Spring is in the air, and one West Side running group, the Peace Runners Club, is lacing up their sneakers in preparation for the return of the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday, March 20. 

This is the first Shamrock Shuffle since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The annual race continues the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and kicks off the spring running season in Chicago. The Shamrock Shuffle got its start in 1980. 

Garfield Park native Jackie Hoffman and 14 Peace Runners Club members are running in the eight-kilometer run and two-mile walk for this year’s Shamrock Shuffle. This will be the first year that the Peace Runners Club will participate in the Shamrock Shuffle. 

“The Shamrock will be my first, so I’m excited,” Hoffman told the TRiiBE on March 16.

The Peace Runners Club also has active senior citizens who refer to themselves as the Young at Hearts. Hoffman’s mother leads that group. The Young at Hearts will participate in the two-mile walk and cheer on the others running the Shamrock Shuffle. 

The green-infused eight-kilometer run and two-mile walk will take place in Grant Park beginning at 8:30 A.M on Sunday. Race participants can also participate in the Deloitte Team Competition, where the top local, regional and national racing teams can compete for a $20,000 prize. 

Hoffman and the Peace Runners Club are running to build community and unity through running and health and wellness. Additionally, the group wants to raise awareness around increasing the life expectancy for community residents on the West Side. 

According to an analysis by West Side United, people who live on Chicago’s West Side “have a projected life expectancy that is up to 14 years shorter than people who live downtown.” For example, West Garfield Park residents have a life expectancy of 69 years. In contrast, people who live in Chicago’s Loop have an average life expectancy of 85 years, according to West Side United. 

Hoffman, 32, founded the Peace Runners Club back on a whim on Juneteenth 2020. Peace Runners is a nonprofit organization and local fitness group whose mission is to provide affordable health and wellness activities in underserved communities in Chicago. 

In the days leading up to Juneteenth, he learned about the holiday history that “commemorates the anniversary of the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to free enslaved people two and a half years after signing the Emancipation Proclamation.” 

“I thought it would be amazing to have it here because it’s a lack of movement [in Garfield Park]. People don’t run around this area. It’s rare. I was, at one point, the only person that ran around here, so I was like, let’s bring some different energy,” Hoffman said. 

So, he thought about ways to celebrate the holiday with the community in Garfield Park and decided on a Juneteenth 5K run because he likes to run and hadn’t seen many Black people in the neighborhood running; he said. 

Hoffman routinely runs around Garfield Park but said he rarely saw people of color outside pounding the pavement. He believes that may be because marathon and distance running isn’t as popular for Black people as track. But he hopes to change that narrative through Peace Runners and by participating in the Shamrock Shuffle. 

“I met a couple of caucasian people that would be running around Garfield Park, but for the most part, as a minority, I was the only minority running around here. I run in the morning and the afternoon. I got my wife into running. So she started running with me. We were the only two for a while until we built up Peace Runners,” Hoffman said. 

A 2013 Guardian news report found that: “only 1.6 percent of marathon runners in America are African-American, compared with 90% Caucasian, 5.1% Hispanic and 3.9% Asian/Pacific Islander).”

Within a couple of days and a few social media posts later, Hoffman organized the first Juneteenth 5K run and walk on June 19, 2020. About 25 people of all ages from Garfield Park and other nearby communities showed up to run around the Golden Dome. Hoffman was armed with a Juneteenth flag and a speaker to play music. 

The success of that first Juneteeth 5K inspired Hoffman to host weekly community fitness classes and training sessions for aspiring runners. Unfortunately, the pandemic slowed things down, and during that time, Hoffman applied for nonprofit status. Their comeback was Juneteenth in 2021 for the second Juneteenth 5K run. Eighty people participated in the Juneteenth 5K in 2021.  

Hoffman said the weekly Saturday community workout classes are free and open to anyone interested. Their Saturday workout classes are hosted at Garfield Park, located at 100 N. Central Park Ave, at 9:30 A.M. Classes typically start with a run then a HITT workout (high-intensity interval training), the class also includes a wellness segment that is spearheaded by Hoffman’s wife, who is a mental health clinician.

The Juneteenth 5K tradition will continue this year. Peace Runners will offer a free training program to prepare people for the run from April 6 through May 25 on Wednesday nights at 6:30 P.M. at Garfield Park. He hopes to reach 100 participants in the Juneteenth 5K this year. 

 More details about the classes can be found here.  

“We are showing them something different from what they hear about Garfield Park because every time they see it or hear about it, they hear that it has the lowest life expectancy in Chicago,” Hoffman said. “Well, we want to show us working out, having fun, being in unity, and going out here and doing something different representing Garfield, representing West Side.”

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.