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New sponsors save half marathon

Preparations are already kicking into high gear for the ninth annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10k set for May 1, 2016, a premier Palos event that is being presented by new title sponsors Palos Community Hospital and CNB Bank and Trust this year.

            Mel Diab, the race director, is a longtime competitive runner and owner of Running for Kicks shoe store, who founded the half-marathon with Jeff Prestinario, a former Palos Heights alderman. The gregarious Prestinario will serve as emcee of the event, which is expected to draw 1,700 to 2,000 participants from Chicago, the suburbs and farther afield to Canada and other countries, too.

Palos Community Hospital and CNB Bank replace First Midwest Bank, which has ceased as the lead sponsor of the event.

“We would like to thank First Midwest Bank for sponsoring it in the past,” said Diab. “Obviously, as race director I would like to thank Palos Community Hospital and CNB Bank for taking over. Without our sponsors, we couldn’t put on such a prestigious race,” he added. “To borrow a line from Hillary Clinton, it takes a village to put on this race.”

“Palos Community Hospital is very pleased to continue to be a part of the event. I think it is a great event, promoting a healthy lifestyle and raising money for charity,” said Tim Brosnan, the hospital’s vice president of community relations. He pointed out that PCH has been a longtime sponsor of the event before becoming one of the title sponsors for 2016.

            As for CNB Bank & Trust, Bob Straz said: “We pride ourselves on being a community bank, and this is one of the premier events in the community. Historically, this race has drawn thousands of people, both participants and spectators to our communities.” The market president of CNB Bank, Straz serves as the mayor of Palos Heights.

The 2016 race will raise funds for the South West Special Recreation Association and a second charity to be determined. Since inception, the race has raised more than $175,000 for the American Cancer Society for prostate cancer and research and the South West Special Recreation Association. The organizers are expecting to raise at least $10,000 more for charities in 2016.

Although new chief sponsors make the event financially possible, the changes to the race from a runner’s perspective are expected to be minimal.

“It is still the same race. It will still be run on Route 83, going through Palos Heights and Palos Park,” said Prestinario. He noted that it takes a lot of effort, and coordination between communities, fire districts, and state and county agencies to close Route 83 for several hours to make way for the runners.

The half-marathon, a down and back race, is set to begin on Route 83 and 76th Avenue at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, May 1.

            The 10k will kick off at 7:40 a.m. and the walk, run or roll start will be at 7:50. Participants will head west on Route 83 as far as the Route 171 intersection, and then head back to the starting point. The Illinois Department of Transportation and Cook County require that all runners be off the course by noon.

In addition to commemorative medals awarded to all runners who complete their races, awards will be presented to the top five male and female finishers overall; Masters 40 and over, male and female; and Veterans 50 and over male and female.

            “People are already showing a great deal of interest in it. A lot of people are coming into my store to ask about signing up,” said Diab last week. Running for Kicks is at 7158 W. 127th St., Palos Heights.

            Online registration and more information is available online at www.southwesthalfmarathon.com. Through Dec. 31, registration costs $65 for the half marathon and $40 for the 10k.

            In addition to title sponsors, local businesses are invited to sponsor the event as well. Community sponsorships start at $300. For more, call Tom Barcelona at 448-8077 or email [email protected]

           

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