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Half Marathon nears crunch time for volunteers

 

If volunteers are the lifeblood of any successful public event, then the 2014 First Midwest Bank Half Marathon could use a pint or two, quickly.

According to a written status update released at the organizing committee’s meeting late last week, just 10 people have committed, in writing, to volunteer at the 7th annual event, set for Sunday, May 4. The committee’s goal is 215 people.

News of the anemic figures was cushioned by verbal assurances from several participating organizations that they will be contributing teams of volunteers to the race and that with history as a guide, the ranks of volunteers will swell in the days before the event.

“This event will be here before you know it, so we need people to step forward now to volunteer and help out in any way they can,” said Jeff Prestinario, chairman of the event committee, as he led a meeting last Friday at the Palos Heights Recreation Center, 6601 W. 127th St.

Volunteer information and forms are available online at firstmidwesthalfmarathon.com. Men and women are needed to serve in a variety of roles and different times on race day, as well as in the days before the event. Organizers said that there are opportunities to fit every ability and schedule.

Prestinario said the committee also is still looking a person to coordinate the various mascots from local high schools and colleges, who come to the race to cheer on runners and interact with spectators.

The half marathon is set for Sunday, May 4 on a course that starts and ends near Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive. The half marathon starts at 7:30 a.m., the event’s new 10K race begins at 7:40, and a “Run, Walk or Roll” half-mile race (for people with disabilities) is set to start at 7:45.

Proceeds from the event benefit the American Cancer Society, the South West Special Recreation Association, and Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens.

Just as volunteer numbers are down, so are numbers for both the big race and the 10K, according race co-founder Mel Diab, owner of the Running for Kicks specialty running shop, 7158 W. 127th St.

As of late last week, just 1,080 runners were registered for the half marathon, and 175 for the 10K. Accordingly, expectations have been revised downward, from about 2,000 participants to a goal of 1,700 between the two races.

“Races are down all across the country, but especially in the Midwest,” Diab observed. “It’s this weather. It’s been so cold for so long, a lot of runners just aren’t thinking about running yet. Here, look—we’re already into April and we’ve only had one 60-degree day.”

As an example, Diab noted that the recent Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago failed to sell out for the first time.

“We’re still pushing for runners as best we can,” Diab added. “The more we attract, the more funds we’ll raise for the charities connected with the event.”

One bright spot at the meeting was registration for the Run, Walk or Roll race. Committee member Lori Chesna, executive director of the South West Special Recreation Association (SWSRA), noted the more than 40 people have already signed up, surpassing last year’s final total of 32 participants. Final totals for that race may reach 60, she said. Her announcement drew applause from the 20 or so committee members at the meeting.

Chesna chalked up the success to an early-bird price structure that encouraged participants to register back in January.  To become a volunteer or a charity runner for SWSRA, contact Justin Waters at [email protected], or call 389-9423.

Prestinario also praised participating local law enforcement public works agencies for their diligence, saying that from a logistical and security perspective the race “is under control and looking good.”

Page3 3colswide HalfMarathon

 

Photo by Tim Hadac

First Midwest Bank Half Marathon co-director Jeff Prestinario (right) stands with volunteer coordinators Bob Grossart and Denise Hyker as they show materials relating to volunteers. In the background is race co-founder and co-director Mel Diab. To volunteer, visit firstmidwesthalfmarathon.com.

 

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