I waited in the humid, predawn heat at the start line of a small, regional half marathon in America’s southernmost town. It was January in Key West, about an hour before sunrise, and already 84 degrees. Behind me, a woman was detailing her recent Chicago marathon finish. Her words were loud and they hung in the blanket of still, heavy air. When the gun finally went off and she ran up beside me I saw a familiar logo —her race jersey was from Oak Park’s Good Life Race.
Two things I know to be absolutely true about racing: When I scroll through the finisher’s list of any race, there is always an 85-year-old who beats my best time and, no matter how far I am from home, there is always another runner from Oak Park.
For more than 30 years, local athletes have begun and ended the racing season on home turf with the Good Life Race 5K in April and the Frank Lloyd Wright 5K/10K Races in October. This year, two new races will help area runners flesh out the season without leaving the 4.70 square miles we call home — The Hemingway Running of the Bulls 8K in July and the Run for Diversity 5K/10K in August.
According to Keith Strom, race director for The Hemingway 8K, “The inspiration for the race is in part due to the Hemingway birthday celebration and to serve as a bridge of sorts for our strong community of runners of local races offered both in the spring and fall. “
The Hemingway 8K on Saturday, July 18, is just one event in a weekend that includes sidewalk sales, music, entertainment, and food hosted by the Hemingway Business District at Oak Park and Lake St. A portion of the proceeds from the race will benefit the Hemingway Foundation.
The race starts in Scoville Park, winding 4.97 miles through the Hemingway District and north Oak Park. This flat, fast, USATF-sanctioned race has lots of turns to keep things interesting. If you are hoping for a personal best time, “pacing bulls” will be there to help you achieve your goal. There’s not a walk component to the event this year and runners must be able to maintain at least a 15-minute per mile pace. Kids can participate in the post-race Running of the Bulls event sponsored by the Hemingway Foundation.
The Hemingway 8K will be chip timed and, in addition to age group awards, there will be “spirit” awards for those who embrace the race theme. Strom says, “The Running of the Bulls race theme is in homage to Hemingway and his writing of Pamplona, Spain, in The Sun Also Rises. It also serves as a wonderful backdrop to make our race special and fun.”
For more information about running, volunteering, and registration visit www.hemingway8K.com.
The Oak Park Regional Housing Center is the sponsor and beneficiary of the Run for Diversity 5K/10K on Sunday, August 9. Rob Breymaier of the Housing Center is a runner who developed this race with a unique route that “allows (runners) to see a different part of Oak Park. Oak Park is more than Frank Lloyd Wright homes.” The flat, fast 5K (3.1 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles) courses begin near Mills Park in the Pleasant District and stay south of South Boulevard. Indeed, Oak Park’s two other historic districts, both listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as well as a newly proposed historic district will provide a backdrop of architecturally significant homes including several that have achieved Oak Park Landmark status.
The 10K course goes as far south as Van Buren Street and east to Humphrey Avenue, showcasing the Ridgeland/Oak Park Historic District and the Gunderson Historic District. The 5K route will take runners through the proposed Hulbert Houses Historic District as they run south on Home Avenue and east on Jackson Boulevard.
The Run for Diversity is a chip-timed race with age-group awards for both races and prizes for overall men’s and women’s winners. Walkers are welcome but there is a rolling closure. Breymaier adds, “If you can’t finish a 5K in less than an hour or a 10K in less than two hours you are likely to get moved to the sidewalk somewhere along the way.”
To register for this inaugural race and for more information, visit www.oprhc.org/runfordiversity2015.
This year when I scroll through the finisher’s list, most of my fellow racers will be neighbors. But I’m confident that an 85-year-old speed demon still will be there to best me.
Photo: Josiah McKenzie/Flickr