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Naperville hosts first-ever marathon

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 4:08 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:46 a.m. CST
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(JOHN COX PHOTO)
Runners cross the finish line on the campus of North Central College during the Naperville Half-Marathon/Marathon Sunday morning. John Cox - For Suburban Life Media
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(JOHN COX PHOTO)
Friends and family of the half-marathon and marathon runners lined the streets throughout Naperville to encourage the competitors during the Naperville Marathon Sunday morning. John Cox - For Suburban Life Media
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(JOHN COX PHOTO)
One of the top marathon competitors begins the final stretch of the 25th mile by entering back onto the Riverwalk for a short time before entering the campus of North Central College where the start/finish line for the Naperville Marathon was located. John Cox - For Suburban Life Media
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(JOHN COX PHOTO)
The finish line of the Naperville Marathon on the campus of North Central College was a party scene with music blaring and friends and family members congratulating runners as they crossed the finish line. John Cox - For Suburban Life Media
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(JOHN COX PHOTO)
One of the top marathon competitors runs the 25th mile north on Washington Street approaching downtown Naperville and the start/finish line of the Naperville Marathon. John Cox - For Suburban Life Media

NAPERVILLE – The streets of Naperville were recently filled with 3,500 runners striving for one goal – to cross the finish line.

At 7 a.m. Sunday, about 6,000 spectators watched the Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon, which began and finished at the North Central College Athletic Complex in Naperville. 

Robert Hackett, one of five race directors with Naper Events LLC – the group that planned the marathon – said about 980 volunteers helped with the event. 

“I have never seen a level of cooperation with any event, road race or other event, as I have with this,” Hackett said. “Everybody has gone above and beyond in making sure this was a first-rate event in Naperville.” 

Race participants were able to run on Naperville’s streets, forest preserve path and bike trail. After the race, runners were encouraged to participate in the 27th Mile, which was the estimated distance for runners to walk from the end of the race to downtown Naperville to receive special prices on food and drinks.  

Naper Events first approached the City of Naperville with the idea for a marathon about two-and-a-half years ago. 

“Naperville is a huge running community and yet it [didn't have] a marathon,” Hackett said. “We didn’t understand why and approached the city. When they saw our plan they were impressed with that and our track record, so it worked out well for everyone.” 

Hackett said this was the first marathon in Naperville’s history that he and fellow directors could find since the early 1970s when a group of runners from North Central College ran an unsanctioned marathon. 

Registration for the marathon/half-marathon opened in January and sold out in less than 14 hours, Hackett said. Although there were 3,000 entries, there were also about 500 charity entries, which raised about $220,000 for local charities. 

Spectators and runners visited Naperville from 30 other states, which positively impacted local businesses, as marathon runners are notorious for purchasing souvenirs from where they have run races, Hackett said. 

Race participants were also able to use their times to qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon. To earn the entry, Hackett said the USA Track and Field association had to certify the course by ensuring its mileage was exact. 

Pat Leonard, another race director with Naper Events, said Naperville is not only a tremendous running community based on the number of residents who run, but also how dedicated they are to the sport. She looked forward to seeing the faces of runners as they crossed the finish line. 

“Each of them had gone through about five months of specific training to reach that goal,” she said. “It is a tremendous feeling and that is why, although it is a somewhat painful thing to pull off, so many people enjoy running marathons.” 

Leonard said Naper Events plans to coordinate another marathon in Naperville in 2014. 

For race results or more information on the marathon, visit www.naperville26.com.

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