Healthy Driven Naperville race matures into proven charitable event
Organizers and volunteers, racers and residents -- everyone knows the drill by now when it comes to this year's Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon and 5K.
The distance-running event is heading into its seventh year, and for the first time it features the same two courses as runners followed last time around -- no reroutes necessary, race director Craig Bixler said.
"It just shows the maturation of the race," he said.
Roughly 4,200 runners and walkers are anticipated to participate in the event beginning at 7 a.m. Oct. 20.
Their morning of exercise, endurance and enthusiasm will result in road closures on parts of Aurora, Charles, Elizabeth, Jackson, Jefferson, Porter and Tupelo avenues; Mill, Ewing and Main streets; and Emerald, Spruce, Hobson Mill and Hillside drives, among others.
But volunteers and police officers helped the public avoid these same closures last year with no "squeaky spots" that caused major backups, Bixler said.
"Everybody was pretty happy," he said.
Participants also have proved satisfied with the decision to swap out a full marathon of 26.2 miles for a 5K of 3.1.
This will be the third year for the shorter race, which Bixler said has proved to be "a big success story" for participating charities. Groups that benefit schools, cancer patients, people with disabilities and pets and a gift mart that provides Christmas presents for the needy are all involved in this year's race, along with the Edward Foundation, which supports the race's title sponsor, Edward Elmhurst Health.
And all of these charities can recruit people who don't have the time or fitness level to complete a race as demanding as a marathon.
"While we hated to lose the marathon, it is nice to open up the event to a lot more people," Bixler said.
A record 555 of those people registered to race are involved with the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation, which benefits Indian Prairie Unit District 204. Students, alumni, staff members and other supporters of the district's 33 schools are all among those training and fundraising.
"It's really becoming a great tradition," said Elisha Johnson, executive director of the educational foundation. "It's something that our community loves to get involved with, from not only a health and wellness perspective, but also as an opportunity for such a large geographically based district to have the opportunity to come together."
The PATH to Recovery Foundation is involved this year as well, seeking to raise money to support families of people with substance use disorder. President Don Kalish said the organization serves in an air traffic controller-type of role for parents or relatives of people struggling with substance use by guiding them to services such as detox, rehab, recovery or job training and resources such as free drug testing kits, fentanyl testing strips and doses of the opioid overdose antidote Narcan.
Kalish said the PATH to Recovery Foundation hopes to raise $25,000 through a team of at least 29 charity runners involved in the race.
"We don't have any normal sources of revenue. We've gotten some very small grants," Kalish said. "Because we deal with families, it's not a niche that's out there for people who have grants. We're going to get more than half the money we need this year just from this race."
Aside from helping charities raise funds, the race becomes a celebration of fitness and well-being. Organizers reward participants with a variety of medals -- one for finishing, another for completing the same race multiple years in a row.
New this year, awards also will be given to the top 10% of finishers in all age groups, instead of only to the fastest three people in each group.
Runners can visit a booth in the race village to check their finish time and determine if they qualify for an age-group award.
"We want the event to be fun for the runners," Bixler said.