Half marathon officials worried about race fans packing heat at May event
If you’re coming to the run, don’t bring your gun, organizers
“We don’t want guns at the race, and Illinois law allows us to prohibit them at an event like this,” said Jeff Prestinario, chairman of the event committee that met at the Palos Heights Recreation Center, 6601 W. 127th St.
“It’s like the Wild, Wild West. Check your guns before you come into the town,” he added with a chuckle.
The issue was raised by Palos Heights police Sgt. Adam Nagy, when he told his fellow committee members that while implementation of the state’s Firearm Concealed Carry Act is proceeding slowly, there may be some local residents who have concealed carry permits by May, when the event will be held.
“I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s rights,” Nagy told the group, “but the law allows guns to be prohibited at special events or public gatherings that require a permit.”
He added that if the committee chose to ban guns, it would need to obtain a permit from Palos Heights and then post signs about the ban at regular points along the race route.
Prestinario said that he and others on the committee will move forward with the permit and signs, although details—including the exact wording—need to be worked out.
The ban, of course, does not apply to on-duty law enforcement officials working the event.
Nagy also confirmed that security will be different at this year’s event. Last year’s race—held in the wake of the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon—saw an unprecedented level of security that included bomb-sniffing dogs, a surveillance helicopter, marksmen on rooftops, police carrying machine guns and more.
Security last year “was over the top,” Nagy noted. “We will scale it back this year.”
The half marathon is set for Sunday, May 4 on a course that starts and ends near Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive. The half marathon starts at 7:30 a.m., the 10K race begins at 7:40, and a “Run, Walk or Roll” half-mile race (for people with disabilities) is set to start at 7:45.
Some 2,000 runners are expected to participate, with an equivalent number of spectators. Proceeds from the event benefit the American Cancer Society, the South West Special Recreation Association, and Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens.
Registration details and more information on the event may be obtained at firstmidwesthalfmarathon.com.
Prestinario reported that 701 runners have registered for the half marathon thus far, and 138 for the 10K race, which he called “pretty darn good.
“If you add the 130 runners we have signed up for the 10K, we’re actually ahead of last year,” he continued. “We’re looking good at this point. If we wind up getting 300 runners for the 10K, we’ll be good. If we get 400, it will be great.”
The 10K race is new to the event and has been added to raise revenue to support the half marathon, now in its seventh year and billed as the premier athletic event in the southwest suburbs. It was founded by Prestinario and Mel Diab, owner of the Running for Kicks specialty running shop, 7158 W. 127th St. Diab was out of town last Friday and unable to attend the committee meeting.
Also at Friday’s meeting, Prestinario announced that Palos Heights resident Bob Grossart has agreed to serve as volunteer coordinator, along with Denise Hyker.
More than 50 people have volunteered to serve in a number of roles to make the event a success, and Grossart said he is looking for at least 200 people to be ready to go by May. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to visit the event website for details.
The committee’s next meeting is set for noon Friday, March 7 at the Recreation Center.