Man running 10 marathons in 10 days to feed suburban families on Thanksgiving

  • Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream runs laps around the Bartlett Jewel-Osco parking lot Friday to raise awareness of the charitable organization The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago and its effort to provide Thanksgiving meals for 2,020 families in need this year.

      Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream runs laps around the Bartlett Jewel-Osco parking lot Friday to raise awareness of the charitable organization The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago and its effort to provide Thanksgiving meals for 2,020 families in need this year. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream is running 10 marathons in 10 days to raise awareness of the charitable organization The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago and its effort to provide Thanksgiving meals for 2,020 families in need this year.

      Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream is running 10 marathons in 10 days to raise awareness of the charitable organization The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago and its effort to provide Thanksgiving meals for 2,020 families in need this year. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream wrote the number of people affected by poverty in Bartlett during his marathon Friday at the Jewel-Osco.

      Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream wrote the number of people affected by poverty in Bartlett during his marathon Friday at the Jewel-Osco. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream gets ready to run his eighth marathon in a row Friday morning at the Jewel-Osco in Bartlett.

      Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream gets ready to run his eighth marathon in a row Friday morning at the Jewel-Osco in Bartlett. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/24/2020 4:54 PM

Robert Swiderski of Carol Stream is putting his distance-running experience to use by tackling 10 marathons in 10 days throughout the Northwest suburbs to raise awareness of an effort to feed 2,020 families in need this Thanksgiving.

Swiderski, 48, is a board member of The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago, started five years ago by Brian Walsh of Streamwood to honor the memory of his late mother. It's currently registering people for its Run for Hope fundraiser.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Though Swiderski has run significantly longer distances than a marathon in a single go, his strategy of completing 10 of them consecutively is being done at a more relaxed pace to enable his endurance and allow others to join him for shorter portions of the 1- to 3-mile loops he's circling each day.

"I'm really throttling back and not completely exhausting myself," he said of the 11- or 12-minute miles he's been running.

Nevertheless, his body has been gradually feeling the daily toll it's been taking over the past week.

On Saturday he's running his ninth day in an area of Busse Woods adjacent to Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village. On Sunday, he will complete his 10th marathon in Crystal Lake, the hometown of his running club, Ornery Mule Racing.

The goal has been to represent all the communities within The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago's jurisdiction -- Streamwood, Hanover Park, Bartlett, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Elk Grove, Elgin and South Elgin.

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Because some of the marathons, like Saturday's, are taking in more than one community at a time, he had the ability to round off his 10 with a run in his own hometown of Carol Stream and with the last in Crystal Lake for his running club.

At each location, he's found an all-important home base around which to run and where others can easily find him. Sometimes he's been alone and other times with company. The longest distance anyone else has joined him was a half-marathon.

As with other noncontact, outdoor sports, Swiderski believes running has had a boost in popularity from the pandemic with many opportunities for exercise restricted. He said he's seen many more people running and walking during his own runs since the spring.

The Basket Brigade is hoping that popularity will assist its related fundraiser -- the Run for Hope.

A virtual event this year due to the pandemic, the Basket Brigade Run for Hope allows participants to set their own goals, pace and criteria for success, Walsh said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The $95 registration fee provides a printable race bib, finisher's certificate, medal, T-shirt, goodies from the event's sponsors -- and the knowledge it has funded the Thanksgiving meal for two families in need.

Swiderski said his own inspiration for joining the organization four years ago came from the difference that help he received in 2008 made to his attitude and sense of hope.

"Kindness matters," he said. "You never know what someone else is going through."

And Swiderski continues to find inspiration in the help he sees the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago provide families at Thanksgiving. In fact, he breaks down at the memory of a particular delivery.

"Kids would say, 'Mom, now we've got more food. Do you think we can eat again today? I'm still hungry.'"

Walsh said his impetus to start the organization began when his mother was being treated for a long illness in the intensive care unit at the University of Chicago six years ago.

When his family ended up with an extra turkey that Thanksgiving, they turned it into the basis of a meal for the doctors and nurses who spent their holiday treating patients like his mother.

The last step in creating an organization to help families in need each Thanksgiving came after Walsh heard philanthropist and motivational speaker Tony Robbins start the International Basket Brigade.

The name of Walsh's organization honors that inspiration, but there is no actual relationship between the two charities, he said.

All the information people need to donate, register for the Run for Hope, volunteer as a driver, or nominate a family for assistance can be found on the organization's website at basketbrigade.net.

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