Some people are surprised that the Chicago area actually has some places to get in some nice trial running and do trail races. Sure we don't have the mountains of the Western States 100 or even Vermont ultras. Yes some of the trails are on limestone but there are dirt trail races out there including the Frozen Gnome and Earth Day ultras in Crystal Lake, HOBO races in nearby Rockford and a little further north over the board in Wisconsin Ice Age Trail, Kettle Moraine, North Face to name a few in the cheese and New Glarus state. A little south there are trail races in Clinton, Pekin, Peoria and more. I used to live a few blocks from the Chicago Lakefront. It is a fine place to run with miles of mainly car free paths to run but tends to be a little flat and smooth. My first trail ultra was in Greenbush Wisconsin at the Glacial Trail 50k and all my training for that was done on the Lakefront. I moved to a Chicago western suburbs, got a car and found I had access to multiple trail systems. Some was limestone but others had dirt and grass trails even some hills. I love running at Palos (Bullfrog and Swallows Cliff), Knoch Knolls, Greene Valley and McDowell in Naperville which are really close to home. Recently I discovered some trails in Kendall County and Kane County. Veteran Acres in Crystal Lake, home of the mentioned Frozen Gnome and Earth Day races is probably the toughest Chicago area trails. Kettle Moraines I venture to at least once a year but I have trail running friends that get an annual pass.
A few Chicago area trail races in the next few months will see an appearance by myself.
September 10th in Linne Woods, Morton Grove
Distances of 10 miles, 8k and 4 miles and newly added 8 hour. I have not ran here but the RD says the course is "A variety of surfaces make up the Terra Sans Pave racecourse... crushed gravel, dirt and wood-chip paths comprise about 85% of the course, with sections traversing grassy fields".
The RD is local ultra runners Bill and Michelle Thom who also put on the Palos 50k races each spring and fall plus Bill is a finisher of the Grand Slam of ultra race (4 100 miles in just a few months including the legendary Western States 100). His race fees are cheap but he doesn't skimp on the SWAG, medals nor aid station supplies and support. Not yet decided which distance I am going for, maybe the 10 mile.
October 15th in Lake County, Illinois is the Des Plaines River Trail Races.
Distances of half marathon, marathon and 50 miles. The course is groomed limestone on a very scenic trail system that includes the Des Plaines River, lots of forested area and a few prairies. It is flat unless you only run the Lakefront then it has a few rollers. This will be year 7 of this event and speaking to the RD a few days ago it is excepted to sell out in next few weeks (fastest ever sell out is forecast). Race SWAG includes an awesome T shirt, a nice finishes medal or buckle for 50 mile and a great post race meal (burgers or veggie burgers cooked on site), great aid stations every few miles plus great support of volunteers. I have been at this event every year including finishing the marathon once and the half 3 times. I have also volunteered every year on race day besides the first year (when I run the half I help at packet pick up first - so much inspiration handing the 50 and marathon goody bags out). This year I will run the half, after volunteering. The two RDs, Ed and Terry are ultra runners including both finishing the Badwater 135 ultra. They have a band of support from their families. (Hi LuAnn)
November 12th at Swallows Cliff in the Palos forest preserve system. Paleozoic Trail Runs
A 25k or 50k trail race on the trails of Swallow Cliff. 2/3 limestone and 1/3 dirt/singletrack/grass. Includes a few nice hills. Although it is limestone it is not groomed like trails in DuPage or Lake County so if it rains even the limestone can be muddy. This is another race put on by the Thom's. Each year they hold a 25k/50k in Spring and Autumn/winter. One at Swallows Cliff the other at Bullfrog although which venue is used varies depending on issued permit hence Swallows Cliff might occur again in the spring followed by Bullfrog next autumn. Another race I have volunteered at but the plan is to run this time, my distance will depend on training but I would love to do the 50k. Bill designs a unique T shirt for his races and gives a cool finishers medal. Two fully stocked aid stations and an unmanned one at midway on the 15 mile out and back loop. Two loops for the 50k, one for the 25k. Entry numbers are limited due to the permit so sign up as soon as possible.
A few other trail races which I'll include the website. I have run all these races (or on the course in the case of the Aurora and TBunk events)
August 28th Muddy Monk Near Sane Lake County IL http://www.muddymonk.com/nearlysane
September 9,10, 11 RockCut HOBO races 10k, 25k, 50k http://www.rockfordroadrunners.org/hobo-runs.html
October 8 Farmdale Trail near Peoria IL races 10k to 100 mile http://www.farmdaletrailrun.com/
October 8 Run Forest Run Aurora IL 5k and 10k http://runforestrunfunrun.com/
October 9 Glacial Trail 50m 50k Greenbush WI http://www.badgerlandstriders.org/home/Races/GlacialTrail50M50K.htm
November 4-6 TBunk, La Grange WI, Kettle Moraine Trails http://tbunk.blogspot.com/
If you know of any other trail races within driving distance of Chicago please let me know so I can add if I have time. I concern driving distance to be there and back same day but I've driven to Madison, Champaign, Peoria and back on race days so that is what I feel is driving distance!!