, but your racing legs don’t need to hibernate until then. Chicago might be cold and maybe even snowy and icy, but there are plenty of races to run to start the new year off right.
- Commitment Day 5K. You don’t need to run fast, far or even run at all to cross this race’s finish line and claim your Commitment Day T-shirt. Life Time Fitness has organized 5K run/walk events around the country all kicking off at the same time on New Year’s Day (11 a.m. in Detroit, 10 a.m. in Chicago, 9 a.m. in Denver, etc.) to encourage people to get active. This 5K starts and finishes in Grant Park with a route that runs along the Lakefront.
- New Year’s Day 5K. It’s 28 years and counting that this 5K has graced the streets of Chicago. At one point it was completely un-timed, but this year you can choose from the chip-timed event, the fun run or the walk. The idea is simply to get moving. And if you really want to make room for that New Year’s feast, run the Commitment Day 5K at 10, then skedaddle up to Montrose for the New Year’s 5K at 11.
- Warm Your Heart 5K. You know you really don’t want to run outside when it’s cold and the temperatures are hovering below freezing. But here’s a 5K race where you don’t have to worry about wearing enough layers to stay while you run or wait for the race to start. Warm Your Heart is run entirely indoors at McCormick Place, and this year’s course will use Hall A and the lakeside building with a run across the Sky Bridge. Limited to 2,500 participants, this race will be held January 6 at 9 a.m.
- Polar Dash. Take your pick: half marathon, 10K, 5K. This Chicago race that kicks off in Grant Park on January 12 offers them all–the only challenge is deciding what you’re ready for and want to run when you toe the line at 9 a.m. In addition to running for the kids–the Chicago Polar Dash’s beneficiary is Shriners Hospitals for Children, Chicago–all participants receive a warm fleece pullover and penguin hat. Oh yeah, and the half marathon finisher’s medal is pretty cool too.
- F^3 Lake Half Marathon. Maybe you’ve been running long and don’t want to wait three months to run a half marathon. Maybe you want the challenge of running 13.1 miles in whatever weather Mother Nature throws your way on January 26 (if it’s any consolation the race starts at 10 a.m.). The F^3 race could be the answer. It’s at Montrose Harbor, it’s been growing in popularity but it’s not so crowded that you’re trampling other runners the entire race, it benefits Special Olympics Chicago, and its swag includes a long-sleeve tee, finisher’s medal, free race pictures, goody bag, and admission to a post-race party at the Cubby Bear. Worth potentially freezing for, don’t you think?
Bonus: Step Up for Kids. It’s a stair climb, not a 5K, 10K or half marathon, but this January 27 event torches calories, burns the quads and lungs, and challenges any runner or non-runner who chooses to tackle it. And one of its greatest perks for those who don’t like winter’s elements: it’s indoors. Step Up for Kids participants climb the 80 floors to the top of the Aon Center, and they help raise money for K.I.D.S.S. for Kids, an affiliated organization of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
For more races to run this winter, check out Chicago Athlete’s event calendar.