When runners in the Inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon toe the starting line Sunday morning at North Central College, the courses that await are sure to challenge and excite them, organizers say.
This is Illinois, known for its expansive prairies and flat farmland, but runners say neither course is completely flat.
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By the numbersMiles: 26.2, marathon or 13.1, half marathon
Marathon miles in forest preserves: 7
Intersections crossed: 148
Subdivisions along marathon route: 36
Starting and finishing elevation: 700 feet
Marathon total ascent: 282 feet
Half marathon total ascent: 108 feet
Marathon aid stations: 14
Half marathon aid stations: 6
Parks on marathon course: 9
Parks on half marathon course: 7
The marathon climbs 282 feet over its 26.2 miles, while the half marathon ascends 108 feet along a 13.1-mile route.
Nearly 3,500 total runners in both races (roughly 1,400 in the full marathon) will test their endurance along routes meticulously mapped, measured and remeasured, following the standards of USA Track & Field so the full course could be certified as a Boston Marathon qualifier.
Original plans started the races somewhere in south Naperville and wound runners through neighborhoods, parks and forest preserves there and in Bolingbrook. But marathon organizers, city officials and downtown business owners thought better of it, moving the start/finish line to the campus of North Central College to draw runners and fans near the shops and restaurants of the city's commercial core.
Maps available at naperville26.com detail the marathon and half marathon courses, while information at naperville.il.us/napervillemarathon.aspx lists affected subdivisions, a traffic plan and detours around 75th Street, Book Road and Washington Street, which will be closed for some time Sunday as runners compete.
Here's a look at some highlights of the first marathon course in Naperville.
The intersection of Porter Avenue and Loomis Street serves as the start/finish line and home of the race village for the Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon. Gear check, medical assistance, last-minute running accessories from Naperville Running Company and plenty of security personnel will be on hand as runners line up for the national anthem at 6:45 and the start of the races at 7 a.m.
"I'm really excited about the fact that it's so close," said Terri Hayes, owner of Artistic Creations Salon in downtown Naperville, who will be running the half marathon Sunday. "The fact that it's at the college I think is really cool because it's such a focus of the downtown area, the college itself. I think that's going to bring a lot of support."
After exiting downtown via Hillside Road and West Street, race director Bob Hackett said the course's next highlight will be Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve south of 75th Street. Runners will enter the preserve on Book Road for some of the marathon's seven miles on crushed limestone paths.
"It's a different place to run and that time of year, it's going to be very pretty," Hackett said about Springbrook. "It's flat and it's fast. It's all on crushed limestone. That gives the marathoners' legs a little refresher."
After exiting Springbrook Prairie, the half marathon course veers away from the full route at 87th and Washington streets, where those running 13.1 miles turn north along the DuPage River Trail and head back toward downtown and the finish line.
Marathoners, meanwhile, turn south until Naper Boulevard, running northeast on that street and a few others for three more miles before heading into the next forested leg of the route.
"Having the marathon here in Naperville, you get to train on the course, which is great," said Naperville City Clerk Pam LeFeber, who is running her first marathon Sunday. "I've run almost every part of the course in small little legs."
The marathon winds on curvy, hilly paths with at least one hairpin turn and several other tight twists during its time in Greene Valley forest preserve.
"The scenery is going to be pretty, but it's definitely hilly," Hayes said about the back half of the course. "It's going to be a great challenge."
Exiting the preserve worries LeFeber the most, though, because she's found an ill-placed incline right around mile 20, which is known in marathoning circles as "the wall" because it's the farthest distance many first-time marathoners have completed during training.
"There's a steep, short hill right at mile 20 right before you come out at Greene Valley," she said. "Oh, here's the wall, and a hill!"
But after the wall and that hill, runners find themselves on the DuPage River Trail, heading back north toward downtown Naperville along the same route traversed earlier by half marathoners.
For those completing the full distance, Hackett said one more incline awaits. Runners will turn east off Washington Street into Fredenhagen Park, then cross the North Central College Riverwalk Gateway onto the athletic campus in the athletic campus. Brainard climbs steeply toward Chicago Avenue, but runners only have to go half that distance, turning east again on Highland and then south on Loomis Street before finishing at Porter Avenue.
"They have one difficult last hill right before the finish, which every marathoner hates to hear," Hackett said.
But fans can help the endurance athletes that are Naperville's first marathon finishers conjure up one final push.
"Just the energy and the noise -- because there you'll have a huge amount of spectators cheering you in to the finish," Hackett said. "The volume of spectators carries the runners in."