Perhaps the most challenging aspect of running is getting yourself out the door. Your bed is comfy, you're too busy, it's too cold/windy, running is hard, you're too hungry, you just ate... The excuses never end. The most effective way I've found to motivate myself is by signing up for a race; once I've paid for it, I'm financially accountable to run it. The obvious consequence of this is that I have to be able to complete the run. Boom, cue the motivation to get out of bed and train.
Every race has its draw: a charity with an awesome cause, a unique course, cool prizes, or fun food. Most have some granola bar/beer/snackpacks at the end, but here's a guide to races in Chicago that go above and beyond the normal food samples. Make sure you're appropriately rewarding yourself for all your hard work with these Chicago food runs.
(Organized by date, starting in October)
Pumpkins in the Park 5K
Fall food means apples and pumpkin, so what better way to kick off the best season than with a race devoted to pumpkins? This scenic Lincoln Park race not only features Pumpkin Pie but a pie-eating contest as well. Can't get your competitiveness out in a three-mile race? Jump into the eating competition to continue the adventure. The winner gets a prize. October 22, 2016.
Hot Chocolate 5/15K
I'm a chocoholic, so this race is my personal favorite, as it rewards runners both with hot chocolate and chocolate fondue (with marshmallows, pretzels, cookie sticks, and bananas). October 30th, 2016.
Krispy Kreme 5K
While you're not required to eat donuts while running this 5k, for every Krispy Kreme you consume you get a minute subtracted from your time (a two minute penalty is added for regurgitating). Northwestern Triathalon Club hosts this one, so if you're willing to head just north of the city and like eating a lot of donuts, this race is for you. November 6th, 2016.
This festive 5K offers Do-Rite Donuts to every finisher. If donuts can't motivate you, I'm not sure what can. There's also hot chocolate and a holiday-themed market of local food and brews. December 11th, 2016.
Pi Day Pi K Fun Run
Unsurprisingly, this Pi Day race features pie. This pie is particularly notable because it comes from reputable bakeries such as Cafe Selmarie and First Slice. There's also pizza if you can't exist solely on dessert. Choose from four locations: Old Town, Lincoln Square, South Loop, and Elmhurst. March 14th, 2017.
CARA Lakefront 10 Miler/5K
The CARA Lakefront 10 Miler/5K embodies the Chicago spirit by supplying Lagunitas beer and Connie's pizza to its finishers. But there's a reason that pizza and beer are so beloved in Chicago, and that reason is that they're delicious and are definitely worth running for. Piperfield's wine and other snacks are also available. TBD March 2017.
The Foodie 5K
The name says it all. After this 5K, you can choose to purchase discounted food from a slew of food trucks; all proceeds go to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. There are three dates and three locations for this race: April 9th, 2017 (Wheaton), May 14th, 2017 (Libertyville), and June 11th, 2017 (Joliet).
The Ravenswood Run allows you to enjoy that stereotypical, heartwarming breakfast you never have the time or energy to make for yourself. It's an additional $10 for the breakfast, but all proceeds go to the Ravenswood Community Services Food Pantry. Apparently some years they also have free cinnamon rolls (even if you don't pay the $10 for the pancakes). TBD April 2017.
Cinco de Miller
Mexican food lovers, this is for you. Kick back with beer, tamales, chips, and salsa after this 5-miler to Soldier Field. After you've eaten your fill you can continue to enjoy other amenities such as the pinata, mariachi band, and mechanical bull. May 6th, 2017.
Burgers and Beer 5K
Another race with a promising name and another Soldier Field race. Finish this 5K to receive a Shake Shack burger (there's a vegetarian option, too) and brew from Begyle Brewing. There's also a beer garden at the post-race after party where you can purchase additional beers. TBD July 2017.
Immeram Angels Brunch Run
If you're about brunch and those fancier breakfast items, this race is for you. You get to choose from a bunch of delicious breakfast options (some exampes are Baked Cinnamon-Raisin French Toast Casserole/Apple Wood Smoked Bacon/Egg Whites, Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Breakfast Sandwich/Mini Yogurt Parfaits). Word on the street is that you also get a bag of Beaver's donuts halfway through. TBD July 2017.
Nearly Sane Half MarathonThis race is a bit of a trek to Half Day Forest Preserve, but if you make it out there, it's a gorgeous run and there is a Chicago-style hot dog from Chubby Wieners waiting for you (in addition to a whole lot of other snacks). This race made me love the Chicago-style hot dog, and that's saying something because I'm from Chicago. They have several shorter races throughout the year, but the half marathon really makes you earn and appreciate your hot dog. TBD August 2017.