On your mark. Get set. Go! Race season is in full swing 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. Covid changed the walk/run landscape, but many events have gotten creative and planned virtual activities. We laced up our sneaks and set out to find the best kid-friendly walks and runs. Here’s a rundown of our favorites. 

IN-PERSON EVENTS

photo: Maria Chambers

‘Go Runs
Park Districts and Chicago Area Runners Association have paired up to provide weekly timed runs in Chicago parks. 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. Saturdays throughout spring & summer; Parks throughout Chicago. More info.

Champion of Trees 10K at Morton Arboretum
Enjoy the first signs of spring at Morton Arboretum's The Champion of Trees 10K. Virtual participants can run or walk the course on a date of their choosing, while in-person runners will find a challenging course with rolling terrain on Apr. 16 or 17. No matter where you run, you'll be supporting the Arboretum's work to plant and protect trees. Apr. 16 & 17; Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL-53, Lisle. More info

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. May 1; The Old Post Office Rooftop, 433 W. Van Buren. More info

Life Time Kids Tri Chicago
Rivaling the largest youth triathlons nationwide, the Life Time Kids Tri Chicago attracts more than 1,000 youth athletes ages 7-14 every year! 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. Aug. 28; Foster Beach, Foster Avenue & Lake Shore Dr., North Side. More info.

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 Prostate 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. Sep. 18; Advanced Urology Associates, 1541 Riverboat Center Dr, Joliet. More info.

Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure
The Susan G. Komen Race for the cure is an education and fundraising event that benefits breast cancer. The series of 5K runs and walks raises significant funds for the breast cancer movement, celebrates breast cancer survivorship and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease. Oct. 23; Montrose Harbor, 601 W. Montrose Ave. More info.

VIRTUAL EVENTS

Cooley Run 5K, Virtual Edition
Cooley Run Virtual 5K is all about running (or walking) and supporting Cancer Kiss My Cooley (CKMC)! You can complete your run anytime before May 31, but make it extra special and plan it for Mother's Day! Spend time out with mom and come together as a virtual community and enjoy fun, fitness and charity. May 1-May 31; More info.

Move for the Kids Virtual 5K
Move for the Kids 5K Walk/Run is Lurie Children’s annual signature 5K. 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. For this event, there will be virtual and small group activities, fitness challenges and celebrations throughout the weekend. May 14-16; Virtual. More info.

Virtual Run for the Zoo
Run for the Zoo is an annual highlight on the Chicago running calendar—and this year they're going virtual. The annual Run for the Zoo benefits Lincoln Park Zoo and helps to keep it free and open 365 days a year. Jun. 5-13; Virtual. More info.

A Safe Haven Virtual 5k Run/Walk
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. Jul. 17-25. More info.

MORE INFORMATION FORTHCOMING

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.

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. TBD (Fall 2021); New Trier High School, 7 N. Happ Rd., Northfield. More info. & TBD (Fall 2021); Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus. More info.

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 the sun sets and be lit up by black lights and glow-in-the-dark color. TBD (Working to secure a date); Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr., Museum Campus. More info

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart

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