2017 Summer Program Reflection

Martin after finishing the Lung Run 5k on August 27, 2017

Martin after finishing the Lung Run 5k on August 27, 2017

Martin speaking to the Iraqi Youth Leaders from World Chicago about Chicago Run

Martin speaking to the Iraqi Youth Leaders from World Chicago about Chicago Run

Summer 2017...two words...CHICAGO RUN!  The summer program officially began at Little Village High School Campus during the month of July and I couldn’t wait to get started.  From the first day of practice I knew we were off to a great start.  The positivity and energy brought by everyone who came to practice was inspiring - it was as if we all knew each other our entire lives.  Better yet, right away I could see bonds and connections forming among the runners and coaches. On Tuesdays, practice would consist of team challenges that offered even more time for everybody to learn how to communicate, respect, and show good sportsmanship. In the end it was all about having fun and supporting one another. Creativity from the coaches as well as ideas from the runners made each and every day a unique experience.

Then there were the two World Chicago events.  One group of students we got to bond with was from Iraq while the other group was from the U.K.  On both occasions, I alongside a couple of other Chicago Run youth spoke about what Chicago Run has meant to us.  Afterwards, we participated in ice breakers and small group activities.  At the end of each event we ate lunch and  had the opportunity to talk, learn about each other, and share social media since so many friendships were made! It was terrific!  Both events were great and showed us that no matter where you're from, or who you are, you can’t judge a person without getting to know them first. 

In addition to all the fun, there was always work to be done.  By that I mean we all knew there was a 5k on August 27, 2017.  So we had our days for our long runs whether if it was at the park or over the bridge.  Everyone had a goal in mind and never gave up.  Everyone worked hard at his/her pace and we supported each other along the way.  Then the day came, August 27th, everyone was lined up at the start line and the excitement was amazing! So many runners in one spot, you just felt like you belonged and it was a wonderful feeling.  As the 5k began and I went running, I felt alive, as if there's nothing to worry about.  It just feels so peaceful, as you're focused on your run, despite everything happening around you.  When I finished the race, I waited for the other runners to arrive & cheered them on as they crossed the finish line.  During that time, I was also quickly interviewed about Chicago Run and my experience with it so far.  It went great and once everyone crossed the Finish Line, it was all chatter and high-fives, and all around.  Everyone was so proud of each other, giving feedback, and advice.  I could tell no one wanted to leave.

This summer is the best one I’ve experienced so far in my life.  I won’t forget anybody or the memories at all.  Chicago Run has changed my life in all sorts of ways and I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me and others as well.  For now though, I just have to continue my running and wait to see what lies ahead of me in my future.  One thing I know for sure though, whatever it is, it will definitely involve Chicago Run and I’m proud to say that. 

Reflection by Martin Garcia, L.A.C.E. Up! program participant 



Full Circle: Chicago Run

Christian running with a Running Mates student at the 4-Mile Classic race on May 18, 2017

Christian running with a Running Mates student at the 4-Mile Classic race on May 18, 2017

Christian volunteering at the 2017 Little Steps, Big Stars fundraiser

Christian volunteering at the 2017 Little Steps, Big Stars fundraiser

Chicago Run came to my school when I was in 4th grade and hasn’t left me since. I started out with the Chicago Runners program racing my friends up and down the block until the time would come where we would all have to go back to the classroom. It was perfect. We were able to release so much energy in a short amount of time and go back to class ready to learn. This continued over the years until I was in 7th grade. Not many of the kids were really participating anymore because in middle school running wasn’t exactly the cool thing to do. However, at that time the Running Mates after-school program came to CICS Bucktown, which quickly caught my attention, and I knew I had to join. The after-school practices were great and I realized I enjoyed running. It isn’t easy and it’s almost never comfortable but it’s so revitalizing. Through Running Mates, I made many lasting friendships and learned the value of health. I even got to experience some healthy competition at the races, and I loved it. My very first race was the Shamrock Shuffle. I don’t think I had ever seen that many people in one place. There was a very unique feeling that came with race day that was a mix a nerves and excitement. When I reached the finish line that day, I knew running had become a big part of who I was and who I wanted to be.

I continued running in high school developing on a more competitive level. Our track team saw plenty of success my first two years going to state for the first time ever and qualifying again the following year. Junior year our track program got cut. I stopped running for some time until I heard of a new program that Chicago Run was launching called L.A.C.E Up! Luckily, I was able to attend some of the group events before going off to college at University of Michigan. I participated in a few University of Chicago track meets over the summer through Chicago Run and connected with the other participants from across the city.

I haven’t lost touch with the organization now that I am in college, either. I continue to volunteer and am interning with them over the summer. Furthermore, I made the decision to run my first Chicago Marathon with Team Chicago Run and fundraise for the organization.  Chicago Run has shaped me in ways I never thought anything could. I have learned and experienced so much due to my involvement with Chicago Run and now it’s my turn to give that back to others and to the organization itself. I am more than thrilled to continue seeing the organization grow and witnessing the impact exercise can have on Chicago’s youth.

Reflection by Christain Ureña, Chicago Run Intern and Marathon Charity Team Runner



Creating Fitness Videos at Chicago West Side Christian School

During the months of November and December, the Chicago Run Staff assisted one of our partner schools (Chicago West Side Christian) during their Wednesday Academy sessions. Wednesday Academy happens one hour a week while teachers are gathering for their professional development time. Volunteers and after-school staff lead students in a variety of activities that foster creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and social-emotional development. Our staff worked specifically with the fourth grade students once a week doing 30 minutes of physical activity and 30 minutes of script writing for a Chicago Run fitness video. The first two weeks were a bit challenging, trying to figure out the routine and what worked and what did not work. We soon realized that the more Chicago Run staff members we had the smoother each visit was.

The first two weeks we developed worksheets to help the students come up with a theme for their workout. Once a theme was created, the students then brainstormed different exercise moves that correlated with their theme. This step probably took the longest but once they started to get creative the rest was easy! It also really helped having so many Chicago Run staff members there so the kids could bounce their ideas off of them and get their input. The students used templates made by Chicago Run to help them write their first draft and eventually a full indoor fitness script was created. The kids really had fun coming up with different themes for their workouts! The themes ranged from different sports to dance moves and we even had one that was jungle themed!

The final script was recorded by the students and then filmed by the staff at Chicago Run. This whole project was a great way for these kids to get excited about getting physically active while creating something that was their own. We wanted to show what the amount of effort and creativity it takes to write and film the videos we have on our website from start to finish! It was a great experience and each student came up with great ideas! I can't wait to see what the next group of kids comes up with the next time Chicago Run does this activity!

Reflection by Jackie Webb, Coach Across America Coach at Chicago Run



Erie Neighborhood House - Nonprofit Partnership


On Friday, October 28, 2016 Erie Neighborhood House hosted their annual Fall Festival. Chicago Run was lucky enough to be a part of the amazing event. Earlier this year, Chicago Run and Erie House partnered to bring the new Chicago Run Little Strides program into seven Early Childhood Education classrooms at Erie House. The Little Strides program works to promote the importance of physical activity at a young age as well as developing vital gross motor skills that are important during the early childhood years. During the Fall Festival, we were able to get the kids up and moving in the outdoor play area.

Fitness activities with young children can often times be intimidating. The Fall Festival was the first time I worked with Erie House pre-k students. Pre-k students often get distracted. Thus, if they are not excited about the activity in the first five minutes, the activity will likely not happen. Waiting for the preschoolers to arrive, my heart was beating fast, and the nerves were starting to set in. I was anxious the children were not going to enjoy the activity I had planned. Once the preschoolers arrived, they were so excited to see me and the other Chicago Run staff, easing my nerves. The children were so eager to run and exercise, that it provided me with a much needed reminder, that preschoolers LOVE to run and exercise. They normally are not exposed to structured fitness activities, like the activities in the Little Strides program, which is what makes my job so important. I realized that there is no need to be nervous, children will love any game or activity that I have planned because it makes fitness fun! Seeing all their smiling faces was a great reminder of why we started the Little Strides program. 

For the rest of the day, the children were able to show off their physical fitness abilities, while their parents and teachers cheered them on. It was a great way for parents to be introduced to the Little Strides program and give parents ideas for fun ways to exercise with their children at home. The morning was full of laughter and smiles from all of the preschoolers, which warmed the hearts of all the Chicago Run staff members. The ultimate goal of Little Strides is to make physical activity fun for children of all ages, so seeing all the smiling faces was a confirmation that indeed we had succeeded. We would like to thank Erie House for allowing us to be a part of this great Fall Festival experience. We look forward to our continued partnership!

Reflection by Stephanie Legan, Chicago Runners Program Manager



Holiday Wrap-up: Non-Profits Helping Other Non-Profits


Holiday Wrap-up:

Non-Profits Helping Other Non-Profits

The Holidays are a time of giving, and thus the perfect time for non-profits around Chicago to help each other achieve their respective missions. This Holiday season Chicago Run took advantage of this time to give back by collaborating with Gardeneers Chicago to produce an insect-based exercise video, wrapping presents for the youth of Erie Neighborhood House, and contributing winter clothing to Heartland Alliance.


Gardeneers, a Bridgeport-based non-profit organization, sustains gardens in twenty schools all around the city of Chicago. The Gardeneers programs impact more than 1,000 students by visiting schools on a weekly basis to help students sustain their gardens and follow food safety guidelines so that the grown produce is safe to eat. As a result, produce from school gardens is often sent home with families and even incorporated into the school cafeteria menu.

Chicago Run is in the process of completing our first collaborative exercise video with the Gardeneers. The exercises in the video will educate students in our schools about the variety of insects and bugs found in gardens, while being physically active!

Erie Neighborhood House

Erie Neighborhood House is a non-profit organization located in the West Town community of Chicago. True to their name, Erie Neighborhood House is committed to improving the lives of low-income Latino families in  the city of Chicago. Erie House demonstrates a commitment to family growth by offering youth, adult, and family programs geared towards intellectual development and skill-building. In addition, Erie is a strong advocate for issues impacting their community, such as: Education, Immigrant Rights, Child Care Policies, Community Technological Legislation, and College Opportunities for Undocumented Students.

This Holiday season, for the fourth year in a row, staff members from Chicago Run volunteered at Erie Neighborhood House’s annual Holiday gift-wrapping event. During this evening of giving, hundreds of presents were donated and wrapped for those who participate in programs at Erie Neighborhood House. Chicago Run is so thankful to be a part of  this festive event, and thankful for all that Erie Neighborhood House does to benefit the city of Chicago!

Heartland Alliance

Heartland Alliance is the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest, and is a strong believer that all people deserve the opportunity to improve their lives. Furthermore, the mission of Heartland Alliance is to make this opportunity possible for nearly one million people worldwide who struggle from homelessness, poverty, and a lack of safety. To accomplish this mission, services at Heartland Alliance help those less fortunate to secure basic human needs such as housing, healthcare, jobs, and justice.

This Holiday season Chicago Run contributed numerous winter clothing items to Heartland Human Care Services and their Refugee and Immigrant Community Services Center in an effort to improve the lives of refugees from around the world whom have a need for warm clothing in this cold winter season. In addition, we would like to thank the students from St. Johns Berchmans for contributing bins of coats to Heartland’s coat drive. What a wonderful surprise and act of service from the young boys of St. John Berchman’s! 




Fueling & Nutrition with Coach Jen Hayes!

Chicago Run is excited to be partnering with Jen Hayes, USAT Level 1 Triathlon Coach, 200 hour Certified Yoga Teacher, and owner/operator of the Chicago-based company FIT Coaching, to provide our marathon runners with important tips and advice! 

Properly fueling before, during, and after your training sessions is incredibly important for both performance and recovery. Add in clean every day nutrition, and you’ll be all set for your next big race. There is so much information available to read on nutrition, it can be overwhelming and contradictory at times. I like to keep it super simple and focus on clean, whole foods. Let’s get into how I like to fuel my body, and what I recommend to my athletes…

As athletes, it’s important we view food as fuel for our next session or race. We are always athletes, not just when we are training, so we have to eat as athletes all the time (that also goes for sleep, recovery, etc., but that’s a whole different topic!). I like to fuel my body with lots of protein, a moderate amount of fat, and carbohydrates within certain windows of my training sessions. We should be eating every 3-4 hours, and each meal should contain some protein and fat (especially if you are eating a carb!). Here are a few of my favorite “meals”:

Breakfast #1 & #2 (who eats just 1??)

  • Full fat plain greek yogurt with banana, cinnamon, and walnuts - this is a post workout meal (hence the banana = carb)
  • Eggs with spinach and avocado (sometimes I sprinkle on a little nutritional yeast - YUM)
  • Leftover meat + veggies + nuts (not kidding)


  • Pulled chicken with avocado (I mix them together almost like a chicken salad) on top of salad
  • Tuna also mixed with avocado on top of mixed greens
  • **depending on the cycle of training I’m in (a larger volume block), I may add in sweet potato or butternut squash with my lunch**


  • Lean ground turkey or chicken with onions, garlic, and greens
  • Red meat 1-2x/week with asparagus
  • Salmon or other fish 1-2x/week with sautéed veggies 


  • Celery with nut/seed butter
  • Hardboiled eggs

On to training/racing nutrition. Again, I like to keep it clean and focus on whole food. I find that I have less GI issues when I eat real food. For any training session longer than 60-75 minutes, we need to start fueling. My general rule of thumb for runs longer than that time frame is to take in roughly 200 calories per hour, and around 750mg of sodium based on the heat. Liquid intake is very personal (as all of this is), we don’t want to over or under drink. Finding your right amount is what training sessions are for. Here is my long run routine…

Pre-run: 1-2 hardboiled eggs + 2 brown rice cakes with nut/seed butter. Bananas are also a good sub for the brown rice cakes. I’ll also sometimes switch it up with medjool dates mixed with some cinnamon. 

During run: start your fueling right away, especially for long/hot runs. I’ll alternate between water and sport drink (Osmo Active Mango is my fav!) which is about 100 calories/hour then take in another 100 cals with a few dates mixed with cinnamon and celtic sea salt, Clif Margarita Shot Blocks, or a GU. All of that is up to you and what sits well with your stomach. Try out a few options during your long runs this summer so you are all set for race day.

Post run: this is the time for protein and carbs. I talked about fueling windows with your carbs. However long your session was, that is how long your window is to take in carbs. If your run is 2 hours, eat carbs 2 hours before and 2 hours after. Besides that, proteins and fats! My favorite post run meals include eggs with sweet potato or quinoa or back to breakfast #1 of FF plain greek yogurt with banana, walnuts, and cinnamon.

Hopefully this helps give you some more ideas on how to fuel yourself all day, everyday. Please feel free to email me at with any nutrition questions!



Reflection: An Inspiring Start to the School Year

With the start of the new school year, we are elated to report that our partner schools have made huge strides towards providing and promoting healthy lifestyles to their students.  With inspiration from First Lady, Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, guidance from the CPS Office of Health & Wellness, and ground support from community organizations like Chicago Run, we have been able to see a real cultural shift within our schools.

For example, just within the past few years of partnering with Tonti Elementary, their administration has made significant changes within their school health environment.  Originally, Chicago Run programs were used as a supplemental classroom tool that added 10 minutes of physical activity to the school day.  Now, for the first time, Tonti Elementary is successfully providing every one of their students the CDC recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, which is comprised of a 30 minutes of Physical Education, 20 minutes of recess, and a 10 minute classroom health break.  No longer just an add-on, Chicago Run has become an integral part of the school day.  All of the teachers are now equipped with the tools to efficiently turn their classroom into a healthy space where physical activity can seamlessly be integrated between math and writing.

It is inspiring to be a part of these healthy changes in schools like Tonti Elementary.  More than ever, we are feeling optimistic about the future of our schools and their ability to effectively provide and promote healthy lifestyles to their students.  As adults, too often we hear about the challenges of establishing an exercise routine or following a balanced diet.  For many, maintaining one’s health can be a lifelong challenge.  However, with this cultural shift at our schools, we are hopeful that more children will continue to be exposed to the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle and enable them to grow into healthier adults in the future.


Reflection by David Koller, Creative Projects Manager at Chicago Run