Chicago Park District, runners’ group host series of free 5Ks starting Saturday

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A run last year in Hyde Park raised money for breast cancer research. | Chicago Area Runners Association photo

Free running.It sounds funny.

But entrance fees for running events around town can add up quickly.

So starting Saturday — and for the third straight year — the city will begin hosting a series of free 5K and one-mile runs that will last through the warm weather months.

The runs kick off at 9 a.m. at Humboldt Park on the West Side, Washington Park on the South Side andWarren Park on the North Side.

The Chicago Park District partnered with the nonprofit Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) to create the program in 2016. They titled the endeavor ‘Go Run — as in “ChicaGo.”

During the spring, runs will be held — same times, same places — for seven consecutive Saturdays. Runners from all three parks will be invited meet at a separate location for the eighth and final Saturday.

The schedule will be in place for summer and fall running sessions, with brief hiatuses between seasons.

To sign up and check the schedule, go to gorunchicago.org.

This year CARA will spend about $45,000 on the events, which are funded almost entirely by the Park District, according to Greg Hipp, CARA’s executive director.

About 3,000 runners participated last year.

Free water and Gatorade are handed out to runners. And the runs will be timed, with results posted to the website.

But participants will not receive medals or T-shirts — standard handouts in the for-profit running industry.

Those omissions are necessary to keep costs down so as many events can be held as possible.

“No one has taken the time to grow the sport in some of these neighborhoods,” Hipp said. “The for-profit running industry doesn’t put on events for hundreds of people. They do it for thousands.”

Hipp hopes to re-introduce people to the parks, build community and offer an easy and unintimidating entrance to a sport that some might wrongly think is for “tall, skinny people covered in spandex,” Hipp said.

Strollers, pets on leashes and earbuds — things frowned upon at most organized runs — are all welcome.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who helped get the program off the ground and is a runner, has yet to participate in one of the events, according to Hipp.

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