Whether you’re a seven-minute miler or a power walker, you’ll find your kind at one of these five clubs’ fun runs. Participants typically run in groups that vary by pace, then mix and mingle. The clubs impose low, if any, membership fees and they’re easy to join: Just lace up your shoes and show up.


Chicago Area Runners Association

Multiple locations

Best known for its race-training programs, the Midwest’s largest running group (8,500 members) also organizes laid-back fun runs. Starting July 8, join upward of 125 other runners at a different pub every Tuesday for two- to six-mile loops, followed by pints of Lagunitas Runner’s High-P-A. Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. $50 for members, $80 for nonmembers. cararuns.org

Fleet Feet Sports Fun Run Club

Multiple locations

Recreational runners dominate these three- to six-mile runs, which typically draw 20 to 100 people. Meet at one of the three Fleet Feet Sports stores (Lincoln Square, Old Town, and South Loop), where you can change, stash your stuff, and use the restroom. One highlight: monthly Historical Fun Runs around different hoods, led by history buff and Trib graphic designer Chuck Betzold (June 1: Uptown). Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 8 a.m. (Lincoln Square only). Free. fleetfeetchicago.com

Lincoln Park Pacers

Diversey Parkway and the lakefront path; meet by the message board

You’ll find a few seven-minute milers among this casual club’s 50 active members—but most people seem more interested in the postrun dinner or brunch than in hardcore competition. Each run typically draws about 15 people, with about 20 showing up for the meal. Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 8 a.m. Free. lincolnparkpacers.org


Evanston Running Club

Multiple locations

While this 400-member group includes marathoners in training, most people run at a relatively easy pace. On Saturdays, walkers are welcome to join the lighter runs. On Thursday nights, pub runs begin and end at Tommy Nevin’s. Mondays at 6:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Saturdays at 7 a.m. $25 membership fee. evanstonrunningclub.org

Life Time Fitness Social Runs

Multiple locations

No need to be a member of this suburban gym chain to join its coach-led, chitchat-heavy fun runs, which meet Tuesday evenings at five suburban locations (Algonquin, Bloomingdale, Burr Ridge, Romeoville, and Vernon Hills) for routes of two to four miles. Tuesdays; call the club for meeting time. Free. lifetimefitness.com


Where to Get Dirty

Mud runs, adventure races, OCRs (obstacle course races), MOB (mud, obstacles, beer) races—whatever you call ’em, they’re hot this summer. Here are seven within a two-hour drive of the Loop.

June 14 to 15

Warrior Dash

7502 E. Hansel Rd., Channahon
Just over three miles and a dozen no-joke obstacles: barbed wire, a mud pit, fire. warriordash.com

June 28 to 29

Muddy Cheer Challenge

27950 Kelly Rd., Wilmington
A family-oriented, noncompetitive event with easy obstacles even the kids can crush. muddycheerchallenge.com

July 12

ROC Race

U.S. Cellular Field, 333 W. 35th St.
ROC stands for “ridiculous obstacle challenge.” If you prefer Wipeout-inspired fun (lots of water, inflatable slides) to mud, this is your 5K race. rocrace.com/chicago

July 19

Hard Charge

9405 Richardson Rd., Spring Grove
Can’t complete an obstacle in this tough four-miler? You may be sentenced to the “penalty pit.” hardcharge.com/chicago2014

August 2

Go Ballistic

3380 Cedar Glade Dr., Naperville
You choose the difficulty level in this 5K, which you can run with the kids. goballisticevents.com

August 23

MuckFest MS

2807 Canal St., Lockport
Slip, slide, and slosh through 19 muddy obstacles at this run, new in the Chicago area this year. muckfestms.com

August 30

Badass Dash

27 Jennie Finch Way, Rosemont
You’ll stay (mostly) clean during this novice-friendly, obstacle-peppered 7K race. badassdash.com