Proud To Run celebrated 37 years with its annual 5K run/walk and 10K run June 23 at The Grove just north of Montrose Harbor.
This year marked the first time the event has a theme, "Run Foward," as well as ads on CTA trains. Also for the first time, race results were immediately available at the event for the approximately 2,000 participants.
Proud To Run has raised more than $550,000 for a number of local LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS nonprofits since its inception.
"This event is a great and healthy celebration of LGBTQ pride," said Proud To Run co-director Corbin Woodling. "It is an amazing day."
"It is so much fun to watch people come across the finish line and celebrate after they finish their race," said Proud To Run co-director Courtnay O'Connell. "People are happy and cheering each other on. This race is a really fun event during Pride Month."
Local singer/composer/musician Kyra Leigh performed the national anthem during the opening ceremony.
"I am really proud to be able to represent my community," said Leigh. "Especially during this current political climate. What better statement to make than to have an openly transgender person sing the National Anthem and represent our country in the way I think it should be represented."
Among the 5K racers were two women and two men ( Dawn Mueller, Heather Yang, Scott Plummer and Jim Snyder ) who ran with the International Memorial Rainbow Flag from the Gay Games. Bank of America Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski surprised Proud To Run race organizers with his appearance at the race and spontaneously decided to help carry the flag.
Award-winning WGN-TV reporter Mike Lowe emceed the event. Lowe announced the first, second and third place winners in each race category. He also interviewed representatives from the nonprofits ( Care2Prevent- Dr. Julia Rosbush, Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative-Anne Statton, Test Positive Aware Network-Lorraine Hayes and The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance-Mary Morten ) that will be receiving proceeds from the event.
Lowe spoke about the history of the event and how inclusive it is. He explained that the LGBTQ community has made many advances, although he added there are still challenges to overcome. Lowe said while there is marriage equality, the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case decision shows that gay and lesbian couples might not be able to buy the cake for their wedding.
"Proud To Run is all about celebrating Pride in a healthy and productive way," said Lowe. "Running this race actually helps fund a handful of organizations in our community that advocates for the health and safety of all Chicagoans. I love this year's motto, Run Forward. What it says to me is there is no standing still, no giving up, no matter what. We are on a path of progress."
First-place winners in the 5K race were Vanessa Righeimer ( women ), Chris Wolf ( men ) and Dalton Traina ( non-binary ) while the 10K race winners were Alana Kopelson ( women ), Eric Seelback ( men ) and Dennis Carl ( non-binary ).
The 5K men's team winner was The Amazingish Racers and the 5K mixed team winner was Team JKMP; the 10K men's team winner was Proud Rice and Potatoes; and the 10K mixed team winner was from United Airlines. There were no 5K or 10K women's teams.
A specially made quilt was also available for participants to write names or statements. This quilt will be added to the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Lakeshore Fitness' Jenny Terlinden led participants in warm-up exercises and Urban Pooch Head Trainer Jim Bahr and his dogs performed an agility demonstration ahead of the race while the Chicago Spirit Brigade cheered on participants at the start and finish lines and performed during the post-race festivities.
Sponsors included Urban Pooch, PepsiCo, Thorek Memorial Hospital, United Airlines, Fleet Feet, CNA, Jewel-Osco, Redfin, Lakeshore Illinois Shelter, Running to the Beat, MB Financial, Neil Hackler Group, Bistro 750, USG, Avila Creative Inc., William Blair, CMSA, ZS, Cushman Wakefield, Factset, Hope Enrichment Center, Sapphire Nail Salon, Fitness Formula Clubs and Pond Ripple Media.
See ProudToRun.org for more information.