The home stretch

  • Written by Tim Hadac


DR-PAGE-1-COLOR-4-col-stretchScott Franklin of Lemont stretches his limbs before last year’s half marathon. The seventh running of the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon and 10K Run starts at 7:30 a.m. near Village Hall in Palos Heights and goes through portions of Palos Park and Palos Hills.

First Midwest’s seventh half marathon just days away

While Mother Nature has been cruel to the 2014 First Midwest Bank Half Marathon in recent months, she is expected to smile on the popular annual event this Sunday, May 4.

The big race takes place the day after Saturday’s Community and Health Expo organized by the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce at Moraine Valley Church.
“This past winter has been wicked, and it has kept numbers down at races everywhere, as runners haven’t had chances to train,” said race co-founder and co-director Mel Diab, owner of the Running for Kicks specialty running shop, 7158 W. 127th St., Palos Heights. “But the forecast for race day is 63 degrees and only a 10 percent chance of rain. So we’re looking good.”
Diab made his observation at an organizing committee meeting held last Friday at the Palos Heights Recreation Center, 6601 W. 127th St.
Race registration numbers reflect the record-setting chill. Diab noted that between the half marathon and the newly added 10K race, “not quite 1,300” runners have signed up this year, well below the 1,800-plus runners who competed in the half marathon in 2013.
One bright spot is registration for the Run, Walk or Roll race, headed by the South West Special Recreation Association (SWSRA), which has hit an all-time high at 56, nearly doubling last year’s final total of 32 participants.
The ranks of volunteers have swelled, with more than 100 signed up and additional assistance expected this week. Last-minute volunteers are welcome and are encouraged to visit for details.
Both Diab and co-director Jeff Prestinario thanked committee members in advance for their race-day service. “As we come down the home stretch, it’s going to be hectic,” Prestinario said to the group. “Before you know it, it’s going to be boom, boom, boom—so much so that you can feel the electricity in the air. So let’s all remember that there are always curveballs that come into play, so thank you for remaining cool, calm and collected when that happens. Remember to smile and think safety, safety, safety.”

Chamber Expo

Adding to the buzz is a health and community expo set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Moraine Valley Church, 6300 W. 127th St., Palos Heights.
Sponsored by the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce, the annual event typically attracts several thousand people and offers information and free services from 50 local health care providers and other businesses, as well as government agencies.
“Everyone is invited to this fun and informative event,” said Chamber President Stephen Georgiou, owner of Computer Greeks, 12222 S. Harlem Ave., Palos Heights.
The expo will also feature a martial arts demonstration by students of T-USA Martial Arts and a public safety demonstration of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police bomb squad.

Start and finish

The half marathon itself starts and ends near Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive, and runs west along Route 83. The half marathon starts at 7:30 a.m., the event’s new 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.
The race officially ends at 10:30 a.m., and an awards ceremony is set for 11 a.m.

As always, parking is at a premium at the event, and spectators driving to the site are advised to arrive early and use local parking lots along the north side of Route 83.

Proceeds from the event benefit the American Cancer Society, the South West Special Recreation Association, and Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens.