Husband and wife victorious in Southwest Half Marathon

  • Written by Alison Moran

Art and Jane Bareikis are first married couple to win race in same year

By Alison Moran

Two southwest suburban residents made history last Sunday in Palos Heights when they became the first husband and wife duo to win their respective gender divisions of the Southwest Half Marathon in the same year.

More than 1,300 people participated in the day's events, which included the half marathon, 10k, half-mile Run, Walk or Roll for persons with special needs, and 50-yard Kids Dash. More than 660 people ran in the 13.1-mile signature event.

Art Bareikis, of Crestwood, finished first overall with a blistering time of 1:10:51, and average of 5:21 per mile. The victory was the second consecutive in the half for the Latvian-born Bareikis, who won the 2017 incarnation in a slightly greater time than it took him to finish this year's race.

Jane Bareikis, Art's wife, placed sixth overall and won the women's division with an equally impressive time of 1:20:11. Both Bareikis' times put them among elite-level half marathon runners.

And the Bareikis' son, 2-year-old Armin, made his debut in the 50-yard Kids Dash, guided by his mother. The tot finished in the middle of the pack, but then again, young Armin is just getting started.

The most impressive performance of the day may have been Jane's. The Kenyan-born began training for long distance running in April 2017.

“Last year, I watched Art in the half-marathon, and l thought, 'I could do this,'” Bareikis said. “The second day of training, l thought, l could be a good runner. And then l was addicted. This is amazing, to come in first among women.”

Jane was trained by Art, a track coach at Oak Forest High School and a physical education teacher at Oak Forest's Arbor Park Middle School. They met when Art was training runners in Iten, Kenya.

And will little Armin follow in his parents' footsteps?

“If he wants to, that would be great,” said Jane. “But it’s whatever he wants to do. We will support him.”

Not to be outdone, Palos Heights resident Bart Myrda won the event’s 10K race with a time of 42:23. The 14-year-old running prodigy will attend Shepard High School next fall. Myrda's father, Jan, took fourth overall in the half-marathon with a time of 1:17:18.

The Myrda family is a fixture at local runs and marathons throughout the Chicago area. Jan completed the 2017 Chicago Marathon in 2:41:39. Following in the swift footsteps of older sisters Madzia and Kasia, Bart has been running with his dad since he was a little boy, he said.

Just weeks away from his eighth grade graduation at Independence Junior High School in Palos Heights, Myrda plans to join the track team at Shepard. He's attending two running camps over the summer, including a summer-long camp at Shepard, and another camp in Minnesota.

Maggie Graham, a Northwestern University graduate, was the women’s 10k winner, and placed third overall, less than a minute behind Myrda, at 43:21. It was a comeback of sorts for the Seattle native who has battled multiple stress fractures due to “weak hips and too much ice cream,” she laughed.

“My coach recommended this course, because it was a flat surface that ran well,” Graham said. “It’s great to be back.”

The 1,350 participants of the day's races had ideal running conditions at the start, with overcast skies and temperatures in the mid-50s, but the mercury had climbed into the 60s by the time the first runners crossed the finish line. The route began, as always, on Route 83 next to Palos Heights City Hall and wove through the Cook County Forest Preserves along mostly flat terrain in Palos Heights, Palos Park and Palos Hills.

Oak Lawn resident Christina Clark, 30, and her friend Jennifer Leonard, 32, a Stagg High School graduate, ran together. The friends chose this race because it’s close to home, said Clark, and is “a nice, flat course,” added Leonard.

Race founder Mel Diab, owner of Running for Kicks, couldn’t have been more pleased with the day’s events.

“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” he said. “But the best part for me through these years has been in raising $225,000 for the American Cancer Society for Prostate Cancer and Research, and for the South West Special Recreation Association.”