At the 2014 edition, there were about 35 finishers of the cross country style 5000m race, which as it happens was not a walk in the park. Hosted by the historic Riis Park Striders, this event in some form or fashion is in its 44th year and features the club name-sake park which is actually perfect for cross country, featuring a short steep incline on the north end and a more gradual descent on the south end as well as a cinder track start/finish. There is also an accompanying mile race held 15 minutes prior to the 5000m on the cinders.
The season finale of weekend cross country races held in the far northwest side (Fullerton and Central) Chicago park, this race (and all the other weekend races) are held for the enjoyment of the club members and greater community. This is no frills racing done by runners who have been at it for decades. Many of the members/participants present were in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s! The three dollar registration fee and hand timing say it all. If you want a t-shirt, you can purchase one at an additional cost (uninterested in race t-shirts, I didn't inquire of the cost). I greatly enjoyed the fact that I wasn't paying for amenities that don't add value to my experience. I also enjoyed being able to register six family members for less than twenty dollars and being scored as a team (Team Kittaka took 3rd Place, probably out of 3 teams)!
You'll find no aid stations on the course (crazy notion; when those RACING 5000m typically don't take fluids while running), but there were plenty of sandwich cookies (a personal fav) and juice in the field house while awaiting the awards ceremony. Age group winners took home bits of CASH and place ribbons which resulted in great fun when my mother was dubbed a "professional" after winning her age group of one.
Combine all these factors with easy parking and light traffic (on the morning of Thanksgiving) and you have yourself a winner, winner, Turkey dinner(?).
Based on what I observed of the membership, I'm sure the competition up front varies greatly from year to year. In 2014, I was pretty fortunate to have a crew of guys from the Northwestern University Running Club out in force. After our group up front finished there was a pretty constant stream of runners though no other larger groupings (1-2 finishers per minute). I would suggest recruiting your own competition.