Runners grateful for dry run at milestone Fox Valley Marathon
As starting time approached for the 10th edition of the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, it appeared the field of about 3,000 runners might have to dodge raindrops Sunday morning as well as puddles that stood along the route.
But the threatening skies only delivered sparse sprinkles, and the marathon proved a dry run. By the time the half-marathoners began crossing the finish line -- competitors had the option of a full marathon, half-marathon or Fall Final 20-mile run -- spectators were abandoning umbrellas and likely thinking about sunblock.
For Craig Bixler, who founded the marathon with fellow St. Charles resident Dave Sheble, it was time to reflect on what it means to reach the 10-year milestone for an event that began with about 900 runners.
"It's incredible what the whole event has grown into from what was just going to be a little fun hobby. It's just a great emotional thing to see," Bixler said.
He noted that elements have been added to the event over the years, the latest being the Progressive Marathon, in which runners can run 1 mile 25 times on their own from May to mid-September and the last 1.2 miles on Saturday and Sunday.
Sheble said the event involves cooperation from 12 different entities, including five cities, five park districts and Kane County.
"I've got the middle of Geneva closed right down for an hour and 42 minutes," he said.
The 26.2-mile course, which wound its way from St. Charles, through Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora and Aurora before threading its way back to the beginning, served as a tune up for a number of runners preparing for the Chicago Marathon, as well as qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
The first male runner to cross the finish line Sunday was Nathaniel Kollias of Houston, who collapsed to the ground in exhaustion at race's end.
Kollias, a Wheaton native prepping for the Boston Marathon, was thankful for the relatively cool temperatures.
"I've been training in 100-degree heat all summer," he said.
Regarding his performance Sunday, he said, "I just listened to my body."
The top female finisher, Heather Stevens of Chicago, completed the course under the radar, since the biker tracking her pulled off the course and officials at the finish line didn't see her cross.
Stevens, who ran at both Hinsdale Central High School and George Washington University, said she completed the course in three hours and 11 minutes.
"I was hoping for a 3:10 or below, but I'll take it," she said.