2,500 to race in Naperville's new Women's Half Marathon
Because the inaugural Naperville Women's Half Marathon and 5K is a new and untested event, organizers tried not to get their hopes up when registration opened.
If things went well, they predicted the event, which steps off April 24 from North Central College, might draw 750 women.
Instead, 1,700 registered on the first day.
Race director Bill Burke says the quick response set a record for any of the events his company, Premier Event Management, stages across the country, including the Naperville Triathlon.
Burke says organizers now expect roughly 2,500 runners from 24 states to participate in next weekend's race.
"We think this could be something really big in Naperville and even throughout the Western suburbs," he said. "I've always liked Naperville and women's running is such a big part of the fitness landscape, so I thought this would be a cool place to build something new. We have been wanting to do this event for a long time."
He said part of the race's popularity can be traced to its "creative pricing."
With even the smallest 5K races costing roughly $25 to join -- and many half marathons more than $100 -- registration for the Naperville Women's Half Marathon and 5K started at just $1 for the first 50 women who signed up.
Once those were filled, the next 50 slots were priced at $5. For each tier, prices increased by $5. Currently, registration costs $65 and the highest pricing would reach $100.
Not only are the discounts a steal for many runners, but elite runners will have a shot at a $5,000 prize purse.
The North Central College Women's Elite Cup will be held at the end of the half marathon and 5K that start at 7:20 a.m. The race will showcase just how fast women can cover a closed, three-lap, 5,000-meter course on the track at North Central.
The finish of all events and post-race celebrations will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the North Central stadium with food and live entertainment. All race participants will receive a women's T-shirt and a drawstring backpack; half marathoners will receive a 3-inch finisher medal, while the 5K racers will receive a 2-inch finisher medal.
The races, which are sponsored by the Naperville Walking Company, also will benefit two Naperville-based nonprofits: Little Friends and 360 Youth Services.
Little Friends serves children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities through 11 programs, which include three alternative schools, family support and consultation services, vocational training programs, community-based residential services and the Little Friends Center for Autism.
360 Youth Services began 45 years ago, when a group of concerned parents, community and religious leaders recognized the need for professional, youth-centered services in the Naperville community. Today, 360 Youth Services offers substance abuse prevention education, counseling, and housing to youth and families in Naperville and the surrounding areas.
Each group will receive a donation of $5,000 from the race proceeds. Little Friends CEO and President Kristi Landorf said her organization is grateful for the support, especially since the help is straightforward.
"Often with events, organizers will donate to a nonprofit group, but only if that group supplies volunteers for the event or if they sell a certain number of tickets. Bill Burke is all about transparency and he does this really because he's a nice guy.
"I think he recognizes Naperville for the dynamic community that it is. People here want to do healthy activities and they want to give back to their community," she said.
After this year's races, the event is slated to return in May 2017 and registration will begin next month.
Burke says the same pricing tiers will return and racers are encouraged to visit napervillewomenshalf.com to get full details on how to secure the lowest registration fees. He said he hopes the race continues for years to come, to benefit both Naperville runners and local nonprofit groups.
"I think this has the potential to house 4,000 to 6,000 runners and become one of the biggest women's running events in the country," he said.
If you goWhat: Naperville Women's Half Marathon
When: 7 a.m. Sunday, April 24; 5K at 7:20 a.m.
Where: North Central College, Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium, 445 S. Brainerd St., Naperville