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 South Barrington, you’ll find a whole host of fun runs that welcome the entire family. 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. 

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 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 12th year, the event will also feature an after-party featuring kid lures like inflatable bouncers, sensory sensitive activities and a petting zoo. Make sure to arrive early to check out the resource fair and opening ceremonies.

Tip: Like all races, the environment at an Autism Speaks Walk can become overwhelming for people with sensory sensitivities. Located at Gate 1 is a Quiet Room that can be used as a safe outlet should you’re loved one living with autism become overwhelmed.

Sat., May 13; 10:15 a.m., after-party 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Soldier Field
1410 Museum Campus Dr.
Museum Campus
Free
Online: walknowforautismspeaks.org

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.

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.

Sat., Jun. 10; 9 a.m.
Soldier Field
1410 Museum Campus Dr.
Museum Campus
$40 for adults, $5 for kids 3-12, free for 3 & under
Online: foundation.luriechildrens.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., May 21; 10:30 a.m.
Busse Woods Forest Preserve, Groves 5-16
Elk Grove Village/Schaumburg
$15 for adults; $5 for children
Online: promisewalk.org

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 for three sessions.  Spring session runs April 15-June 3, summer session is July 8-August 26 and fall session occurs September 30-November 18.  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. 15-Jun. 3, Jul. 8-Aug. 26, Sept. 30-Nov. 18; 9 a.m.
Humboldt Park, Warren Park, Washington Park
Free
Online: cararuns.org

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. 3; 8 a.m.
Advanced Urology Associates
1541 Riverboat Center
Joliet
5K, $25; 1 mile, $15; Kids Dash, $15; 10K, $40; Snooze for Dudes, $35
Online: support.zerocancer.org

photo: Outrun the Cops

Outrun the Cops! & Walk for the Kids
Why We Love It: This race makes outrunning a police officer fun, but we sure hope that it’s the only time anyone in your family is chased by the boys in blue

In this race, participants can sign up for a 5K run/walk or 10K run and police officers will be the final participants to cross the starting line. You’ll run along the scenic Des Plaines River Trail and attempt to finish before the officers.  At the end of the race, be sure to take pictures with the officers and squad cars. You can race even better knowing that by participating you’ll be raising money for the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center, which supports young abuse victims.

Sat., Jun. 10; 8 a.m.
Gurnee Police Department
100 N. O’Plaine Rd.
Gurney
$30 for 5K, $40 for 10K, Children 10 & under free with paid adult
Online: outrunthecops.eventbrite.com

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 new 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. As of press time Safari Stampede was sold out, so be sure to check on this portion of the race at least two months early next year.

Sun., Jun. 4; 7:45 a.m.; Safari Stampede at 10 a.m.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Fullerton Ave. & Cannon Dr.
Lincoln Park
$25-$35 for the Safari Stampede, $39-$54 for the 5K run/walk, $44-$59 for the 10K run
Online: lpzoo.org

Chicago Chinatown 5K Youth Run
Why We Love It: Signing up for the Chinatown 5K will provide your kids with some culture while they’re staying fit.

This 5K starts and ends in the heart of Chinatown. The Youth Run is 200 meters for kids 6 through 8 and a quarter mile for kids 9 through 11, so it’s a great first race for your kids to run independently. Keep your fingers crossed, as everyone who finishes a race will be entered into a raffle.

As of press time, a date was not announced, but it’s typically scheduled for mid-July
Chinatown Square
2130 S. Archer
2016 cost: $38-$58 for 5K, $15-$25 for Youth Run
Online: chinatown5k.com

RUN! To End Homelessness
Why We Love It: It’s a chance to explore a park you might not know yet … and for a great cause.

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. This 5K, the largest in the nation dedicated to ending homelessness, is followed by a musical performance in Douglas Park and will inspire attendees young and old.

Sat., Jul. 15; 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

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, you’re 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 provides summer camp experiences to underprivileged children.

Date and Time TBD, keep checking the website
Soldier Field
1410 Museum Campus Dr.
Museum Campus
$39.99-$60 for adults, free for kids under 12
Online: colorfunfest5k.com

photo: The Super Run

The Super Run Chicago 
Why We Love It: Ummmmm . . . you get a cape. Need we say more?

The Super Run is a national series of 5k running events that partners with non-profit organizations to put on superhero themed events to help raise funds and awareness for their cause. The Chicago run benefits UPS for DownS, a parent-directed, non-profit which offers support, eduction and encouragement for those who love and care about persons with Down Syndrome. They inspire acceptance by spreading awareness of the presence, potential and abilities of people with Down Syndrome. The event will include games, giveaways and fun family activities.

Sat., Aug. 19; 8 a.m.-11 a.m.
Busse Woods Grove 25
Entrance South off Higgins Rd.. East of I-290
Elk Grove
$35-$45
Online: thesuperrun.com

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 5-14 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. 26; 8:30 am
Foster Beach
Foster Avenue & Lake Shore Dr.
North Side
$50 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