Saturday marked the 18th annual Loop the Lakes 5k Run / Walk at Century Park in Vernon Hills, Illinois. This small community event raises funds for the scholarship program that provides opportunities for children who would otherwise be unable to participate in the village’s summer camp programs, according to Park District Recreation Supervisor, Jack Scherer.
This family friendly race was my first “official” 5k many years ago which started my journey into endurance sport. It has since become an annual staple on my calendar. I have watched it progress from a race that was timed by volunteers using stopwatches to the well organized event it is today.
Following race morning packet pickup in the warmth of the park shelter, participants gathered at the start line and were anxious to get underway before the impending late April snowstorm! After a few brief words about the race, we were given the countdown that sent us out onto the paved path that guides runners and walkers around both Big Bear and Little Bear Lakes which are the prominent features of course.
During the first mile, participants encountered a number of short sharp rolling hills. The remainder of the race is fairly flat and meanders through the 113-acre park that was granted Arboretum Accreditation in 2017. Incidentally, this is one of my favorite places to run throughout the summer because it is traditionally a haven for local wildlife in the middle of a community that is rapidly becoming urbanized.
There is one water station on the course just before the two-mile mark and volunteers are at each mile along the way announcing participant times. By the conclusion of the second mile, everyone had successfully completed a full loop of both lakes and were met by volunteers informing them of one more trip around Big Bear before reaching the finish line.
While a number of people grabbed a banana or a granola bar to refuel and headed for home, many stayed for the awards ceremony where the top three athletes in each age group received a medal. In addition, the top two for each age group received a gift card for a sporting goods retailer and top overall finishers SR Worth (18:36) and Vivian Tsai (21:40) also received trophies. I was just happy to have achieved a personal record at my hometown event! An hour later, the skies would open up and blanket Vernon Hills with snow, proving that one never knows what spring may bring in Chicago.
Results can be found at itsyourrace.com