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Athlete says ‘It’s great to hear people cheering’

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Walk, Run or Rollers ready to rock at Half Marathon

Brad Ramirez has no special plans to train for thepage3 2cols BRadandLoriChesna 040915The picture of athletic confidence, Palos Heights resident Brad “B-Rad” Ramirez wears medals and ribbons he won at past races and mugs for the camera with SWSRA Executive Director Lori Chesna last week at his home, mere blocks from the Walk, Run or Roll starting line near City Hall. Photo by Tim Hadac. Walk, Run or Roll race in four weeks, other than a few sit-ups and pull-ups.

After all, bicycling the mile or so to and from his part-time job as a bagger at the Jewel-Osco in Palos Heights, as well as shagging shopping carts in the parking lot, keeps his size-17 feet moving.
Besides, the half-mile race is for fun, said Ramirez, 29, of Palos Heights.
“There’s not really any competitiveness,” he said. “It’s just fun. Even if you don’t make it to the finish line, it’s great to hear people cheering when they call your name.”
Ramirez—or B-Rad, as he is known to his friends—is one of dozens of athletes with disabilities, physical or developmental, planning to participate in the race, which is part of the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon, set for Sunday, May 3, on a course that starts and ends at Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive. He has participated since the race started in 2009.
B-Rad is a longtime client—since age 5—of South West Special Recreation Association (SWSRA), an Alsip-based not-for-profit that provides recreation programming, leisure activities and services year-round for children and adults with disabilities.
“That’s what’s so cool about the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon,” said SWSRA Executive Director Lori Chesna. “When [Half Marathon founders and directors] Mel Diab and Jeff Prestinario asked SWSRA to actually put this race on, I thought it was just so awesome.
“For two community leaders to come to us and say, ‘We want our race to be all-inclusive’ was something that I was taken aback by,” Chesna added. “[Organizations representing people with disabilities] tend to have to go and knock on doors and ask, ‘Hey, can we be included in your event?’ Really, I was so touched by what Mel and Jeff did. It meant a lot to us, and it says a lot about them.”
SWSRA is also a designated beneficiary of a portion of the funds raised by the half marathon. The American Cancer Society is the other.
Chesna said that Walk, Run or Roll participants—athletes and volunteers alike—get “an adrenaline rush” from the event, and she encouraged everyone to visit swsra.com online to learn more about the race, including registration information for athletes with disabilities (as young as age 8), as well as those who may be interested in volunteering. SWSRA will benefit from a portion of the funds raised by the half marathon.


Big race update
Organizers of the 2015 First Midwest Bank Half Marathon offered a sunny forecast last Thursday at a planning meeting held at the Palos Heights Recreation Center.
Registration numbers are climbing daily and appear to be on pace to exceed last year’s totals, when more than 1,000 runners competed in the 13.1-mile race and more than 200 participated in the event’s 10K race. As many as 1,600 runners are expected to participate this year, organizers said.
The big race starts at 7:30 a.m., with the 10K and Walk, Run or Roll starting minutes after that.
“Everything is looking quite good at this point,” Prestinario said. “We’re a well-oiled machine. We don’t have any blemishes, and we don’t want any blemishes. We are all about safety, safety, safety and ensuring everyone has a good time.”
Volunteers are still needed to help staff the race. Currently, 41 are signed up, but 200 are needed to perform a range of tasks, such as staffing water stations, refreshment booths, gear check tables and more. Opportunities start as early as 5:30 a.m. on race day and run until 1 p.m.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to visit firstmidwesthalfmarathon.com for details or stop by the Rec Center, 6601 W. 127th St., Palos Heights, for a volunteer application. Forms are due by Wednesday.
“Without great volunteers, we could not have a successful race,” Diab said. “They are very important, just as our sponsors and other partners are.”