Oh March Madness. There's the basketball variety, the annual NCAA tourney that gets even non-college-basketball followers like myself filling out brackets. And there's the running variety, the Cary, Ill., half marathon that I'll be running Sunday morning. But next week Chicago is going to see another Madness, a tasting variety that combines basketball and running. Except you don't have to run, be a runner or even like running to join the fun.
Fleet Feet Sports . You know them as running stores--there are outposts across the country, and Chicago has two, Old Town and Lincoln Square, soon-to-be three when South Loop opens. And if you're a Chicago runner, you also know them--and other stores like Running Away and Universal Sole--as pretty good party planners with their fun runs, shoe launches, fashion shows and more, all themed around running.
On March 21, the day the NCAA tournament affectionately known as March Madness begins, Fleet Feet Chicago is bringing those parties to anyone, not just runners--and not just guys--with their Taste the Madness event. There's no run to kick off the evening--that doesn't mean you can't organize a few friends and go out before the party starts at 7 p.m. But there will be plenty of basketball watching, food sampling and drink tasting. Fleet Feet teamed up with local vendors like Koval Distillery, Goose Island, Evolution Wine and Spirits, and Stu's Kitchen to offer almost anything the eyes could drink from bloody marys and cocktails to craft beer and whiskey. And you can sip them from the 5-ounce glass you'll receive for attending. If you're hungry, try the food pairings from Chef Ryan Hutmacher of The Centered Chef ( his recipes make my mouth water!). If you're sore from sitting at a desk all day, grab a mini-massage from the Urban Wellness folks. And if you need some man-scaping, catch a neck shave from State Street Barber.
Running with the local theme, the ticket proceeds from this fun night out will benefit the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased online or at the door, if space allows. Whether your brackets fall apart or you score big, the night is for the kids. It sounds like fun, too. I'll drink to that.