Run Chicago, Run!

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If you make it to the lakefront path this summer, you’ll see them—runners who aspire to cross several finish lines in major races this year. Training season is in full swing for the  Bank of America Chicago Marathon race in October, and if you’ve never run a 26.2-miler yourself, you probably don’t understand why someone would.

Seriously, why?

Maybe like the Tarahumara, (indigenous people who live in the canyons of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico and run 120-miles in chanclas!) some are simply born to run. Cousins Enrique Rivera, 28, and Angie Henao, 30, both remember vividly cheering Rivera’s father and his running club, the Venados, at races in the 1980s and 90s. Though neither cousin started running seriously until their 20s, now they both run marathons.

Rivera hopes to keep the family tradition alive, and has resurrected the running club based in Pilsen. As the club captain, he says the Venados are always welcoming new runners to their group.

While the city’s running community reflects the entrants of the Chicago marathon— participants are predominantly Caucasian, from middle-to-upper middle class affluence—if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find running fever amongst Latinos is smoldering.

As seven-time marathoner Alicia Gonzalez, 33, puts it, when she was growing up running wasn’t something she saw her neighbors in Pilsen do. Gonzalez says that while the neighborhood has changed significantly, when she was growing up, running wasn’t safe. “There was no place to run. If you were running, you were running from the cops or running from a gang, you weren’t running to be fit.”

But things are changing. As running events, like the marathon, continue to gain popularity, more and more Hispanics are lacing up their sneakers. Some run to fulfill a competitive streak. Wicker Park resident Ed Rubio, 35, says running a marathon is a milestone for ambitious folks.


“It’s like getting your bachelor’s degree. It’s just something you do.”


Some are running for fitness; to lose weight or gain strength. Pedro Fernandez, 35, of Logan Square laughs when he admits, “Being able to run so many miles a week and not have to worry about what I eat is a pretty good reason!”

Still not convinced? Perhaps the best reason to run is to make a difference for someone other than you. Chicago Run and the UNO Charter School Network still have limited entries left and are still recruiting runners for the sold-out race. Registration closes June 30th.

Chicago Run, is a not-for-profit organization that facilitates running programs within Chicago Public Schools is meant to aid in the fight against childhood obesity. But executive director Gonzalez, says the effects of the health-and-wellness program reverberate throughout families and ultimately the community. More than 41 percent of the students that participate in the program are Latino, “We’ve really seen a lot of parental involvement,” she says, “A lot of the parents will run with their kids.”

With their fast-growing annual 5K race, Carrera de los Muertos, UNO Charter School Network is expanding its fundraising efforts to include a marathon team. UNO deputy chief of staff, Carlos Jaramillo says running a marathon can be a lot of work, but raising money for an organization like UNO means you’ll make a direct impact on student after-school programs in Chicago’s Latino community.