This past winter is still giving people headaches even though the snow is gone and the temperatures are bearable.
Mel Diab calls it “the wicked winter” and it’s eating into the participation numbers of Sunday’s seventh annual First Midwest Bank Half Marathon.
Race organizers in the past were comfortable with the numbers being in the 1,800-to-2,000 range. This year they added a 10K race to try to bolster the attendance.
As of Friday, the numbers for the races, which take place in Palos Heights and slivers of Palos Park and Palos Hills, were at about 1,300. Diab doubts there will be a huge walkup in the final days. Diab, the co-organizer of the race along with Jeff Prestinario, said maybe 50 to 100 more runners will be signing up.
So what about this wicked winter? What did the freezing temperatures and huge snowfall have to do with an event that takes place in May, usually under ideal running conditions?
“Not as many runners were able to train in December, January and February,” Diab said. “There are some hard-core runners who were able to still train and prepare for events such as the Boston Marathon. But it was tough for most people to train.’’
The local race isn’t the only victim to the wicked winter.
“The numbers are down for all the races,” Diab said. “The Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago usually gets 35,000 runners and this year they got 30,000. They had a 5K in town last week [the Chocolate Chase Rabbit Race 5K in Palos Heights] usually get about 500 or 600 runners and had 300 this year.’’
Diab is not thrilled with the numbers, but he is looking forward to the race.
“As a runner and a businessman, you always want to do better every year,” Diab said. “But I’m staying positive. The glass is half full.’’
There will be 80 runners from out of state this year including two runners from Brazil.
Opening ceremonies are at 7:05 p.m. near Palos Heights’ Village Hall. The half-marathon starts at 7:30 a.m. and the 10K race starts at 10:40 a.m.
Go to college, coach
The goofy, twisty story of girls basketball coach Anthony Smith took another turn last week when the Illinois High School Association lifted its ban on him and he is free to coach at any high school in the state if he wants.
Smith was wildly successful at Bolingbrook and there were whispers back then about the questionable transfers from within the state and some from out of Illinois who came to that school to help the Raiders win four Class 4A state titles. Locally, Stagg and Sandburg have taken a few Southwest Suburban Conference lumps at the hand of the Raiders and Vikings over the years while he was boss.
But when he was hired at Homewood-Flossmoor and several players from the Bolingbrook-Plainfield area transfered, it caused an unnamed teammate to file a lawsuit and that opened up a Pandora’s Box that ultimately cost the powerhouse a chance to compete in the postseason.
Smith was suspended by the IHSA and also fired by his school district by 4-3 vote two weeks ago.
Now that the suspension is over, does H-F have a change of heart? Does he move on? Will he get another job at a high school in Illinois?
I say the guy will be poison for a high school program but he should be looking into coaching in college.
Whether he recruited illegally or if everything was above board at Bolingbrook and H-F, talented kids wanted to play for the man. That’s a good thing in college.
Not only could he coach talented players to win the ultimate prize – which is not as easy as it sounds – he was adamant about keeping their grades up and insisted that they project a good public image.
He’s flirted with the college scene in the past so folks out there have him on their radar screen.
Hopefully the next time Anthony Smith’s name surfaces it will be to announce he’s a college coach somewhere.