Thousands of reasons to run for Naperville marathoners
The name of the third annual Healthy Driven Naperville Marathon took on special significance for cardiologist Steven Lome, one of the 4,500 registered runners in Sunday's event.
"I was so unhealthy, overweight and out of shape that I figured I had to practice what I preach," said the Naperville resident, who lost 50 pounds training for the event last year.
Lome was back for Sunday's marathon, along with thousands of fellow participants who each had their own reason to run.
For Jennifer Lockridge of Downers Grove, the run was made in honor of her 6-month-old daughter Aria, who has Down syndrome.
Her husband, Jason Lockridge, mother, Debbie Neumann, and the Lockridges' three other children cheered her on along the way.
"(We) are showing our kids anything we put our minds to we can do," Jason Lockridge said. "(Aria is) going to do amazing things when she gets older, so we're just trying to build a support network for her."
The marathon got off to a chilly start at 7 a.m., when Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico helped kick off the proceedings at the starting line.
But temperatures grew more moderate by the time the first full marathoner, Scot Ursum of Grand Rapids, Michigan, crossed the finish line.
Ursum, who finished with a time of 2:45:25, even declined the silver warm-up wrapper offered to finishers.
Ursum, 47, a project manager for an office furniture company, said his training on a hilly course in Grand Rapids prepared him for Naperville, with its hilly first half.
"I had a feeling I was in good shape coming into this," he said.
The field of runners was augmented on the sidelines by a passionate group of supporters, rallying their favorites with signs, loud cheers and cowbells.
The runners fed off the crowd's enthusiasm, said Naperville resident Timothy Unzicker, who ran the marathon with his wife, Karri Christiansen.
"You have never met them before. You will never see them again. Yet they are on the curb cheering their brains out," he said. "It gives you that extra push when you are tired."
"Coming out around North Central College, they had the band playing. It really gives you a pep to your step," Christiansen added.
Susan King and her husband, John King, of Lisle, followed Susan's daughter, Lauren Pankowski of Chicago, from station to station.
"It's a lot of fun," Susan King said. "You challenge yourself to get to all the points."
Some audience members retreated to the shelter of a Starbucks to view the proceedings through the store window. Among them was Lori Olander of Bloomingdale, who watched for her husband, Bill Olander, while sipping a skinny vanilla latte.
Following the strenuous run, marathoners were treated by volunteers to a feast that included bananas, pretzels, slices of pizza and Gatorade.
"Four thousand, five hundred crazy people come out at six o'clock in the morning and run 26 miles," Chirico said. "I think that's pretty crazy."
But he emphasized the serious work that goes on behind the scenes preparing for the annual event.
"It really does take about a year of planning," he said.