The Sundowner 5K is the perfect midsummer evening fun run and community party. The weather is always hot and humid and Joliet’s Pilcher Park is beautiful with the dense, green foliage of summer.
While the Joliet Park District offers a couple nights of early packet pickup, I have never had a problem (nor had to wait in a line) picking up on the day of the event. Don’t forget to leave your raffle stub in the box at packet pickup. Gear check is a short walk away; you can grab your packet, pin on your bib number and leave the packet and race shirt at gear check. This year’s race shirt was bright red and came in both women’s and men’s styles.
Before the 5K, there is a kid’s Splash Dash – a Mile Junior Jog for kids ages 6-12 and a 50 Yard Dash for kids age 6 and under. This adds to the overall community party atmosphere. Each child gets a shirt and a medal and their enthusiasm helps get everyone in the mood. I saw everything from total excitement to tears.
I didn’t run the Sundowner last year, but the course has been totally improved from two year’s prior. The old cracked pavement is gone; no more fear of tripping! The course surface starts on pavement then changes to a packed sand surface and back to pavement.
For a local, northern Illinois 5K, the course has a fairly substantial elevation gain. My Garmin showed most of the 81 feet of gain in the second mile. What goes up, must come down and the last mile of the course is a nice downhill run making negative splits easy to achieve. The course is fairly narrow and at least for the first mile, until people spread out, it is difficult to pass people. The pavement has a fairly high profile, and if you want to pass on the edges, it is important to be careful stepping on and off the pavement. The course wanders through a beautiful park with a number of bridge crossings and tall trees. There were two well manned water stations, the first at mile one and the second at mile 1.7.
About half way through the run, a woman passed me that I was pretty sure was in my age group. Well, I wasn’t going to let her beat me! For the rest of the race, I used her lovely, coral shirt as my target. I would let her pull ahead of me now and then but then I would pass her and catch up with a trio of other runners and pace with them a bit. Glad I kept her behind me as I edged her out for third place in my age group.
Each participant was awarded a nice, heavy medal and a bottle of water at the finish. Even though the sun had now, pretty much, gone down, it was still 80 degrees and humid. After the run, runners are given a full dinner with a choice of hot dogs, hamburgers (including beef, chicken or veggie), a selection of chips, a choice of cookies and canned beer. Non-runners can buy the meal for $5. Then everyone sits around in a big, hot tent and just has a good time.
Finally, finishers’ awards were announced. The top finishers received a nice trophy and age group award winners each received a pair of wireless earbuds. Honestly, I would rather have a medal or something that acknowledges the event; it was a nice idea to try something different but I hope they go back to giving out a medal or a ribbon. Lastly, a raffle was held with prizes ranging from splash park tickets to entries in other Joliet Park District races.
The evening ended with a shuttle ride back to the parking lot and good memories of another Sundowner 5K. It is a great little event and a perfect way to celebrate summer.
The 2018 Sundowner Overall Winners:
Matthew Gagen 17:31
Jay Dworak 17:47
Kyle Bell 17:47
Julie Crutchfield 19:00
Rachel Reyes 21:01
Josyln Prosek 21:18