3 new things you'll see at third Naperville Marathon
Group training runs are just getting started for the third annual Healthy Driven Naperville Marathon and it's shaping up to be quite a different race.
New awards will recognize runners who complete multiple distance races in one season or return to finish in Naperville year after year.
A free post-race drink will be available, not under a tent in the chilly November air, but from at least three downtown restaurants.
And the Nov. 8 race will make even stronger connections to Veterans Day by promoting the nearby Healing Field of Honor.
All of the changes come as organizers have moved the start/finish line to promote more downtown involvement, reversed the direction of the course to create four spectator spots within easy walking distance, and changed the race's official name to the Healthy Driven Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare.
"There are so many changes this year that it's almost like a new event," Race Director Dave Sheble said.
Here's a rundown of the main changes coming for this year's 26.2- and 13.1-mile races in Naperville.
Runners like to collect "bling," Sheble said, so Naperville Marathon organizers will give it to them -- if they're really dedicated.
Every half and full marathon finisher earns a medal. But now those who have completed the marathon each year since it started can earn two additional legacy medals, and runners who finished the race last year can earn one extra award.
Another new award, the Fall Distance Challenge, encourages runners to go the distance not only in Naperville but also at the Fox Valley Marathon on Sept. 20 in St. Charles to earn the "Valley & 'Ville" medal or at both of those races and one of several long-distance races in Chicago to snag the Chicagoland Triple Crown.
At six inches in diameter, these medals given to legacy runners and distance challenge competitors will carry some weight, Sheble said.
"If you're going to take on that kind of challenge, then you deserve something that big," he said.
Race directors also want runners to enjoy their free post-race beverage more than they did last year, when the outdoor setup of the celebration area left them shivering under a tent.
The marathon is partnering with three downtown businesses so far -- Lou Malnati's Pizzeria, Rosebud Italian Specialties and Quigley's Irish Pub -- to give runners indoor options to enjoy a free brew, coffee, tea, soda or hot chocolate.
Lou Malnati's joined in the free drink partnership as a way to contribute to the community event and welcome in hungry runners, spokeswoman Meggie Lindberg said.
"The sooner they can sit and eat something, the better," she said.
Pizza could do the trick, and Lou's will open bright and early at 9 a.m. to start serving it up to the fastest finishers.
The race starts and ends on Eagle Street just south of Aurora Avenue, near the Naperville municipal center. The new location means restaurants like Lou Malnati's are only a few blocks away and leads the entire downtown to become a runner's space for celebrating.
"That's something that's best-served by the local businesses," Sheble said.
This year's marathon takes place during the display of a Healing Field of Honor dedicated to veterans that will be set up Nov. 6 to 12 on Rotary Hill at 443 Aurora Ave. The field will be just west of the starting line, which Sheble said also will be adorned with "a huge array of flags."
Veronica Porter, who is involved with organizing the Healing Field, said marathon spectators will be encouraged to visit the field shortly after the race begins at 7 a.m.
A parade about 7:30 a.m. will walk on Aurora Avenue from Eagle Street to the top of the hill, where marathon fans and others can observe a short ceremony that will recognize the importance of veterans and the sacrifices they make.
"We're excited about our connection with the Healing Field this year," Sheble said. "We want to display and promote what they're doing as much as we can."