They’re heading into the home stretch

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Runners had a chance to get in a good stretch before last year’s half-marathon/10K race.

It will be a packed day of celebration for Mel Diab.

The co-founder of the Southwest Marathon and 10K running event in Palos Heights will spend the early hours of Sunday morning getting the course ready for the ninth running of the event.

Then when it’s over, he will be celebrating his father’s – Sam’s – 93rd birthday.

“It’s a big day,” Diab said. “And for me, it’s a good day.’’

Diab and co-founder Jeff Prestinario were happy to report Friday that more than 1,000 runners signed up for the two races including close to 800 for the half marathon. Those numbers are down from past races, which would flirt with or eclipse the 2,000-runner mark and feature some international runners.

But given that a lot of winter preparation time getting the word out was wiped out because the race changed sponsors from First Midwest Bank to Palos Hospital and CNB Bank, numbers were anemic in January and February. Officials are hoping for a last-minute burst of entries but at least they have a number in four digits.

“It’s great considering the start we had,” Prestinario said. “Because of the sponsor changes, we just need to get over the hump this year and we hope the bigger numbers will come next year, when it’s our 10th year.’’

Activities start at 6:30 a.m. with a non-denominational service provided by Pastor Ryan Hall of Harvest Bible Chapel of Palos Heights. At 6:45 a.m., Palos Hospital Fitness representatives will lead runners in a stretching program. From 6:55 to 7:20 a.m., there will be speeches and presentations from various dignitaries, including U.S. Congressman Dan Lipinski, who is the race’s Grand Marshall.

Gunshot starts for the wheelchair half marathon (7:20 a.m.), the half marathon (7:30), the 10K race (7:40) and the walk, run or roll race (7:45) follow.

 

 

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