Steven Rice is seen here running in the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon last July. He is planning to run for the 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon on Sunday in Palos Heights, just as he has done every year since it started.
The 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon kicks off at 7:30 a.m. Sunday beginning at 7600 W. Route 83 in Palos Heights, and Steven Rice will be running in it, as he has every year.
“I’m sure I am not the only one who has run it every year. I’ve been told there are at least three of us, and I have to think there are a lot more. But no one makes a big deal about it,” said Rice, 49, who grew up in Palos Hills and Hickory Hills, and owns Southwest Painting & Decorating Inc. He lived in Oak Lawn until a recent move to Chicago.
As usual, in addition to the half marathon is the 10K run/walk, which starts at 7:40 a.m., followed by the Southwest Special Recreation Association’s Run/Walk/Roll. For the first time this year, there will also be a free Kids’ Dash fun run for children up to 10 years old, which will be held at 10:30 a.m., after all the races are completed. More than 1,300 people have registered for the main races this year.
Rice is a longtime member of the Yankee Runners, one of several running groups he belongs to. The Yankee Runners, with more than 500 members, are named after Yankee Woods in Oak Forest, where they train on Saturday mornings.
He learned about the race through his friendship with Mel Diab, the owner of Running for Kicks in Palos Heights, and co-founder of the half marathon and 10K with Jeff Prestinario. The two men still organize the annual event, with help from many volunteers, and Diab serves as race director.
“I thought the race was a great idea, and I started running in it to help support Mel’s efforts,” said Rice. “I keep doing it because the race is well put-together, and well-supported with first aid, snacks and water.”
“This race is good for the community, too. It raises money for charity, and brings a lot of people in,” he added.
During the first four years of the event, Rice even did double-duty, providing musical entertainment for the crowds after the race with “Defining Silence,” a local band that has since broken up.
“I would get there early and set up my drum kit, then run in the race. As soon as I was done, I would change clothes and join my bandmates,” said Rice.
Rice also noted that another good thing about the out-and-back race, which starts at 76th Avenue and turns around at Archer Road, “is a flat course.”
“It is not that it is easy, but it is a good race to set your personal best time,” he explained.
He set his own personal best time on the course in 2011, at 1:32:42.
“I’m not expecting to beat it this year,” he said with a laugh. “That was a long time ago and I was younger then.
“But it is run at a good time of year to kick off the season,” said Rice, who likes to run two or three half marathons each year, and at least one marathon.
He has run the Chicago Marathon more than 14 times, and the Boston Marathon twice.
Rice trains with the Yankee Runners every Saturday, in all weather, running on paved paths in Yankee Woods for most of the year. When the paths become snow-covered and icy during the winter, they run on trails through forest preserves in Palos Park, near McCarthy Road. He runs with other groups on weeknights.
Although it is the 10th anniversary of the race, and his 10th time running it, Rice doesn’t expect anything other than the usual celebrations afterward.
“The Yankee Runners always have a little cook-out afterwards, and we’ll just have some hamburgers and enjoy the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s always a good time.”
Registration and more information about the Southwest Half Marathon and 10K may be obtained at www.southwesthalfmarathon.com.