On your mark. Get set. Go! Race season is beginning, and it’s not just grownups that can sprint to the finish line. From Chicago to the ‘burbs, you’ll find a whole host of fun runs that welcome the entire family. Some sell out, so be sure to book soon. We laced up our sneaks and set out to find the best kid-friendly strolls, dashes, obstacle courses and charity races. Here’s a rundown of the best. 

photo: courtesy of Maria Chambers

‘Go Runs
Why We Love It:  These free 1 mile and 5K runs are just the ticket to get your family moving to develop a healthy lifestyle.

The Chicago Park District and Chicago Area Runners Association have paired up to provide weekly timed runs in 3 Chicago Parks, Humboldt Park, Warren Park and Washington Park.  Make the runs a weekly event to explore new areas of Chicago while getting fit with your family. Strollers are welcome so no one needs to be left behind. If you’ve enjoyed the runs, give back by volunteering one week! Bonus . . . Gatorade and water are provided.

Sat., Apr. 28-Nov. 17; 9 a.m.
Humboldt Park, Warren Park, Washington Park
Online: cararuns.org

2018 Friendship Walk at Brookfield Zoo
Walk, support and celebrate best buddies at the 7th Annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk organized by the Chicago Buddies chapter at the beautiful Brookfield Zoo. The Friendship Walk is the number one walk in the country raising awareness and funds to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Sat., May 5; 8 a.m.-noon
Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield
Online: bestbuddiesfriendshipwalk.org

autism-speaksphoto: Autism Speaks 

Walk Now for Autism Speaks
Why We Love It: No registration fees required. Just come with the warm intention to spread awareness.

The no-pressure, three-mile walk is taking place in two locations, downtown and Northfield. The downtown walk takes you leisurely by the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium and along the lakefront. Strollers — and even Radio Flyer wagons — are welcome. And, that’s right: no registration fees. You won’t get a T-shirt unless you raise at least $150 for Autism Speaks, but anyone is welcome to participate, whether or not you choose to fundraise. Now in its 13th year, the event will also feature an after-party featuring kid lures like inflatable bouncers, sensory sensitive activities and a petting zoo.

Tip: Like all races, the environment at an Autism Speaks Walk can become overwhelming for people with sensory sensitivities. The Quiet Room can be used as a safe outlet should your loved one living with autism become overwhelmed.


Sun. May 6; 9 a.m.
New Trier High School, 7 N. Happ Rd., Northfield

Sat., May 12; 10:15 a.m., after-party 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus

Free, with a goal of raising at least $150
Online: walknowforautismspeaks.org

Color Fun Fest 5K
Why We Love It: With a whole carnival themed fest waiting when you cross the finish line, it’s hard to decide what we like most: jugglers, face painters or a whole inflatable village.

As you run through this 1.8 mile course, your whitest running clothes will turn into your most colorful as 10,000 pounds of color rains down. Kids 12 and under run for free and you can choose how many times to complete the course. As if raining colors wasn’t enough, the fest at the end is sure to keep the whole family entertained.  Night owls can run through the course after sun sets and be lit up by black lights and glow-in-the-dark color. All of this fun supports the Just Care More Foundation, which uses sports-centered activities to improve the overall mentality and outlook for inner city children.

Sat. May 12; 3:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus
$40-$80 for adults, free for kids under 12
Online: colorfunfest5k.com

photo: Cooley Run 5K and Superhero Dash

6th Annual Cooley Run 5K and Superhero Dash
Why We Love It: Proceeds go to CKMC®, a local 501(3)c that grants Kisses of HOPE, which are special moments or experiences tailor made for the patient and their family. They have partnered with the brain tumor program at Lurie Children’s Hospital and have committed to annual funding toward two clinical trial research programs to help find a cure.

Make running a family affair with the 6th Annual Cooley Run 5K & Super Hero Dash. This is an event for runners of all ages, but kids ages 4-8 can participate in the free Superhero Dash competition where they can dress up as their favorite superhero! Registration includes a chip timed 5K certified course, Superhero Dash, food, access to the STAR 105.5 music tent, face painting, Mobile Gaming Theater and an awesome CKMC T-Shirt! They will also be honoring past Kiss of Hopes who have passed away, and those who are still with us.

Sun., May 13; 8 a.m.-noon
Betsey Warrington Park, 12015 Mill St., Huntley
Online: ckmc.org/cooleyrun2018

Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure
Why We Love It: It’s about finding a cure for a disease that afflicts millions of women on a day honoring moms, Mother’s Day.
The annual Komen Mother’s Day Race for the Cure has become a tradition, because 1 out of 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. This family-fun event on Mother’s Day simply makes the celebration more meaningful because participants are united for good cause.

Sun., May 13; 7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Montrose Harbor, 601 W. Montrose Ave., Lakefront
$40 on race day
Online: chicagoland.info-komen.org

photo: Lurie’s Children’s Hospital Move for the Kids

Move for the Kids 5K
Why We Love It:  You can build healthy habits for your family while having fun and supporting the over 173,000 patients that are treated at Lurie Children’s Hospital each year.

Move for the Kids 5K Walk/Run is Lurie Children’s annual signature 5K. In past years, there have been nearly 27,000 participants and the event has raised millions for the patients and families of the hospital. The funds from the event support the hospital’s areas of greatest need to ensure patients receive the best care possible to help them live a bright, healthy future. As you near the finish line, you’ll walk through the Heroes Garden where you’ll see tributes to loads of individuals who have been impacted through the work of Lurie Children’s.  After finishing the walk/run, everyone can enjoy complimentary refreshments, live music and entertainment for the whole family.

Sun., May 20; 9 a.m.
Soldier Field
1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus
$40/adults, $5/ages 4-12, free for ages 3 & under
Online: foundation.luriechildrens.org

photo: ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk

ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk
Why We Love It: There’s an option to participate without ever getting out of bed!

More than 7,000 men in the Chicagoland area will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year alone. The ZERO Prostrate Cancer Run/Walk brings the community together to raise awareness and funds. This event features a 10K run, 5K run/walk, 1 mile walk, Kids Superhero Dash for Dad, and virtual Snooze for Dudes program, where you can show your support without attending the event. Snooze for Dudes participants will receive a t-shirt in the mail.

Sat., Jun. 2; 8 a.m.
Advanced Urology Associates
1541 Riverboat Center, Joliet
5K, $25; 1 mile, $15; Kids Dash, $15; 10K, $40; Snooze for Dudes, $30
Online: support.zerocancer.org

Chicago Promise Walk for Preeclampsia
Why We Love It: It’s committed to raising awareness and research funds for an important maternal issue.

Get those feet moving for your health — and the health of others. This run and walk is dedicated to helping provide better outcomes for those whose lives have been or will be touched by preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Proceeds go to awareness and research. Kids are welcome, whether you push them in the stroller or they hoof it beside you. Family activities are also included.

Sun., Jun. 3; pre-race program at 8:45 a.m., race starts at 9:30 a.m.
Busse Woods Forest Preserve, Groves 5-16, Elk Grove Village/Schaumburg
$15/adults; $5/children
Online: promisewalk.org

united-run-for-zoophoto: Lincoln Park Zoo 

United Run for the Zoo
Why We Love It: We can’t think of anything more wild and wonderful than racing through the grounds of Lincoln Park Zoo.

Choose from a 10K run or 5K run/walk. Strollers are allowed, but must start at the back. The 10K goes past Diversey Harbor and the zoo’s Nature Boardwalk, while the 5K traces the zoo grounds, north to south. If your sidekick doesn’t want to go the distance, she might be swayed to try the obstacle course challenge for those ages 8 and younger. Called Safari Stampede, it spurs kids to balance like a flamingo, hop like a toad, crawl like a grizzly and leap like a lion.

Sun., Jun. 3; 7:45 a.m.; Safari Stampede at 9 a.m. & 9:45 a.m.
Lincoln Park Zoo, Fullerton Ave. & Cannon Dr., Lincoln Park
$25 for the Safari Stampede, $34-$54 for the 5K run/walk, $39-$59 for the 10K run
Online: lpzoo.org

RUN! To End Homelessness
Why We Love It: It’s the nation’s largest 5k dedicated to ending homelessness

This run/walk and kids’ dash, benefiting A Safe Haven social service agency, supports numerous housing, job placement/training and other programs for the homeless and less fortunate. Once you cross the finish line, you’ll be rewarded with the sweet sound of music.

Sat., Jul. 14; 8:30 a.m.
Montrose Harbor Grove 16, 600 W. Montrose Harbor Dr.
$30-$50 for 5K run/walk, free kids dash (advanced registration required)
Online: runtoendhomelessness.com

photo: Stan’s Donut 5K courtesy of Adrenaline Special Events

Stan’s Donut 5K
Why we love it: Uhhh, you get a Stan’s donut at the finish line. What’s not to love?

Not only do you receive a donut at the finish line, this race has 2 donut stations handing out mini donuts along the 5k route, which you can choose to walk or run. Kids can compete in a 1/2 mile Kids Dash and receive a dri-fit shirt, race bib, donut-shaped finisher medal and a Stan’s Donut at the finish line. Proceeds benefit The Greater Chicago Food Depository, which provides food for the hungry while striving to end hunger in our community.

Sat., Aug. 11, 8 a.m. for 5k run, 9 a.m. for 5k walk and 10:30 a.m. for the Kids Dash
Montrose Harbor, 600 W. Montrose Dr.
$40 for 5k walk/run; $30 for Kids Dash
Online: donut5k.com

photo: American Lung Association’s Lung Force Walk

American Lung Association’s Lung Force Walk
Why we love it: A great cause with fun post-walk activities and discounts to area attractions

Chicagoans are invited to walk together to raise awareness and funds to defeat lung cancer. The event includes a three-mile walk along Lake Michigan, as well as a one-mile option for those with lung disease. Each participant receives a 50% discount off admission to The Field Museum, free general admission to Adler Planetarium and access to music, vendor booths and children’s activities.

Sun., Aug. 12, 10 a.m.
Stadium Green at Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus
No entry free, but fund raising encouraged
Online: action.lung.org

Life Time Kids Tri Chicago
Why We Love It: Kids ready to tackle the big three can do it at this supportive, safe event.

The kickoff event of the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon weekend is open to kids 7-14 years old. They can swim, bike and run like the grownups, but for shorter distances. The swim takes place in Lake Michigan at Chicago’s Foster Beach and includes a shallow-water start, parallel to the beach. The bike and run take place on closed park roadways and running paths along the lakefront.

Sat., Aug. 25; 7 a.m. for ages 7-10, 8 a.m. for ages 11-14
Foster Beach, Foster Avenue & Lake Shore Dr., North Side
$55 per child
Online: chicagotriathlon.com

Do you know of a kid-friendly race that we didn’t mention? Shout about it in the Comments!

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart