NORTH PARK — With weather this week shutting down most of the outdoor running community, the organizers of the Daniel Burnham Open have a simple message: Bring it.
The event is a 4K free cross-country race that will take place at 10 a.m. Sunday near Montrose Harbor. Unlike most Chicago races, the course is not on a path, which means participants likely will have to run through several inches of snow. The route also takes runners up and down Cricket Hill — popular for sledding — four times.
"People are pretty serious for this race," said co-founder Lee Greenberg, of West Rogers Park. "We don't get people in costumes. People dress to race. The race is not a celebration of color. This is not that type of race."
Greenberg created the race with Albany Park's Dan Kittaka in 2009. They are both committed runners.
Greenberg, 32, a Columbia College Chicago graduate, has been the head track and cross country coach at Mather High School for three years. Kittaka, 25, a Northside College Prep alum who took only three years to earn a mathematics degree from the University of Illinois, works at a Chicago running store because of his adoration for the sport.
The race always occurs in the winter, meaning runners must deal with the elements.
"Our race gives people an opportunity to run cross country," Kittaka said. "We've had years when it was very warm and years it was very cold. I think that's one of the hallmarks of the race and cross country in general, anticipating the conditions and racing to the conditions."
Greenberg said this week's conditions should even out the playing field considerably — noting most runners don't train by mushing through snow.
"It's difficult because you're never running your true speed," Greenberg said.
Weather has played a huge factor in the race's winning times. In 2011, when the area was blanketed by snow, Jason Ream won the race in 15:11. Last year, in freezing, but snow-free, conditions, two-time victor Matt Flaherty set the course record, in 12:26.
"Cross country is a great sport — one where many runners got their start — and it's very cool to be able to run a cross country race in the city," Flaherty, the U.S. 50-mile champion, said last year. "Dan Kittaka and Lee Greenberg put on an outstanding no-frills race — racing in its purest form.
"Additionally, I will always remember the 2013 race for how especially cold it was. No doubt, the coldest conditions I've ever raced in."
Said 2012 women's champion Jill Czarnik, of Old Town: "It’s a no-frills true cross country race that attracts a lot of folks who represent the traditional runners."
The race has never had more than 80 participants, but almost all of them are avid runners. About 70 percent of the competitors are men, Greenberg said.
While the race is free, a $10 donation to Mather High School's cross country team is encouraged, Greenberg said.
And for the man and woman fortunate enough to prevail Sunday, a special award awaits: a bottle of Hennessey cognac.
"I thought it would be a good prize," Greenberg said.
To register for the Daniel Burnham Open, click here. Greenberg said participants should arrive about an hour before start time.