Donating to charity could be the surest way to snag a spot in the second annual Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon, race directors said Wednesday.
Registration for the Nov. 9 race through the charity runner program begins at 8 a.m. Monday in advance of the general signup period, which starts at 6 a.m. Saturday, March 8.
Runners will be able to grab 725 slots available through 26 charities -- 10 of them based in or near Naperville and 16 with a national reach -- by committing to donate between $150 and $500 to the nonprofit organization.
In some cases, the charities offer a $10 or 50 percent discount from the $115 it will cost runners to go the full distance of 26.2 miles or the $85 it will cost to sign up for the half marathon. But race directors say a guaranteed race entry is the biggest thing charities offer runners itching to be one of 7,000 in this year's field.
Last year's inaugural marathon sold out all 2,900 spots not reserved for charity runners in 14 hours. It also raised $293,000 for 26 charities through the efforts of roughly 600 charity runners.
Race Director Bob Hackett said organizers are capitalizing on the high level of interest to increase the field to 7,000 runners and make charity registration the first available way in.
"We want to give the charities as much exposure as we can prior to opening up early registration for the general runners," Hackett said.
Edward Hospital, the marathon's title sponsor for the second year, is offering a separate option in which runners donate a minimum of $495 and get free entry into the distance of their choice. The rest of the charities, such as Little Friends, Holiday Meals on Wheels, Illinois Independent Living Center, St. Baldrick's Foundation, the Naperville YMCAs and the Les Turner ALS Foundation, set their own minimum donations and choose what other benefits they will offer runners.
Each charity has between 10 and 30 slots available, and some offer training programs, runner clinics, a T-shirt or a pre-race dinner.
Renee Miklosik, manager of special events and volunteerism for Little Friends, a Naperville-based nonprofit that serves children and adults with autism or developmental disabilities, said the race is not only an opportunity to raise funds, but also a chance to put Little Friends' name, logo and mission in front of thousands who otherwise might not know of the organization.
"If we can connect runners to you, hopefully that's a lifelong thing," Race Director Craig Bixler told charity representatives gathered Wednesday morning at the Kroehler Family YMCA in downtown Naperville.
The so-called "charity week" of registration can begin Monday now that the Naperville City Council has approved the route for this year's races. Both courses will be entirely on city streets within 26 subdivisions in Naperville, eliminating sections in Springbrook Prairie and Greene Valley forest preserves that offered a change of scenery and challenging hills to runners in the first Naperville Marathon last November.
Hackett said organizers are sticking to streets this year to help accommodate more runners. The race's starting and finishing location has moved, too, from North Central College to Hillside Road south of Naperville Central High School.
While some council members questioned organizers' ability to double the number of race entries, Hackett said they are confident they can handle the larger field.