Great Western Half Marathon

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The Fox River Trail Runners hosted its 21st running of the Great Western Hal Marathon on Sunday with the finesse and precision of a well-managed organization. One thing can be said for a race event that is hosted by runners for runners; they know exactly what is needed and how to deliver. Leading up to race day, email announcements contained all the necessary information that runners needed covering everything from race packet pick-up, maps, parking, mobile locker availability, race wave detail, etc.

This event is somewhat unique in that it is a point-to-point course run on the Great Western Trail starting at the Sycamore Speedway and ending in St. Charles. Having never a run a point-to-point race of this distance, it made me wonder how logistically difficult it would be to transport hundreds of runners from the participant parking lot at St. Charles North High School to the Sycamore Speedway for the start of the race and then pickup them up at the LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve finish line to return them all to the high school parking lot. I must say I was impressed. There were ample buses with no waiting at every point to transport runners back and forth. It gave runners onboard an opportunity to chat and relax.

Before the race I talked with Chandraskekar Papudesu and Sankar Ramakrishnan about the race course and what I should expect since this was my first time. They both told me that they have run this race many times and that it was a soft graveled course for much of the distance and very pleasant to run.

The race starts off in waves with runners lining up according to their intended race pace. There were 10 individual pacers set to lead runners looking to run times ranging 1:30 to 2:45. The course itself was very comfortable to run on. Cloudy, overcast skies at the start led to sunny skies about an hour into the race. The course takes one on a relaxing run past farms, barns, over wooden bridges. I say relaxing because you don’t have the worries that come with running on residential streets or busy roads. Although we did cross some streets, coordinated traffic control was present and I never saw any vehicles waiting to cross the course. Much of the course does have tree coverage which helped provide shade as the morning quickly warmed up.

Five aid stations providing water, Gatorade and energy gels were on course along with race guards to help runners run a great race. Mile markers told runners where they were on course. Along the course, pockets of enthusiastic supporters and fans came out to cheer on runners. As the race winds down to the last half mile or so, runners approach the finish line as the course curves through a park with supporters cheering, bells ringing and the race announcer calling out some of the runner’s names.

Runner’s crossing the finish line were handed a finisher’s medal and bottle of water. A short walk away to a nearby grove, runners could refuel on donuts, cookies, tangerines, bananas, pizza, and hydration beverages. Athletico Physical Therapy, Dick Pond Athletics and other supporting businesses were present at the finish. I took advantage of this and got some much-needed stretching from an athletic trainer.

Parked near-by were the buses for our ride back to the parking lot. On the trip back runner Robin Heffernan told a group of us that although her goal today was to break 1:50, she was very pleased with finishing just a few seconds above that. Talking with some of the other runners on the bus it appeared that everyone had a wonderful experience enjoying a beautiful course on a beautiful day.

The race was won by Kevin Murphy in a time of 1:21:19. Nicole Watkins won the woman’s division posting a time of 1:32:15.

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