Glenview boy, 9, already high on leader boards in road races

Jake Breen is like a lot of runners when he's out there on the course.

“I think about finishing,” he said.

His times, though, are unlike those of most runners.

At 9 years old, the Willowbrook Elementary School third-grader placed fourth out of 303 entries, men and women of all ages, at the Marklund Run, Walk, Stroll & Roll 5K in Bloomingdale on April 24.

Jake's time of 21 minutes, 42 seconds ranks him well inside the 10th percentile of male athletes at 5 kilometers — all male athletes, not only 9-year-olds, according to

According to, for a 10-year-old an “elite” time is 21:07, and an “advanced” time is 23:35. tells us the average 5K time for a male up to 15 years old is 34:43.

Talking to Jake, it doesn't seem he thinks his performances are special.

“I think it's good, but I can do better,” he said.

“This year I'm trying to beat 21 minutes. I don't know about next year. I'll try to cut a minute every year,” he said.

Among other top-three finishes over his two-year competitive career, he's placed first in his age group at the 2021 Liberty Loop in Northbrook, the 2021 Rock ‘N' Run the Runway in Wheeling and the 2022 Bunny Rock 5K in Chicago on April 16, where he finished 16th out of 545 finishers at 21:51.16. Glenbrook South junior Henry Lato won at 18:17.97.

In Bloomingdale on April 24, Jake's closest pursuer under 10 years old was his kid brother, Chase, 7, at 29:33. Chase's personal record is 28:10.91, at the Bunny Rock 5K.

Chase has a basic yet unimpeachable philosophy toward his performance.

“I think about what I messed up, mostly, and I try to fix that mistake so I can get a better time,” he said.

The boys, each of whom also play in Glenview Youth Baseball and for the FC1 travel soccer program, are part of a running family, led by parents Justin and Sarah.

“At first Jake would keep up with me, but he started going faster than me this year, so I started chasing him,” Justin Breen said. “I can win my age groups, but I can't keep up with him anymore.”

Their next scheduled race is the Loop the Lakes 5K Run/Walk in Vernon Hills on May 15.

Jake likes the independent nature of distance running, where he is responsible for his own outcome. He enjoys finding his right pace before he goes “all-out at the end,” he said.

The third-grader's pace in Bloomingdale of 6 minutes, 59 seconds per mile translates to 6:56.57 over 1600 meters.

In a bit of pie-in-the-sky extrapolation, the Illinois Elementary School Association record for the 1600, the IESA's longest race for seventh- and eighth-graders, is 4:31.75 by former Hersey High School superstar and 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials participant Kevin Havel, when he was in eighth grade.

Wheeling High's Jorge Torres, who owns the IESA record for seventh-grade boys at 4:37.78, was a two-time NCAA cross country champion at Colorado and the 2006 USA 10,000-meter champion, according to the Team USA website.

While Jake has told his parents his goal is to win an Olympic gold medal, his current motivation to run is the right reason.

“I just think running is fun,” he said.

Sarah and Justin Breen of Glenview started taking children Chase, left, and Jake running with them. Now the parents struggle to keep up. Courtesy of the Breen family
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