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
Park Districts and Chicago Area Runners Association have paired up to provide weekly timed runs in Chicago, Palos Park and Arlington Heights.  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.

Feb.-Nov.; Saturdays, 9 a.m.
Locations in Chicago, Arlington Heights, Palos Park
Online: gorunchicago.org

Best Buddies Friendship Walk at Soldier Field
Walk, support and celebrate best buddies at the Best Buddies Friendship Walk organized by the Chicago Buddies chapter. The Friendship Walk is the number one walk in the country raising awareness and funds to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Sun., Apr. 14; 9 a.m.
Soldier Field, 1410 S. Museum Campus, Museum Campus
Online: bestbuddiesfriendshipwalk.org

photo: Morton Arboretum

Champion of Trees 10K at Morton Arboretum
Enjoy the first signs of spring at Morton Arboretum’s The Champion of Trees 10K. Registered runners will receive a short-sleeve T-shirt, recovery food, and free parking and admission to the Arboretum for the day. Stick around for a post-race party featuring live music and a photo booth. Runners ages 21 and older can also enjoy a complimentary Arbor Oak Amber Ale, the Arboretum’s signature beer, brewed with oak chips from the Arboretum grounds.

Sun., Apr. 19; 8 a.m.
Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL-53, Lisle
Online: mortonarb.org

photo: Race to Wrigley 5K

Race to Wrigley 5K
Cubs fan, or otherwise, can make their way through the streets of Lakeview with a course set to Wrigley Field’s concourse, and finishing steps away from the famous marquee. Participants will receive a special edition finisher’s medal, an exclusive Race to Wrigley performance shirt and a Cubs drawstring bag. Proceeds from this year’s race will benefit Cubs Charities’ Diamond Project, which aims to expand baseball and softball opportunities for all Chicago children and youth by engaging kids with skilled coaches, delivering quality programming and providing safe and accessible places to play the game.

Sat., May 16; 8 a.m.
Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison St., Lakeview
Online: race-cubs.com

autism-speaksphoto: Autism Speaks 

Walk Now for Autism Speaks
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. 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. Apr. 28; 9 a.m.
New Trier High School, 7 N. Happ Rd., Northfield


Sat., Jun. 1; walk starts at 10:30 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

The Color Run
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.

Sat. Jun. 15; 3:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus
Online: thecolorrun.com

photo: Cooley Run 5K and Superhero Dash

6th Annual Cooley Run 5K and Superhero Dash
Make running a family affair with the 7h 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 12; 8 a.m.-noon
Betsey Warrington Park, 12015 Mill St., Huntley
Online: ckmc.org

Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure
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 12; 9 a.m. race kick-off
Montrose Harbor, 601 W. Montrose Ave., Lakefront
Online: chicagoland.info-komen.org

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

Move for the Kids 5K
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 19; 9 a.m.
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus
Online: foundation.luriechildrens.org

photo: ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk

ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk
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. 1; 8 a.m.
Advanced Urology Associates
1541 Riverboat Center, Joliet
Online: support.zerocancer.org

Chicago Promise Walk for Preeclampsia
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 19; 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
Online: promisewalk.org

united-run-for-zoophoto: Lincoln Park Zoo 

United Run for the 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. 2; 7:45 a.m.; Safari Stampede at 9 a.m. & 9:45 a.m.
Lincoln Park Zoo, Fullerton Ave. & Cannon Dr., Lincoln Park
Online: lpzoo.org

Kids Obstacle Challenge
Kids Obstacle Challenge is an adventure and obstacle course race series for kids ages 5-16, with 13-15 fun and challenging obstacles and mud! Their mission is to inspire and challenge kids, and forge family bonds, through obstacles and adventure. They are committed to helping foster a more active, adventurous and perseverant younger generation.

Sat., Jul. 13 & Sun., Jul. 14; 8:30 a.m. competitive wave & 9 a.m. family wave
Sensory Garden Playground at Danada South Park, 2751 Navistar Dr, Lisle
Online: kidsobstaclechallenge.com/chicago

RUN! To End 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. 13; 8:30 a.m.
Montrose Harbor Grove 16, 600 W. Montrose Harbor Dr.
Online: runtoendhomelessness.com

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

Stan’s Donut 5K
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. 10, 8 a.m. for 5k run, 9 a.m. for 5k walk and 10:30 a.m. for the Kids Dash
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus
Online: donut5k.com

Life Time Kids Tri Chicago
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. 24; 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

photo: American Lung Association’s Lung Force Walk

American Lung Association’s Lung Force Walk
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. Sep. 22; 10 a.m.
Independence Grove Forest Preserve, 16400 Buckley Rd., Libertyville
Online: action.lung.org

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart