Race for the River 5K FAQs

The Basics

Run, walk or roll into your morning at either the timed 5K along the North Shore Channel or, instead of the race, take a guided nature walk around River and Ronan Parks on Saturday, September 21. The festive run/walk starts at River Park in the Ravenswood and Albany Park neighborhoods of Chicago and is open to all ages and abilities. The 5K course is flat, scenic, and a great opportunity for both beginners and experienced runners. Or sign up for the more leisurely guided nature walks around River and Ronan Parks. Then stick around for the after party in River Park to enjoy river-centric activities, drinks and snacks, and connect with community organizations.


Is this family friendly?

  • Yes! All ages are welcome. Runners and nature hikers under 18 may participate with a parent or guardian present. A waiver must be signed for each participant (more information below). Tell your friends and family to come cheer you on and join us for the after party in River Park!

What is included in registration?

  • All participants will receive a commemorative shirt and access to the after party in River Park. 21+ participants will receive a free beverage ticket for the beer garden.

Where am I running and how long will it take?

The race will begin in River Park. The path will follow the North Shore Trail north to Bernard Stone Park and circle back to end at River Park. 

  • Step off time for the race is 8:30 a.m. and course closes at 10:30 a.m.
  • Start times will be staggered due to the size of the path.
  • Guided nature walks will begin at 8:45 a.m. at River Park and will explore River and Ronan Parks.
  • The after party will be from 9-11 a.m. and will include tabling and activity stations with community partners, snacks, and a beer garden.

Guided Nature Walk and Canoe Trip 

  • Instead of racing, you can sign up for guided nature walks along the North Shore Channel trail led by our qualified staff to learn about the past, present, and potential future of the Chicago-Calumet River system. Hear about the work that Friends is doing to improve trail connectivity and provide equitable access to the riverfront for all watershed residents.
  • Friends will assign walk wave times closer to the date of the event.

After Party

  • All participants will receive a commemorative shirt and access to the after party in River Park. 21+ participants will receive a free beverage ticket for the beer garden.
  • Join us for the after party for river-centric activities, snacks and drinks, and to connect with a variety of community organizations on ways to engage with our local parks and waterways.


The Logistics

What time should I get there?

  • Packet pick up will begin at 7:00 a.m.
  • If we are not sold out prior to race day, race day registration will open at 7 a.m. and close by 7:45 a.m., or earlier if sold out. We have a course maximum of 500 people.

How do I get there?

  • There is very limited parking around River Park, so we strongly suggest that you take public transportation or ride share (Uber/Lyft/etc.).
  • Closest transit options:
    • #81 Lawrence bus at Lawrence & Clarendon
    • #92 Foster bus at Foster & Francisco
    • Brown Line Rockwell station

Where will I park?

  • We highly recommend you do not park at River Park because there is EXTREMELY limited parking. Parking will be first-come, first-serve to anyone using the park, and we are not able to reserve any parking for race participants, so please allow extra time to find parking or use alternate ways to arrive.

What will I do with my things?

  • Friends will offer a free bag check for your belongings. We ask that participants limit belongings to one bag per person. Clear bags are preferred. The bag check will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. and will be monitored by staff at all times.

Packet Pickup

  • All pre-registered participants will receive a commemorative t-shirt, number, and safety pins in their race packet. To ensure your preferred shirt and shirt size please register by September 1, 2024.
  • Packets may be picked up at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum in the weeks leading up to the event. Details will be emailed to registered participants closer to the event.
  • Race day pickup at River Park will be available, but we strongly encourage pickup in the days leading up to the event.

Wave times

  • Depending on number of runners, participants may be split into waves. Runners will be notified of their wave time in the weeks prior to the event by email.


River Spirit Teams

  • What Does a River Spirit Team do?

    • Beyond fundraising for your team on behalf of Friends of the Chicago River, a River Spirit Team shows up with spirit and runs, walks, or rolls the 5K race or the guided nature walk. Dress up as your favorite river creatures. Share kindness, fun, and cheer.

    • River Spirit Teams will win awards for the fastest team, the highest fundraising team, and the most spirited!

  • What is a River Spirit Team Captain?

    • A person highly interested in helping to protect and restore the Chicago-Calumet River system for all people, water, and wildlife. A person conscious of environmental impact, seeking to improve environmental health and community. A highly motivated and organized person. Someone interested in leading a team of up to eight people to fundraise at least $1,600 by September 30, 2024. River Spirit Team captains must be at least 21 years old as of September 21, 2024.

  • Important Details:

    • All spirit team captains and all participants on a team must still individually register for this event on chicagoriver.org. There are important waivers and information per registration. If your spirit team is selected, all individuals are eligible for a registration fee refund if the team's $1,600 fundraising goal is reached.


The Safety Precautions

Safety Plan

  • The course is suited for walkers, runners, and manual wheelchair participants of all paces. Course is not suited for bicycles, rollerblades, or strollers due to the narrow pathway.
  • EMS services
    • The event will have medical personnel available to participants at all times. A medical tent will be located at the start / finish line and an ambulance will be on standby for the entirety of the race.
    • Volunteers will be clearly marked throughout the course and will be available for any assistance necessary.
    • Participants will receive a detailed safety plan in the weeks leading up to the event.
  • An updated weather safety plan will be provided via email through the contact information you use to register, and will also be posted on the Friends’ website.
    • In the case of inclement weather, participants will be notified of a potential delay / cancellation at least 48 hours ahead of the event.
    • Planning staff will wait to make the decision to delay / cancel the event until the morning of the event.

Do I need to sign a waiver?

  • All racers are required to sign our waiver in order to participate in the event. Help us cut down on paper copies by signing the waiver ahead of time! The waiver link will be emailed to you after registration, and we will have paper copies at the check-in tent. 


The Amenities


  • There will be portapotties on site at River Park, including accessible portapotties.


  • If you are bringing snacks to the race, make sure all wrappers and foodware are properly disposed of. The last thing we want to do—during an event celebrating the health and beauty of the river—is to trash it with things we drop on the ground.
  • Light snacks will be available for participants at the after-party festival. Food trucks may be onsite to purchase food.
  • There is a large lawn at River Park for picnicking and hanging out after race.

Garbage disposal:

  • There are receptacles for trash, recycling, and composting at River Park. Help us make this a zero waste event by bringing reusable items with you.


The Miscellaneous

Can I bring my dog?

  • Dogs are not permitted on the course. Per usual Chicago Park District rules, leashed dogs are welcome at River Park during the guided nature walks and after party, except in closed areas like the beer garden.

How can I make sure this event continues to get bigger and better?

  • We are guests of the Chicago Park District; let’s keep things neat and clean so they want us coming back for years to come. Bring as little disposable/trash items with you and/or pack them out with you (as you would on a hike to a remote destination). You are responsible for removing all trash.
  • Remember we are guests of the surrounding neighborhoods as well. Be respectful of all property and people you encounter.
  • Be safe and smart (see above safety guidance and requirements).


Please reach out to us at friends@chicagoriver.org with any questions regarding the event.