Lakeside Bank 2022.July

This 70-year-old runner in on a 73-race journey

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Chicago’s Chuck Aron is no stranger to running in a variety of long races since 2004 and is no stranger for the Southwest Half Marathon and 10K event.

But when the 70-year-old runs the 10K portion of the race in Palos Heights on May 1, it will be part of a bigger mission in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s disease.

Aron started running the Chicago Marathon in 2004 in memory of his brother-in-law, Paul Bracken, who passed away in 2001 at 58 as a result of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Bracken would have turned 73 on April 8, and Aron’s 70th birthday was March 24th.

So in continual memory of Bracken, Aron set a goal to run 73 events this year to raise money for Alzheimer’s awareness.

The Southwest event, sponsored by Palos Hospital and CNB Bank, will be his 14th race on the way to realization of his goal. He hopes No. 73 comes Oct. 9 at the Chicago Marathon.

“One of my friends mentioned to me that somebody ran 30 races when they turned 30, and my friend joked that that I should run 70 races,” Aron said. “Since I run races in memory of my brother-in-law, I will run 73 races in memory of him.

“I will be running those 73 races within about nine months.”

While running such a high volume of races poses physical strain, Aron said, he also had to think of a creative way to overcome the monetary challenge involved in running so many events.

“The toughest thing about doing 73 races isn’t so much keeping your legs going, but it’s dealing with 73 entry fees,” Aron said. “I don’t want to ask people to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association with some thinking that those donations, instead, would go toward my entry fee.

“So what I started doing at about the first of the year was sending emails out to the various race organizers. I told them what I wanted to do and why, and I simply asked for a free entry.”

The co-founder of the Southwest event, Mel Diab, who also owns the Running for Kicks store in Palos Heights, was one of the many race organizers who gave Aron a pass on the fee.

“Mel was one of the first organizers who said ‘most certainly,’ ” Aron said. “I’ve been fortunate to know Mel for many years, and he’s just a great guy. With only one exception, every race organizer has been positive about giving me complimentary entries.’’

Even though he said he is a lifetime Chicago White Sox fan, Aron will run in Saturday’s Race to Wrigley 5K with sponsorship coming from an unexpected source.

“I’m running the race and being sponsored by Chicago Cubs Charities,” Aron said. “And they know that I’m Sox fan. Their theme is that the Chicago Cubs have joined in the fight against Alzheimer’s by sponsoring a Sox fan who will run to Wrigley Field.”

Another race near the area Aron will run in is “Run with the Nuns,’’ in June at Mt. Assisi in Lemont.

“It benefits a group of retired nuns,” he said. “I’m getting out Alzheimer’s awareness; at the same time these races are giving me the free entries, so I’m going out of my way to publicize their races.”

Before 2004, Aron ran Chicago Marathon in 1978 and 1979 and also ran the Montreal Marathon in 1979 – which eventually led to surgery for a torn knee and an exit from running for awhile. Years later, his weight ballooned to 265 pounds, and he was unable to complete a Memory Walk in Omaha, Nebraska the year Bracken was diagnosed.

So Aron took action on his health. He said he redeemed himself the next year in Omaha and has never looked back.

“I ran the walk the next year,” he said. “I came back the following year and ran it again. By that time, it had been 25 years since I last ran the Chicago Marathon, so I stared to run that in Paul’s memory. But this will probably be the last year I push myself to this level.”

Aron’s website that provides race information and opportunity to donate is http://www.73for70.com.

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