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Work under way for new Naperville Marathon race

Runners take off 15th annual Naperville Turkey Trot Thursday Nov. 22 2012. | Mike Mantucc~ For Sun-Times Media

Runners take off in the 15th annual Naperville Turkey Trot on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 15, 2013 6:15AM

Naperville seems to host just about everything, from huge gatherings like Ribfest to small art shows, and now the city is adding a marathon to its ever-growing list of events.

The 2013 inaugural Naperville Marathon is scheduled for next fall on Nov. 10, and will be a qualifying race for the famous Boston Marathon. While Naperville enthusiasts have kicked around the idea for years, Kris Hartner, owner of the Naperville Running Company, said “somebody needed to come forward and take charge.”

“The guys running this have organized the Fox Valley Marathon, which runs through St. Charles, Batavia, and Geneva, and they know what they’re doing,” Hartner said. “I met with them this week as we plan to be one of the sponsors. A lot of people have talked about this for years, and it’s going to be exciting.”

Hartner said one of the challenges of hosting a marathon involves “creating a course that works” and also holding the race within the framework of the city, given traffic issues and existing schedules.

Bob Hackett, 57, of St. Charles is one of a five-member team representing Naper Events LLC, which is putting together the race, which will be capped at 4,000 runners. Hackett agreed that scheduling conflicts within the city’s agenda is a major obstacle.

“We tried to do this in 2012 and got involved a little too late,” he said. “The city of Naperville has just a crazy calendar of events and we had to sit down and coordinate something that worked. The special events group there and the City Council were just outstanding and went out of their way to work with us.”

The race will feature both a full and half marathon and take place on the south end of the city. The course will start near 95th Street and Book Road, and continue through streets into the Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve before returning to the streets and neighborhood paths to finish near the starting point.

Hackett promises the race will provide a “fast course.”

“Given that it will be fall, there won’t be heat issues to contend with and the course will be relatively flat with a good surface,” he said. “Those things make for a fast time and people can use this race as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.”

Hackett said the Fox Valley Marathon has attracted runners from all over the country in the past, and believes the Naperville race will do the same.

“These races add to the local economy as participants visit the hotels and restaurants and we find that Realtors love them, too,” he said. “People will get to see the community and all the things Naperville has to offer. Realtors tell us people see these places and some decide they’d like to move there.”

Mayor A. George Pradel said the city is excited about hosting the event, and agreed it will provide an economic boost for local hotels and restaurants.

“Naperville is the ‘the city that runs’ and you see people running everywhere you go,” Pradel said. “You look at the participation we have here for something as small as the ‘Turkey Trot’ and it’s just incredible. Chicago has its own marathon and we can definitely handle one here in Naperville as well. We’re thrilled to host this, and it’s going to entice people to visit our community and its businesses.”

Hartner said a few of his staff are primed to compete.

“One of our staff was the number two runner from Illinois in the Chicago Marathon,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of pretty good guys that work here.”

Chicago Marathon officials welcome the addition of another race to the area, noting that greater involvement increases opportunities to share organizational information as well as promote a healthy lifestyle.

“We learned about Naperville’s plans for a marathon on Wednesday and we feel the race will be a nice complement to what we already do,” said Carey Pinkowski, executive race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. “There are a lot of smaller market races in the area, including Milwaukee, Rockford and the Quad Cities, and Grand Rapids, and we think these are all positive things.”

Pinkowski said he has served as director of the race since 1990 and that its growth and sponsorship seems to know no bounds, making it unlikely the Naperville Marathon will have a negative effect on Chicago’s race.

“We tapped out on our entries in 90 days back in 2010, 30 days in 2011, and just six days in 2012,” he said. “This past year, we had a record 37,450 athletes finish the race and participation and sponsorship continue to grow despite the poor economy.”

Sharing logistical and organizational information remains a constant focus for organizers of the Chicago Marathon, Pinkowski said, with race officials from Boston, New York, and other cities frequently visiting Chicago during its marathon to view and discuss staging, emergency medical procedures, and other issues.

Pinkowski sees the Naperville event as an opportunity to add even more runners to the Chicago event in years to come.

“Someone who is trying this for the first time might feel more comfortable running in a 4,000-person race as opposed to 37,000 people,” he said. “I see this as a way for novices to build up confidence before entering a larger race.

“To me, it sounds like Naperville will have a lot of support for its race and that’s just another indication of how popular running is,” he said.

Registration for the Naperville race will open on Jan. 28, 2013.

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