While not yet on par with Thanksgiving or the 4th of July, New Year’s Day has become a day for runners to circle on the calendar, with plenty of race options to start the new year off on the right foot, quite literally. Even if you’re not willing to give up New Year’s Eve partying, several options around the Chicago area are available for runners looking to put their fitness resolutions to the test. Here are some early 2015 races that can provide some motivation and get you running outside—even if it is January.
1. New Year’s Day 5K, Jan. 1, Chicago
Celebrating its 30th year, the New Year’s Day 5K has become a Chicago tradition for many who want to make sure the year gets started with a run. The 11 am start time is a draw for participants who want to go out the night before and also be back home in time for an afternoon of football after the run. The race, which is held in Lincoln Park and features a course on the Lakefront Path, is expected to draw 1,500 runners this year. A post-event party is held at a local watering hole, and all runners 21 or older receive a complimentary drink to get the party started. The race benefits the nonprofit Lake View Citizen’s Council, which works to improve the neighborhood. All participants will receive a long-sleeve technical T-shirt and an impressive swag bag.
2. Commitment Day 5K, Jan. 1, Bloomingdale, Burr Ridge, Romeoville, Vernon Hills and Romeovill
As the name implies, this series of more than 50 events across the country organized by the Life Time Fitness health clubs focuses on renewing a commitment to a healthy lifestyle for the new year. Organized around suburban health clubs, the 5K runs are untimed and welcome any runners to participate. The runs kick off a four-day festival at the clubs that feature educational talks, workshops, and even mini-triathlons to help get you motivated for a year of fitness.
3. Siberian Express Trail Run, Jan. 3, Danville
Unlike many January races that emphasize just getting outside and having fun, the Siberian Express Trail is an honest to goodness challenge: a 7.45-mile trail run at Kickapoo State Recreation Area that puts your fitness to the test. Located near Danville, Ill., about two-and-half hours from Chicago, the Siberian Express is an old-school trail run (this year marks its 31st running) organized by the Kennekuk Road Runners. You’ll be challenged by hilly terrain you don’t find on the Lakefront, and all finishers will receive a stocking cap and medal. The post-race party includes food, drinks, music and prizes. This is the first event in the Kennekuk Road Runners Grand Slam Series, which includes four trail runs throughout the year in the Danville area.
4. Chicago Polar Dash, Jan. 10, Chicago
This event can be as tough or as easy as you want to make it, with 15-mile, 10K, 5K and 1,500-meter races. For those training for an early spring marathon, it’s a great way to get in a supported long run outside. If you’re interested more in a fun time taking on the elements, you'll be in good company in the shorter distances. And if you really want to push yourself, sign up for the Yeti Challenge and run the 5K, 10K and 1,500-meter race and receive all three medals. (Or really challenge yourself with the Super Yeti Challenge, which involves running the 15-mile, 5K and 1,500-meters.) The races starts and finishes in Grant Park and features a course mostly along the south Lakefront. Both the 15-mile and 10K are chip-timed, and all runners will receive a Polar Dash fleece, finisher’s medal and hot chocolate at the finish line.