Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Half-marathon bosses iron out the rough edges

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions


First Midwest Bank Half Marathon co-founder Mel Diab said that 99 percent of his event is “good stuff.’’

But the race committee convened Friday to talk about the 1 percent that is not-so-good stuff and to try to make it better.

The eighth running of the half-marathon took place May 3 and 26 days later, members of the event’s committee got together for a 90-minute skull session in Palos Heights on what went right and what went wrong plus what they need to do to make it better for the ninth race in 2016.

Most of the time, these post-race meetings feature a lot of talk about smaller items that don’t affect a lot of people but this year, there were a couple of blemishes that founders Diab and Jeff Prestinario want cleaned up.

One of the biggest gaffes in the history of the race was when Warrenville’s Kyle Brady won the race but no one knew it.

This was the second year that a 10K race was also run with the half marathon and some of the faster marathoners were passing up the slower 10K runners.

Prestinario realized this mistake could happen and told officials from Special Events Management.  So they had a guy yelling at the runners for the 10K runners to go into a chute at the left and for the half-marathoners to go into the right chute.

As bigger groups were crossing the finish line, Brady was mixed in with the 10K runners and didn’t get recognized as the winner right away. He wasn’t able to be in the ceremonial breaking of the tape in victory. Those in charge of the timekeeping weren’t sure of his official time because of the mistake. 

“He came in the wrong chute and we didn’t know if he was a 10K runner or in the half marathon,” Prestinario said Friday. “We had different people coming in there. There was a guy there [directing the runners] but he was confused.”

Adding to the confusion was that the 10K runners were supposed to have different colored numbers on their bibs than the half-marathoners but that changed when there was an abundance of people wanting to change races at the 11th hour and officials had to use the extra half-marathon bibs for those extra 10K runners.

Diab said next year he wants to see signs directing runners as they get close to the finish line.

“We need it clear that the 10K runners go to one side and the half-marathon runners go to the other side,” he said. “We had that in 2014. We didn’t have it this year. Let’s put the signs back up.’’

Another issue that came up was some of the music that a D.J. played before the race.

“I heard the ‘F’ word and some other swear words,” Prestinario said. “It was hip-hop type of stuff and we were looking for higher-energy type of stuff. We can improve that for next year. Having swear words at a family event isn’t right. I heard some goofy song and heard some of the words but the guy did cut the music off after one of the swear words. But that should never happen.’’

Others on the committee said that some of the music in the middle and end of the race was appropriate and uplifting.

Prestanario said one year, the race had the theme from “Rocky” to pump up the runners and he would like to see that brought back.’’

Another area Diab wants to improve on is the relationship between race officials and residents of the Edelweiss in the Park subdivision in Palos Park, who deal with the inconvenience of the race every year.

“There are not many complaints but there are a few,” Diab said. “I had one upset gentleman complain to me and when I explained to him how much good this race does for the community and the money we raise for great causes.  He some things I can’t say here. He said he didn’t care. He didn’t want to be inconvenienced for one minute.

“You can’t please everybody. It’s impossible. We would love to please everybody but we know that’s not realistic. We have a good batting average. I think that 99 percent of this race is good stuff.’’

Diab said that he planned on attending a town hall meeting with residents of Edelweiss in the coming weeks to try to see what he could do to smooth things over.

“I might have to wear a bulletproof vest,’’ Diab joked. “But I will talk to them and see what I can do to help them.’’