Thousands of runners take on Loop for Shamrock Shuffle

Grant Park was flooded with a sea of runners Sunday morning — many donning festive green accessories — for Chicago’s annual Shamrock Shuffle 8K race.

Under overcast skies, more than 24,000 thousand runners followed the 5-mile route, snaking through the Loop. Others participated in the 2-mile scenic walk along the lakefront.

“It was fantastic,” said runner Diane Rewerts, 51. “A little bit of wind, but what do you expect out of Chicago?”

The men’s champion, Nathan Martin, broke the tape with a finishing time of 23:08 — under a 5-minute mile pace. Amy Davis-Green was the top female finisher with a time of 25:54.

The 43rd annual shuffle, sponsored by Bank of America, is a belated St. Patrick’s Day celebration that marks the start of Chicago’s outdoor running season.

At the finish line, runners beamed as they sprinted across to the cheers from the crowd. Many were visibly exhausted, but most sported smiles as spectators raised celebratory signs.

Lena Duda, a 40-year-old middle school teacher, crossed the finish line wearing a backpack woven with long green balloons that stretched several feet around her.

“I was thinking someone needs to represent the slow and fat runners,” Duda said. “You don’t have to be an all-star to run this thing. You could be a random person just learning how to run.”

Duda has participated in the shuffle with friends since 2007. It’s one of her favorite races in the city — she’s also signed up for the Chicago 13.1 in June.

“It’s just full of fun and joy and frivolity and crazy, which is what I fill in, obviously,” she said, gesturing to the balloons.

Kyle Daus, 25, donned clover glasses and a finishing medal as he stretched along the sidewalk. He participates in the shuffle every year with his family.

“It’s almost like a chore, but when you’re with a bunch of people that love running, it doesn’t seem that way,” Daus said. He finished the race in 43 minutes. “Plus, everyone around the city is cheering you on.”

The race course was littered with confetti. Along the route, organizers blasted upbeat pop music. Passersby stretched out their hands over the barricade to offer high fives.

Samantha Bruning, 30, carried a bouquet and a rolled-up paper sign as she peered over the barricade, looking for her friend among the mass of runners.

“She’s getting into running right now,” Bruning said. “It’s her first race, so this is really impressive.”

Back by the finish line, Stephanie and Clayton Lewis posed for photos with their medals. The couple, both aged 30, wore matching sparkly clover garlands around their necks.

“It’s just for health and for accomplishing something we haven’t done before,” Stephanie Lewis said. “It’s really fun, and a lot of positive energy.”

The pair first started running around Thanksgiving for the city’s Turkey Trot — now, they’re hooked.

“I’d love to do a couple more races. Just maybe not the Chicago Marathon,” Stephanie Lewis said with a laugh.