Revel in the great outdoors with a summer race
There’s something timeless and pure about pushing the limits of our bodies while surrounded by the majesty of nature. It satisfies that primeval urge to test our mettle and know what we’re capable of. Springfield offers several opportunities to do that during the summer months, with a variety of races for runners, swimmers, cyclists and even boaters.
Here’s a collection of some of the most challenging and unique races in our area. See the bottom for a more complete list.
The Lincoln Memorial Garden 8K Trail Race and Kids’ Fun Run on May 21 takes you through one of Springfield’s hidden treasures, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Created in 1936, Lincoln Memorial Garden aims to preserve the landscape Abe Lincoln would have seen when he walked the earth. Renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen designed the 63-acre main portion of the publicly owned park situated on Lake Springfield. It features plants native only to Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky – the three states in which Lincoln lived before assuming the presidency. The trail run course winds for almost five miles through the main section and the newer, 29-acre Ostermeier Prairie Center. Registration for the adult trail run is already full, but the Kids’ Fun Run remains open and covers part of the garden’s mostly flat prairie-like buffer lands. For more information, visit facebook.com/events/149224418770405.
The Capital City Biathlon celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, but its history actually stretches back a bit earlier. Consisting of a 3.1-mile run followed by a 15-mile bike ride on May 28, the biathlon was first held in the 1980s by the airport. It eventually petered out but was revived in 2006. The reasonably flat course takes runners along scenic Lake Springfield, then out into the countryside on bikes. It’s an accessible race for beginners, but also allows more seasoned athletes to challenge themselves. The race serves as a fundraiser benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County. Get more details at capitalcitybiathlon.com.
The history of Springfield and Abe Lincoln is deeply connected to the Sangamon River, which meanders its way across much of central Illinois before emptying into the Illinois River. In fact, Lincoln’s first political speech in 1830 was a proposal to dredge the river for commerce. Abe’s River Race on May 28 gives participants a chance to take in a bit of that rich history by boat. The race course stretches about 13.5 miles along the river, from the Sangamon County Conservation Area near Athens, through Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, to Lincoln’s Riverside Park in Petersburg. While it is technically a race, we suggest taking as leisurely a pace as the river will allow. Find more information at lincolnheritagewatertrail.org.
Summer races around Springfield don’t get much more intense than the triathlons offered by TriHarder Promotions. The Stovepipe Sprint is a 500-yard swim, 13-mile ride and 3.1-mile run, while the Railsplitter is a 0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile ride and 6.2-mile run. Both races are on June 19 in Petersburg.
On July 30, TriHarder hosts another round of triathlons, this time in Springfield. The Stoneman Sprint is a 500-yard swim, 12-mile ride and 3.1-mile run, while the longer Iron Abe is a 0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile ride and 6.2-mile run. Those feeling particularly masochistic can opt for the Route 66 Half Iron, a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile ride and 13.1-mile run. (Yes, the Half Iron is longer than the Iron Abe. No, we don’t know why.) Details are at triharderpromotions.com.
The Illinois State Fair is one of Springfield’s biggest events each year, drawing more than 411,000 people last year to the 366-acre fairgrounds over 10 days for food, entertainment and discovery. It’s fitting then, that two of Springfield’s most fun races serve to mark the start and end of the fair.
The State Fair Parade Run kicks off the fair on Aug. 11 with a two-mile jaunt from Happy Hollow on the fairgrounds out into the city streets and back. That may not sound challenging, but the afternoon heat of August in Illinois has a way of making the distance seem longer. There’s a water stop at the end of the first mile, which we highly suggest taking advantage of. The turnaround is after the railroad underpass on North Ninth Street, and that long incline feels much steeper on foot than it does in a car.
Wrapping up the fair festivities on Aug. 21 is the Abe’s Amble 10K. It, too, starts at the fairgrounds before heading out into the community. The course runs through Springfield’s Lincoln Park, then right past Lincoln’s tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery before circling back to the fairgrounds. The really neat thing about this race – besides the historic scenery, of course – is the training program put on by the Springfield Road Runner’s Club. Abe’s Army is a 12-week program designed to get new runners and Olympic-style race walkers ready for the Amble. Participants are grouped according to speed, and there’s a group for every fitness level. (Training started on May 16, so put it on your calendar for next year.)
For information on the State Fair Parade Run and Abe’s Amble, as well as other area races, check out srrc.net/events. For updates on Abe’s Army, visit training.srrc.net/abes-army.
When Dr. Dan Adair of Springfield died of a heart attack on Sept. 10, 2015, it was a surprise to many. Adair was not only an Orthopedic Surgeon for Springfield Clinic and Founder of Memorial SportsCare, but he was also an accomplished athlete who often lent his expertise as a standby doctor for local races. TriHarder Promotions is honoring Adair’s memory with the Dr. Dan Adair Memorial Triathlon at the Kerasotes YMCA in Springfield on Aug. 28. The noncompetitive version is a 100-yard swim, 6.1-mile ride and a 1.1-mile run, while the competitive version is a 400-yard swim, a 12-mile ride and a 3.1-mile run. Get more info at triharderpromotions.com/dan-adair-tri.
Here's the complete list of all races in the Springfield area that we're aware of. If we missed one, let us know by contacting Patrick Yeagle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More info on local races: