(Photo Credit: Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K)

(Photo Credit: Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K)

Once you get bitten by the bug, you just have to run and spring in when the runners bloom once again in Chicago. Here are the races on which to set your sights because as American ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes says, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” 

Chicago Lakefront 50k
(847) 648-8843

Date: March 21, 2015

The 16th Annual Chicago Lakefront 50K George Cheung Memorial Race is a true Ultra. The spectacular course follows along Lake Michigan and is USATF Certified. Race Director, Pat Onines, says, “I think it’s the fastest 50K course possible.” The event is known for being low key yet highly organized and offers well-stocked aid stations and plenty of wonderful volunteers.

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle
(312) 904-9814

Date: March 29, 2015

The Shamrock Shuffle turns 36 years old in 2015. While the Chicago Marathon boasts a flock of 45,000 runners, the Shuffle is not far behind the race with 40,000 – it’s actually the largest 8K race on Earth. The flat course that starts and finishes in Grant Park means the event works for both newer and more experienced runners. In fact, the now iconic Chicago race runs down State Street and through the Loop giving runners an idea of what the marathon experience might feel like, but the Shuffle is a little more lighthearted with many participants donning St. Patty’s Day green wigs or applying green paint to various body parts. The post-race party features a live band and the over-21 crowd gets a free beer ticket with their entry.

Chicago Spring Half Marathon/10K
(773) 404-2281

Date: May 17, 2015

The 7th annual Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K has become an annual tradition and gains popularity every year with last year’s event selling out about two months early. The city’s first long distance race of the season features a scenic lakefront course, a more intimate size (around 6,000 at last count) and a unique venue within the Park at Lake Shore East. The 2014 event attracted runners from 40 states and 23 countries and more than half of all participants reside outside the city of Chicago. The 2015 edition promises a post-race Spring Market with local vendors, food purveyors and a complimentary build-your-own flower station. When you run, expect a technical t-shirt, finisher medal and gourmet Goose Island catered breakfast. If you complete the Chicago Spring Half Marathon and the Fall Chicago Half Marathon (September 27), you’ll earn a custom, 26.2 Challenge finisher medal at the final event in September.

Related: Ask An Expert: Best Bike Rides In Chicago

Tough Mudder Chicago
Richmond Hunting Club
5016 Illinois Route 173
RichmondIL 60071

Date: May 9-10, 2015

While not a race, per se, Tough Mudder should appeal to the competitive spirit. It’s a 10- to 12-mile (18-20 km) obstacle course that not only tests your endurance as a traditional race does, but also challenges strength, teamwork and focus. The organizers call it probably “the Toughest Event on the Planet,” so if you want real bragging rights, this is the event for you. The Chicago-area edition takes you over rough trails and through nippy ponds and creeks so expect to get wet from more than your own sweat. Then there are the obstacles.

Fleet Feet Sports Soldier Field 10 Mile
(773) 561-3338 ext. 2

Date: May 23, 2015

While others are grilling burgers yet again during Memorial Day weekend, you’ll be running this 10-mile race along the city’s unequaled lakefront, including a car-free chunk of Lake Shore Drive, with a festive finish line at the 50-yard line at Soldier Field. The free parking for runners in this area of town may be worth all the training and the post-race tailgate party promises to be just as fun as all those backyard barbecues.

Related: Best Running Clubs In Chicago

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.