Each year, in early May, the Fox River Trail Runners welcome runners to the Great Western Half Marathon in the western Chicago suburb of St. Charles, IL. The race begins at the Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve and runs along the beautiful Great Western Trail. In 2021, the inaugural Great Western 10k was run alongside the half marathon, utilizing the same start and finish line.
Packet pickup was hosted the day before the race at Dick Pond Athletics in St. Charles, as well as near the start line on race morning. Runners received their bib and a navy blue tech tank top that included the race logo. Parking is limited at the race location, so runners were directed to park a local high school and bussed to the start line in waves. To prevent crowding, runners were able to start independently as they arrived at the start line, ensuring that runners were spaced appropriately throughout the run.
Race participants enjoyed a beautiful, sunny morning running along the Great Western Trail which includes a mix of asphalt and hard-packed trail with just a few inclines over small bridges. Both the 10k and half-marathon routes were an out-and-back course, although some of the past years presented a point-to-point course. Water stops were located every several miles and included mini water bottles for runners to grab as they passed.
After crossing the finish lines, runners received their medals and had access to water, Gatorade, and other self-serve snacks. Participants and spectators were encouraged to keep moving and exit the area as soon as possible to avoid crowds and finishers continued to flow into the area. These safety measures contributed to a wonderful experience for all of those involved in the event and, although races feel a bit different these days, the Great Western Half Marathon and 10k offered a safe and fun event. Runners who are looking for a flat, fast spring half marathon should be on the lookout for information about the 25th annual Great Western Half Marathon in May 2022.