Runners, 'Charity Heroes' go the distance for Healthy Driven Naperville races

  • Runners take off Sunday morning at the start of the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. About 4,000 runners took part in the half marathon and accompanying 5K run.

      Runners take off Sunday morning at the start of the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. About 4,000 runners took part in the half marathon and accompanying 5K run. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Alli Wiertel, 10, of Oswego holds a sign encouraging runners Sunday as they pass by during the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon.

      Alli Wiertel, 10, of Oswego holds a sign encouraging runners Sunday as they pass by during the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • From right, Ashley Wolf, 7, Ally Wolf, 10, Katelyn Kritzer, 8, and Nolan Kritzer, 6, all of Naperville, cheer as runners begin the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K Sunday morning.

      From right, Ashley Wolf, 7, Ally Wolf, 10, Katelyn Kritzer, 8, and Nolan Kritzer, 6, all of Naperville, cheer as runners begin the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K Sunday morning. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Runners begin the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K Sunday morning. About 4,000 runners took part in the 5K and an accompanying half marathon, organizers say.

      Runners begin the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K Sunday morning. About 4,000 runners took part in the 5K and an accompanying half marathon, organizers say. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • A runner offers a thumbs-up to fans Sunday morning along the route of the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon.

      A runner offers a thumbs-up to fans Sunday morning along the route of the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Lily Feng, left, and Shirley Xiao, right, celebrate after completing the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K Sunday morning. Both are from Naperville.

      Lily Feng, left, and Shirley Xiao, right, celebrate after completing the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K Sunday morning. Both are from Naperville. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Marisa Hird of Naperville catches her breath Sunday after finishing first in the women's division of the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon.

      Marisa Hird of Naperville catches her breath Sunday after finishing first in the women's division of the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Brian Martin of Wheaton is congratulated by pace bikers after placing first among male runners in the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon Sunday morning.

      Brian Martin of Wheaton is congratulated by pace bikers after placing first among male runners in the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon Sunday morning. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Brian Martin of Wheaton is all smiles after placing first among male runners Sunday in the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon.

      Brian Martin of Wheaton is all smiles after placing first among male runners Sunday in the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Marisa Hird of Naperville placed first in the women's division during the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon Sunday morning.

      Marisa Hird of Naperville placed first in the women's division during the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon Sunday morning. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Marisa Hird of Naperville catches her breath Sunday after finishing first among women runners Sunday in the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon.

      Marisa Hird of Naperville catches her breath Sunday after finishing first among women runners Sunday in the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Maria Martinez of Plainfield and her granddaughter Julissa Rosario, 8, of Naperville enjoy the moment Sunday as they finish the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K.

      Maria Martinez of Plainfield and her granddaughter Julissa Rosario, 8, of Naperville enjoy the moment Sunday as they finish the seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville 5K. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 10/21/2019 6:20 AM

The seventh annual Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon and 5K highlighted both the fresh and the familiar.

Sunday's event featured a first-time winner in Wheaton's Brian Martin, the top male finisher, who crossed in one hour, 15 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's the first thing I have ever won," Martin said.

On the other end of the spectrum, top women's finisher Marisa Hird is building something of a legend when it comes to Naperville running. Hird proved once again she owns her hometown streets Sunday, crossing the finish line with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes. She's also won the Healthy Driven Naperville Marathon in 2014 and the Naperville Women's Half Marathon in 2017.

Hird, who works at the Naperville Running Company, said she's making a return to competition after recently giving birth to a son.

"In a really torturous way, it felt really good," she said. "Running fast hurts, so you kind of have to get yourself in that mindset where it's is going to hurt. But it's worth it. That's what we work for."

It's also nice that she lives right down the street from the starting line, she added.

Runners enjoyed mild weather, which harmonized with the trees displaying fall colors and the reflection of the sky and foliage in the DuPage River.

Race co-director Craig Bixler said 4,000 runners participated, up from 3,850 last year.

He said the community spirit makes the event special.

"Part of that is because we have a 5K at this one, which is much more accessible to everybody and it just adds a lot of energy to the event," he said.

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The presence of participants from local education foundations was strong, with representation from the Naperville Education Foundation and the Indian Prairie Education Foundation.

Edward-Elmhurst Health sponsored the event, with Edward Hospital President and CEO Joe Dant sounding the starting horn.

"Our mission is advancing the health of our communities, and it really shows that, as a sponsor for seven years in a row, we're really focused on wellness and preventive medicine and overall health," Dant said. "Not just taking care of people when they're sick."

Dant said Edward-Elmhurst's presence at the event included 120 employees and patients running, as well as 30 volunteers manning the Gatorade and water station at Mile 12.

Nearby streets flowed with runners and cheering spectators, including Jessica Rauch of Winfield, rooting on her husband, Eric, as her 4-year-old daughter Madeline watched nearby on her Northern Illinois Huskies blanket.

The 5K portion of the event proved a family event for Nicole Hobson of Indianapolis, who pushed her children Brody, 2 months, and Emilia, almost 2, in strollers.

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