Organizers of the first marathon in Naperville are envisioning the course they've charted from the city's downtown through 36 subdivisions and two forest preserves to be 26.2 miles of aid stations, supportive family members, cheering schoolchildren, helpful volunteers and even Bollywood dancers.
The entire route won't be lined with spectators, when the Inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon gets off and running at 7 a.m. Sunday.
If You GoWhat: Inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon
When: 7 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 10
Where: Starts and ends near the North Central College Residence Hall and Recreation Center at Porter Avenue and Loomis Street
Who: Roughly 3,500 runners; sponsored by Naper Events, LLC
Cost: Free to watch
But Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator Mike Wasilewski has been dedicating his volunteer service to recruiting homeowners associations, school groups, church communities, businesses and other "creative people and excitable people" to support runners Sunday morning in the inaugural race.
While many fans cheering specific competitors will crowd the start/finish line at Porter Avenue and Loomis Street on North Central College's campus, Wasilewski, a Naperville police officer, wants runners to hear the applause at other locations as well.
"How can we create a buzz and enthusiasm and create that excitement?" is the question he said he's been working to answer. "I think the runners feed on that. It's exciting to see people make eye contact or give a thumbs-up."
A marathon is at its best when it's not just about the runners, but the entire community, race director Bob Hackett said. The neighborhood outreach program Wasilewski is leading will help people associated with the subdivisions, schools and churches along the course play a role in the race -- even if they're not the type to run 26.2 or 13.1 miles.
"That'll start to build neighborhood competitiveness as this progresses," Hackett said. "It's really about neighborhood involvement."
Employees, customers and friends of Lululemon Athletica in downtown Naperville are locating their cheering station about the 8.75-mile mark, wanting to cheer both half marathoners and marathoners from Old Farm Greenway just before the two courses split, the store's Jillie Johnston said.
Another key spot marathoners are sure to feel a spectator presence will be around the halfway mark, where students from Kennedy Junior High and Ranch View Elementary will be stationed outside the younger children's school.
Kennedy physical education teacher Kim Blitek said creating a cheering section would give students a great opportunity to observe adults making healthy lifestyle choices and support a community event.
"It's just a great way for them to see that big picture and see people out there making these positive choices," Blitek said. "Just go out there and have some fun and cheer on those who are running."
After passing about mile 13, marathoners head into Greene Valley Forest Preserve, a hillier section of the course that has thrown many a runner for a loop and gotten even Naperville natives lost during training runs.
Getting lost won't be a concern come race day -- as volunteer course marshals, route markings and speedier runners will guide the way. But heading into the second leg of a marathon, Blitek said she predicts competitors will appreciate some extra noise, possibly from students with musical instruments.
"That'll be one of the toughest parts," Blitek said about the mileage in Greene Valley. "It should be a good point where they'll need that extra little boost to mentally keep going."
A group of 40 to 50 volunteers from Grace United Methodist Church will mark another mentally significant spot on the route: mile 25.
With water, medical aid and portable toilets -- even a few wheelchairs just as a joke -- church member Julie Lichter said the Grace group will give runners an encouraging push toward the finish line.
"We will be there to give them water and cheer them on to that last victory mile," Lichter said.
The route promises an interlude of dancers, too, but the crew from Bollywood Rhythms studio on Quincy Avenue in Naperville still is working with Wasilewski to select the perfect spot, studio owner Bhagya Nagesh said. Music will join the dancers' visual spectacle, so Nagesh needs a spot where a sound system can be set up.
About 30 to 40 dancers, both children and adults, have been practicing to perform "glimpses of dancing when the runners are going" by in a fast and active style featuring a lot of motion and jumping.
"We thought it was good to take all the kids and show them so they could try (running) in the coming years," said Nagesh, whose husband Nagesh Hagalvad is running his fourth marathon on Sunday. "We want all the kids to be physically active. I have a son myself, whom I would love to push into some kind of running and activities."
Wasilewski welcomes even those not signed up to find their way to the route Sunday morning and offer an enthusiastic presence.
"This is more of an informal style of volunteering, but it's a way that you can really kind of let your creativity go," Wasilewski said.
Maps of the marathon and half marathon routes are available at naperville26.com. The city also has suggested spectator spots at Meadow Glens Park, River Woods Elementary and Veterans Park, providing information about parking and handicapped accessibility at naperville.il.us/napervillemarathon.aspx.