Half Marathon pulling in record numbers

As seen in The Regional News - February 10, 2011

by Kevin Olsen, Staff Reporter

Now in its fourth year, the newly renamed First Midwest Bank Southwest Half Marathon is poised for its biggest race yet as the early registration numbers continue to climb to new heights.

Race Director Mel Diab reported last Friday that 1.010 runners are already signed up, nearly 250 more than had sign up at this point last year. On Monday, the number was updated to 1,048 runners. About 600 of the registrants are first-time participants for the 13.1 mile race that will be held on Sunday, May 1.

“The first three years we did such a great job with it,” Diab said. “Word of mouth gets out. Runners are telling other people there’s a good race in Palos Heights.”

The race will be capped at 2,000 runners this year, a goal the Half Marathon Committee believes it will reach this year. The previous high was last year’s race of 1,710 runners. It would become the third largest half marathon in the Chicago area if it hits 2,000 runners, Diab said.

This year’s race was named one of the 10 Chicago Area Runners Association’s 2011 “Runners Choice Circuit Race.” The Committee also announced it again received a grant from the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote the race to out of state runners.

“I want to grow the race, but I want to grow it in margins we can handle,” said Diab, who added the course can hold more runners for future races. “It looks like we will be hitting 2,000 runners this year.”

People can find more information and register online at the half marathon’s new website, firstmidwesthalfmarathon.com. Updates will also be posed on the race’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

A large part of the race consists of efforts to donate money to charities. The American Cancer Society, Southwest Special Recreation Association (SWSRA) and Crohn’s and Colitis
Foundation of America each receive at least $5,000 every year from proceeds raised by the race. The charities will also decorate the water tables on the racecourse this year with the theme of different holidays.

Runners can also sign up to run for one of the three charities or a charity of their choice to raise money for on their own. The special needs half-mil Walk, Run and Roll event has already raised about $650 from online donations. Lake Katherine is forming a team of runners that will raise money for the nature center and botanic garden.

Angela David, with American Cancer Society, said there are already seven runners signed up for the ACS team and the entire office of 12 employees is signing up to run and promote healthy lifestyles.

If anyone wants to become a charity runner for SWSRA, they should select Southwest Special Recreation Association on a drop down window when registering for the race. They then need to complete and submit a charity runner registration form. The forms can be downloaded at swsra.com.

The third annual Walk, Run and Roll race is expected to increase its participants significantly after the Special Olympics events, which are traditionally held on the same weekend of the race, were moved to another week. SWSRA Executive Director Lori Chesna said the special needs race will add age range winners and categories such as wheelchairs and canes.

People wishing to volunteer for the event can find information on the race’s website. Mike Baiardo, with the Alsip Park District, organizes the volunteers and can be contacted at (708) 389-1003. Baiardo was recently named the Young Professional of the Year by Illinois Park and Recreation Association.

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