Lemont is a town about 30 miles from downtown Chicago that has a nice historic district, a good selection of bars and restaurants and a nice residential community primarily located on the hills above the downtown area. The Quarryman Challenge is named after the men that worked in the nearby quarries. These men were strong and worked hard, just like you need to be to excel at this race.
There are so many amenities that make this race a must-do. Early pricing is very reasonable at $40 for the 10 miler and $20 for the 5K from January 1 to March 1. After that prices are $50 and $30, respectively, including day of registration. Pre-race packet pickup is offered at three different locations and nights, and day-of packet pickup is also available and easy. Parking is free and widely available in Lemont the morning of the race. I love that the race shirt is an old fashioned cotton t-shirt with a nice logo; very wearable.
This year, day-of packet pickup was moved outside of the Lemont town hall into a large tent. I kind of miss being able to use a real bathroom on race day morning, but the tent wasn’t as packed and the portable toilets were sufficient. Having the tent after the race, while waiting for the awards on a cold morning, was a nice addition. I hope they keep the tent!
The Quarryman Challenge races are small with 340 people finishing the 5K and 371 people finishing the 10-mile race. After the national anthem played near the town hall, the 10-mile participants walked down the street to the starting line and the race took off right at 7:30 a.m. As soon as the 10 milers cleared the chute, the 5K participants did the same. While the race was small, enthusiasm was high and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face, even at 7:00 am.
The 5K course is deceiving in that the first quarter of a mile is run down a very flat street, but then the course turns and it’s uphill for almost all of the first mile and a half. Some of the hills are very steep and even well trained people start to walk (sometimes walking is faster than running). Whenever a flat or downhill section appears, everyone starts to run again and it feels like such sweet relief after some of those hills. While the course starts are slightly different for the two events, the hills are just as steep on the 10 mile course and they keep coming for even longer.
While there isn’t huge crowd support, there are a number of community people out cheering and offering encouragement. One family even had an unofficial water station set up and the kids had signs offering power boosts. The official aid stations had enthusiastic volunteers that also offered encouragement as we ran through. One of my only criticisms of this race is that the course is not closed to traffic; while the community is very aware of the runners, it is still disconcerting to have cars backing out of driveways and/or coming up behind you on the course. I never felt in danger but did need to keep aware of my surroundings.
Right around the half way point, the course turns back towards downtown and there are more downhills than inclines for the rest of the race. This is where it really got fun: people start to chat with each other and notice the beautiful Lemont community. At this time of year, there are a lot of flowers and flowering trees in bloom; it is just gorgeous. The last quarter mile is a very steep downhill run and then a turn back to finish on the flat. At the finish line, each woman was handed a carnation for Mother’s Day.
Nothing beats a good after party and this race does it right! Of course water and bananas are available but so is pizza and craft beer. With the tent this year, even though it was cold, it was a great atmosphere as people hung around for the awards talking, eating, drinking and listening to the music.
Sticking with the Quarryman theme, this race has fantastic awards: pieces of rock from the local quarries with small attached plaques indicating the specific award. Switching from the 10 miler to the 5K this year got me my first rock, as I won first place in my age group (F 60-64) proving that if you cannot outrun them, you can outlast them. The Quarryman also has special awards for being King of the Hill, the first to run up the biggest hill at the beginning of both races, and the fastest Lemont male and female.
Lastly, after the race, all of the photos are available online for free downloading, a perfect ending to a great event. I hope to keep coming back and bringing home more rocks. Maybe I will start a rock garden.
5K Race Winners:
- ALEXANDER KISTENGER 18:06
- DAVID WEBER 18:26
- AUSTIN MOLITOR 18:56
- DANIELA MUNOZ 21:54
- JENNIFER CADDICK 22:30
- ALAYNA PLAHM 23:19
10 Mile Race Winners:
- COLIN MICKOW 52:43
- RUSLAN KRAMARIUK 54:28
- ZACHARY HIRD 54:44
- ERIKA EDMONSON 1:05:52
- ALLISON KOCH 1:10:30
- MEGAN BREWCZYNSKI 1:11:48