Nearly 2,800 women will take on the same challenge Sunday morning in Naperville, growing stronger -- and sweatier -- in the process during the second annual Naperville Women's Half Marathon.
The 13.1-mile race steps off at 7 a.m. from North Central College, where another 1,400 women will begin a shorter route to shared success along a 5K course at 7:30 a.m.
Hosted by Premier Event Management, a Louisiana-based race production firm, the second-year event offers female runners a course all their own and a challenge to complete together.
"There's something special about women-only events that you just don't have with coed events," Premier Event Management's owner Bill Burke said.
Runners from 34 states are signed up to take part in that special something as part of a combined field in the two races of 4,200 registrants. This year's crowd will be larger than last year's, when the race drew about 2,400 registered runners total. Burke said he hopes to attract 5,000 next year.
Race weekend begins with a Friday evening speech by Mirinda Carfrae, an Australian professional triathlete and three-time Ironman triathlon world champion. Her free presentation about her running, swimming and biking accomplishments -- along with an audience Q and A and a photo and autograph session -- is set to begin at 6 p.m. at North Central's Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave.
Racers will pick up their numbered bibs and freebies such as a women's-cut technical running T-shirt during a packet pickup and race expo from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Naperville Running Company, 34 W. Jefferson Ave.
And then it's time to run. Several roads near the North Central campus and along the course largely south and east of the start will be closed Sunday morning, while volunteers and Naperville police officers help drivers find alternate routes.
This year's course begins and ends in Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium, then winds as far north as 5th Avenue, as far south as Hobson Road, as far east as Olesen Drive and as far west as Washington Street.
Burke said Sunday's forecast for a cool morning at the beginning of a 60-degree day is a welcome one.
"If you're running in a half marathon," he said, "that's going to be really great for you."