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updated: 3/3/2011 1:06 PM

Fox Valley 5K kicks off season

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  • William Holstine of Aurora was last year's overall winner, clocking in at 17:29.0 at the 5K Spring Gallop at Blackberry Farm.

    William Holstine of Aurora was last year's overall winner, clocking in at 17:29.0 at the 5K Spring Gallop at Blackberry Farm.
    Courtesy Fox Valley Park District


Given all the advances in modern medicine, it probably won't be long until a "fitness pill" is invented that provides all the benefits of a vigorous, 30-minute workout while sitting on the couch watching a Seinfeld rerun.

Please, spare me the miracle. I'll take a new pair of running shoes instead.

And, with all due respect to treadmills, nothing beats running outside. Besides the health benefits of physical exercise, there's an indescribable "endorphin high" that comes from breathing fresh, crisp air while enjoying the scenery and serenity of a great run.

Make it a competitive race with several hundred of your like-minded colleagues, and you have the makings of a terrific event, which is what the 5K Spring Gallop at Blackberry Farm has become.

It's one of the earliest races on the calendar -- taking place on Saturday, March 26 -- and for many, it marks the official beginning of the outdoor running season, run on one of the most beautiful, scenic courses of any race.

Unlike traditional road races, runners won't encounter any sewer grates or broken glass or potholes or any associated hazards. Instead, they'll enjoy smooth footing on paved asphalt and crushed limestone along the rustic setting of the Virgil Gilman Trail and the spruce tree-lined trails encircling Lake Gregory.

There are a couple of added bonuses this year as well. The 5K Spring Gallop is now officially a CARA-certified race and, for the first time, it won't conflict with the popular Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago -- which has moved two weeks later to April 10 -- making the Spring Gallop an ideal warmup.

For those reasons, race organizer and Blackberry Farm facility supervisor Sandy Smith expects the Spring Gallop field to grow even larger -- as it has in each of the previous three years.

The debut in 2008 drew 312 runners; that number rose to 448 runners in 2009 and 527 last year.

Anticipating continued growth, the CARA-certified course was flip-flopped for this year's race, moving the entry passage onto the Gilman Trail to the end of the race when runners are more spread out, so as to lessen the bottleneck effect.

William Holstine of Aurora was the overall winner a year ago, with Suzanne Ryan of West Chicago taking top honors on the women's side.

Runners as young as 6 and experienced as 84 were among the field, including 81-year-old Auroran Dick Lamermayer and wheelchair competitor Reva Moore of Sugar Grove.

Smith said the race will be held -- rain, sun or (gulp) snow -- with the starter's gun firing at 8:30 a.m. Entry fee is $25 through March 18 -- each preregistered runner receives a T-shirt -- with race day registration available from 7:15 to 8 a.m. Awards will be given to the top three male and female finishers in each of eight different age groups.

Take your mark -- it's time to kick spring into gear.

• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.