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Dress rehearsal weekend for Chicago Marathon under way

Adrian Guerr40 hits finish line Saturday '20-miler' training run Elk Grove Village. | Sun-Times Media

Adrian Guerra, 40, hits the finish line Saturday at the "20-miler" training run in Elk Grove Village. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 23, 2013 6:50AM

With race day three weeks away, it’s dress rehearsal weekend for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

The first of three, 20-mile organized runs to prepare athletes for the Oct. 13 marathon took place Saturday at Busse Woods Forest Preserve in Elk Grove Village. Two more will follow on Sunday, including the Magellan Ready to Run 20-Miler, a lakefront trek from Hollywood Avenue to Jackson Park organized by the Chicago Area Runners Association.

The 20-miler in Elk Grove attracted about 800 runners, the largest field in its four-year history. With temperatures in the mid-50s, virtually no wind and sunny skies, conditions were “pretty much perfect,” race director Jonathan Cain said.

So why 20 miles? And why now?

“A lot of training programs you’ll find say to do your 20-mile run three weeks before your marathon” and then scale back on your weekly mileage, said Cain, a former collegiate runner who now coaches at Elk Grove High School and works for Chicago Athlete Magazine. “Most people here are obviously doing Chicago, so this is the weekend to do it.”

The CARA and Elk Grove runs aren’t timed. They’re a way for runners to be supported with water and sports drinks at aid stations – and run alongside “pace leaders” who run consistent numbers of minutes per mile.

A third 20-miler — the Fox Valley Marathon Races Fall Final 20 on Sunday in St. Charles — also will have aid stations and pace leaders, but runners’ times will be kept.

Stephanie Jurek, 35, of Arlington Heights, said she’s more than ready to taper her training after a summer of waking up at 5 a.m. to run before her kids, ages 3, 6 and 9, wake up. She clocked herself at 3:12 for the 20-mile run through Busse Woods, a sign she might just reach her goal of breaking four hours in the Chicago Marathon.

“I’m ready for this to be over. I’m not a morning person,” said Jurek, who has run two marathons, both in Chicago. “The pacers really helped me a lot. I did better than I thought I would.”

Despite the advice that this weekend should mark runners’ last long runs, some still plan to step up the mileage before Oct. 13.

“I’ll do one more. I’ll do 24,” said Adrian Guerra, 40, of Oak Forest, who finished in just over three hours.

But Guerra has loftier goals beyond turning in a sub-four hour performance in Chicago next month. “I’m training for an Ironman in 2014,” he said.


Twitter: @FuscoChris

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