Midwest Trail: Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

My weekend long run took me to the trails of Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. Consisting of a nearly 10 mile loop, it also features some smaller trails used as shortcuts or scenic destination routes. Groomed for cross-country skiing, the trail is smooth, gently winding, and wide enough for 3-4 people to run abreast (insert joke here). Somewhat hilly, with plenty of shade, the loop serves up a variety of scenes, from wooded hills to more open prairie vistas.
Typical trail section

One of the best things, as noted above, is the ever-changing scenery. Sections of the trail cross wetlands, streams and pass along lakes. There are abandoned structures in varying states of collapse. The trail is used by runners, cyclists, equestrians, walkers, and cross-country skiers, year-round. I saw a group of them rolling on the trails using short skis with wheels, pretty neat contraptions.

Lake amongst the trees

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve serves as a defensive buffer for the Argonne National Laboratory. Argonne National Laboratory applies a unique mix of world-class user facilities and leading scientific and engineering staff to develop innovative solutions to the grand challenges of our time: plentiful and safe energy, a healthy environment, economic competitiveness and a secure nation. Four major core capabilities support Argonne’s R+D programs: hard X-ray sciences, fundamental science, applied science and engineering, and leadership computing.

Advanced Photon Source provides the brightest storage ring-generated x-ray beams in the Western Hemisphere

Waterfall Glen is also the setting for the Xtreme 10, a race whose motto is “10 Miles of Challenging Trails, HEAT, PAIN and GLORY.” Held in July, the race directors clearly have a sense of humor:


GOODIE BAGS: We have a sweet new logo thanks to our new co-race director, which will not only be on the lime green tech t-shirts but will also be on a bumper sticker for you to display your accomplishment to all of those around you…those 26.2 stickers have nothing on the Xtreme 10 mile!

TOP 100 MEDALS: This year the top 100 runners will receive spectacular Xtreme 10 Mile medals commemorating their triumph. So start training you have got a goal to strive for…no performance enhancing drugs or tripping allowed on course but elbows, taunting, drafting are all legal in order to break into that Top 100.

COMMUNITY NURSES: Your registration fee is going to go to help community nurses who provide primary healthcare and supportive services to low income families in the western suburbs…so not only are you doing a good deed for the community by running the race, you may also have a good tax write-off

SAM’S CLUB SPONSORSHIP: Hamburgers, Sausages, an entire BBQ and cold drinks at the finish line? How can you pass that up? You will burn over 1,000 calories so you have to replenish and there is no better way than an all you can eat Sam’s Club buffet.

RUNNER’S WORLD + CARA call it a MUST RUN: Why? To test yourself! And if Runner’s World says it than obviously you have to do it. They are ALWAYS right 😉 and it’s part of Cara’s Runner’s Choice Series…rack up those points

MEET THE BEST RACE DIRECTORS IN PERSON: Don’t you want to shake hands with the two coolest people on the planet? Just being in our presence will make your day!

AWARDS: How many races give out CASH, TROPHIES, MEDALS for the speed demons [or those who trained hard], and have RAFFLES for the slow pokes [or those slackers that have spent most of their summers at the beer gardens]

LANDSCAPE: Let’s face it Chicago is flat and made up of mostly manicured parks and running paths; this is the one race in the area that is on crushed limestone through a beautiful natural forest and has HILLS…the best being “BIG BERTHA”…it’s going to be great to tell you co-workers on Monday that you conquered the BIG B!

IT’s ON A SATURDAY: You know what that means…. PARTY! You don’t have to go to work on Sunday…it’s a day of rest, so you can celebrate your domination of the course all night long.

MEET THE BEST RACE DIRECTORS IN PERSON: Oh wait, I used that one already…but it’s worth two spots.


You are too SLOW for an XTREME race: You’re not slow. You just want to enjoy the incredible beauty of the course.

You have scheduled your liposuction appointment for that weekend: Running is the poor person’s plastic surgery, time to start training. YOU BIG FAT SLOB

My legs are going to hurt!: If they don’t hurt, your not trying hard enough. And your legs will forgive you….eventually….maybe.

All that Cardio Makes it Hard to Breathe: So does the extra 20lbs you’re likely to put on this summer if you don’t start training NOW for the Xtreme 10.

The race is on a Saturday…I’m volunteering in my community: PERFECT! All proceeds go to Community Nurse so you get to run an amazing race and help your community

I’ll be hungover on Sunday: A Bottle of Wine at dinner (400 calories) + the 5 Beers at the club (600 calories) and the shots at 2am (200calories) = 1600 calories…..that Xtreme 10 is looking like a necessity now….

My sister is getting married that weekend: Are they handing out amazing tech t-shirts, having awesome Sam’s Club vendors supplying the food and passing out awards at the reception? That’s what I thought.

I HATE RUNNING: A) how did you get on this email list? B) This isn’t running it’s RACING!

 Who’s going to take care of my kids: Hopefully you thought of that before you had them but we thought of everything…a playground, a free mile and quarter mile race for the kids!

July? It’s going to be too hot: HA! Little did you know the true power of your amazing Race Directors Johnny + Meghan… we control the weather… get ready for blue skies, 60 degrees, and a gentle tail wind (all the way around the course) on race day.

Two ways to cross a stream

One of the most amazing features is a deep ravine that appears about halfway through the loop. See picture below, though it doesn’t do justice to how deep and startling it actually is. It actually reminds me of some of the areas of the lower southern San Juan Mountains in Colorado. So glad we have this in the metropolitan Chicago area.

Trail Running Project preserve #3 is in the books – Teo and I ran the trails at Churchill Woods on Sunday; at 2ish miles, not a destination by itself, but just off the Great Western Trail and near my daughter’s soccer tournament, so it worked for us. Read about it at The Trail Running Project.

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