Race Start Times - 2021
100K & 50 Mile (12 hour cutoff*), 50K (9 hour cutoff), and Marathon (7 hour cutoff) - 6:45 AM (sunrise) start on October 23rd
1/2 Marathon, 10K, and 5K - 8:00 AM on October 23rd (4 hour cut-off)
All races are on October 23rd and start at Pulaski Woods Grove #1 in Palos Woods. Please arrive at least 30 minutes before your start time if not picking up packet early on Friday.
Race Packet Pickup: If you are interested in getting your race packet on Friday, we'll be at the new Orland Park REI (15515 S 95th Ave, Orland Park, IL 60462) from 4 - 7 PM on October 22nd. Otherwise, please arrive by 5:00 AM for an early 100K or 50M start or 6:15 AM for the marathon, 50K, 50M, and 100K distances and by 7:30 AM for the half, 10K, and 5K to make sure you get your bib and get signed in.
Outerbelt Just Around the Corner! (10/15/21)
Happy Friday, Runners!
As we get closer to the start of the Inaugural Outerbelt next Saturday, I wanted to share a couple updates. First of all, thank you all for your trust and patience as we've been working hard to make this race a reality for over 2 years. It's almost here and we're so excited to have you explore a piece of Chicago's biggest trail system.
The final race routes on the course have been set and approved with anywhere from 200 feet of elevation gain for the 5K to 3,200 for the 100K. We've made some great modifications to improve the course and reduce the time on paved bike path for the 50M and 100K races. All routes from the marathon distance down are 95-97% all non-paved single track and gravel.
Headlamp Required: All 100K and 5:30 AM runners needing extra time must show a headlamp in your possession to start the race. You will not be allowed to start the race or leave the Saganashkee Slough 50K aid station on your return without a lamp in your kit. You can leave in your drop bag and grab at the 50K turnaround aid stations on your return. There is solid cell service if you need help throughout but we don't want anyone getting stuck in the dark.
Our medals and buckles are arriving early next week and our race bibs are arriving today (customized for everyone that registered before 10/12) and we'll be manually timing runners on race day using the UltraSignup Race Timing app.
Speaking of apps, while the course will be well-marked - we would encourage you to download the All Trails app and take a moment to familiarize yourself with the route and aid stations. We'll have Skratch Labs Lemon & Lime or Orange flavored hydration at all aid stations along with jugs of water. Additionally, all 5 aid stations in addition to the 3 turn stations will be loaded with typical ultra fare plus more Skratch Lab chews and crispy rice bars.
DO NOT LITTER. Our Freedom Trails Green Team will be recycling gel packets at all aid stations. Let's leave the trails better than we found them. They are maintained by CAMBR (a 100% volunteer group - please consider donating) and we don't want to leave any mess. If you want to volunteer and support trail marking on Friday morning or afternoon before race please reach out (jdswoboda AT gmail DOT com) as we'd love the help and it's a great way to familiarize yourself with the course for future years.
On race day, we'll be sharing the trails with the everyone else in the park (hikers and bikers) and while we've shared an update with CAMBR (Chicago Area Mountain Bikers) group about our race to get the word out about the race plus our signs on race, we will still need to be cautious on blind corners. If a biker has momentum or isn't slowing be sure to step aside and be safe...we don't want any collisions on race day! Additionally, the course for the marathon and ultras crosses 107th on the blue trail and that 2 mile section of MTB trails before the marathon turnaround has some fairly technical sections. Slow down, take your time, and don't end your race day early with a turned ankle or busted face. No fun.
Please encourage anyone with friends considering a trail run to grab a spot and to nudge any friends or family members to consider offering a few hours volunteering to make sure our race day goes smoothly.
Let's do this!
Jemal Swoboda, Race Director
Freedom Trail Races
*Please reach out to discuss any race day accommodations.
Drop Bags & Aid Station Update
Drop bags/boxes: These should be kept to a reasonable size and if you insist on knowing a size, let's call it 10" x 10" x 18" or smaller, or a little bigger. They are to be left near the start/finish line on Saturday morning in the designated area for each location.
See the Aid Stations on the map listed on the AllTrails course map or linked on the Outerbelt website for Aid Stations locations (gps coordinates) and directions to locations.
They will be stocked with the usual aid station fare... water, Skratch Labs hydration drink, Skratch Chews & Rice Cakes, bananas, oranges, chips, candy, energy snacks, and other items. Very minimal amount of cups will be available... please bring your own water/fluid containers. Limited amount of Soda will be on-hand, as it’s well known that too much sugar will blow up your race. Crew: Please support local businesses by purchasing food from them.
NOTE: Red Gate Woods (Aid Station #1 on map for everyone but 5K) & Paddock Woods (mm 22 and 28 for 50M and 22 and 40 for 100K) will most likely be unattended by volunteers. There will be gallon jugs of water and bagged aid food there for you to pour into your containers and to stuff your face or pockets.
Toilets: Porta-Johns are available at or near nearly every aid station. We've ordered an extra one for the start/finish. Also, the Forest Preserve of Cook County has their contractor service these toilets every Saturday morning. Even better!
COVID Policy and Precautions
All runners MUST wear a buff or mask when interacting with race staff and volunteers whenever social distancing cannot be followed. While we hope you are all vaccinated if you can be, we're treating everyone the same to keep everyone safe. This is a requirement on race day. Once you're off and running it's not required but if you are interacting with a volunteer pull up your buff...it'll keep you warm too as it's expected be a tad chilly (high of 55) on race day.
After doing our best to secure permits for a full Outerbelt loop, it has been decided that we can NO LONGER move forward with any overnight race. As a result, the full 210-mile and 100-mile races have been canceled for 2021 after many months of discussions with local decision makers. We'll continue to advocate for a change in the regulations of the Forest Preserve and Park District but we'd rather run some of the trail than none of it!
If you were registered for these longer distances you would have received an email offering the option for a refund or to drop down to another distance that is proceeding in 2021.
As a result of this change, the race start/finish for all distances will begin and end in Pulaski Woods Grove #1 (west side of Wolf Rd south of Bullfrog Lake) on October 23, 2021. The 100K, 50 mile, and 50K distances will be out-and-back loops this first year to most efficiently use our aid station supports running counter-clockwise from Pulaski Woods on the Outerbelt. All races will start at the Pulaski Woods Grove #1 (just past Bullfrog Lake parking lot on the west side of Wolf Road). Our 100K race will head south for 31 miles and turn back at Camp Sullivan with aid stations every 5-6 miles. The 50-mile route will turn back at Lake Katherine and head back west with aid stations every 5-6 miles. The 50K route will turn back to the start on the SE end of the Saganashkee Slough.
This running of the Outerbelt Ultras will be ~70% dirt and gravel with the balance paved bike trails and a few road crossings. All distances from the 100K down to the half marathon are a mix of dirt and gravel trails with some paved surfaces. We'll be starting very close to Mile 91.54 on the Outerbelt trail if you use the Hiking Project's interactive map and you can follow the routes south from the green topographic feature.
Thanks so much and look forward to exploring the great outdoors that surround Chicago with you all!
Race Update #2 (Good News!)
We got a PERMIT!!!! Found out that our permit for all distances from the 100K to the 5K are permitted by Forest Preserves of Cook County. However, we are limited to running only from Sunrise (6:44 AM) to Sunset (6:25 PM). If we can get any variance we will to allow or more time on the 100K but this first year, we want everyone to be safe and to be able to return in 2022. For those needing more time or concerned about the cut-off please reach out directly.
The Outerbelt trail is a mix of dirt, gravel, and native footpath with the balance paved trails and a few road crossings. All distances from the 100K down to the half marathon are a mix of dirt and gravel trails with some paved surfaces. The marathon, half marathon, 10K, and 5K are mostly dirt trails within Palos Woods. Our race route will be heading south and we hope this will also help make the run feel more natural and less urban with fewer miles of urban "trails" (bike paths and road connectors) along the route.
The 50K has 0.8 miles of road adding up to 97.4% of amazing trail. The 50 mile has 8.0 miles of paved bike path and road resulting in a 84% trail experience. The 100K has 14.0 miles of paved bike path or road making it 77.4% trail surfaces. Pacers can join 100K runners at Turtlehead Lake (Mile 33.5) and 50M runners can have pacers join at the SE end of Saganashkee Slough (Mile 34). Bags can be dropped at the the 50K turn (SE end of Saganashkee Slough), Lake Katherine (50M turn), or the 100K turn at Camp Sullivan
We've posted the aid stations and turnarounds on Google Maps for runners to explore and welcome any questions. Next step is recruiting more volunteers and spreading the word to more local runners. Excited to get past this hurdle (even without the 100 mile and 210 mile distances) and continue making preparations for the races this fall.
BIPOC & LGBTQ+ Entries
One of the things we strive for is to create inclusion and equality in the running community. Unfortunately, even this registration platform only has two binary options. As much as we want to say that all you need to run is a pair of shoes, we know the reality is much more complex. To create intentional space for people, we have a number of free entries for our races that we would like to extend to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ athletes. We would like to emphasize that these are not need based or scholarships. These entries are an affirmation of belonging in our community. We are not in any way publicly advertising who accepts an entry, and you do not have to be an out member of the LGBTQ+ community to receive one. We are not questioning or asking for additional information from anyone who asks for a code, they will be handed out as long as we have funding to do so. If you would like a code, please email us via UltraSignup to request. We have earmarked funds for both BIPOC and LGBTQ+. Please feel free to share this offer with friends.
Entrance Policy for Non-Binary Athletes
People whose gender is not male or female; including but not limited to: genderqueer, agender, bigender. We want to acknowledge, respect, and provide opportunities in the registration process to express their desired pronouns. please email us via UltraSignup to request after registration and we will amend our records as Ultrasignup does not currently have these options.
*Please reach out to discuss any race day accommodations.
1st Annual Outerbelt Ultra Marathons
WELCOME! There’s a city loop trail that goes all the way around Chicago that you’d never believe. This giant system of parks, trails, and natural attractions is truly something spectacular.
Local time: 9:26 AM
Chicago is known for many things -- skyline-perfecting architecture, waistline-expanding cuisine, the most revolting booze known to man. Natural beauty is not necessarily one of those things. However, a massive greenbelt of spectacular nature was right here all along.
In the summer of 2019, a group of intrepid local hikers discovered a way to hike around the entire Chicago metro area in one go. It’s called the Chicago Outerbelt, an uninterrupted 210-mile nature trail that pieces together existing forest preserves and parkland into one continuous loop. With highlights along the trail ranging from scenic lakes and rustic campsites to forested woodlands and lakefront beaches, let no one ever tell you again that there’s no such thing as nature in Chicago. You just gotta know where to find it.
Simply put, the Chicago Outerbelt is a trail that connects some of the best nature surrounding our city. In the future we hope our route will extend from the Pulaski Woods in the south up north to Lake County, and finally back south along the Chicago Lakefront returning to Pulaski Woods. Primarily it consists of municipal properties pieced together for the first time -- like the Cook County Forest Preserve District, Chicago Park District, and Lake County Forest Preserves.
Along the Outerbelt, you’ll see a vast cross-section of wildlife including deer, herons, egrets, eagles, hawks, frogs, toads, and fish. The only dangers you’re likely to encounter are some poison ivy, a few bug bites, and maybe a little sunburn.
Due to permit restrictions, we're going to run as much of it as we can during daylight hours! With the main event of the full 210-mile Outerbelt Trail distance not being allowed we'll be looking to assemble a competitive race at all distance from the 100K to the 5K.
- Jemal Swoboda, Race Director
Freedom Trail Races