“We’re coming down the home stretch,” said Jeff Prestinario, co-director of the 9th annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10K, encouraging his team of organizers at one of their last meetings before the races are held on Sunday, May 1.
After months of preparations, going back to last fall, the annual race on Route 83 that Prestinario founded nine years ago with Mel Diab is about to begin.
“It’s finally here. We couldn’t have done any of this without you,” Diab told the organizers, noting that the event falls on his father’s 93rd birthday this year.
The organizing committee is in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly at the Half Marathon and 10K, as well as Palos Area Chamber of Commerce’s Health and Business Expo being held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Shepard High School, 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights.
As usual, runners will visit the Expo to pick up their race numbers, T-shirts and goody-bags put together by volunteers.
“I think things will work out well,” said Prestinario, as he pointed out that registration has picked up after a slow start early in the year. As of last Friday, there were 1,083 registered, including 788 for the half marathon and about 300 for the 10K.
The events on Sunday will begin with a non-denominational service led by Pastor Ryan Hall of Harvest Bible Chapel. Local mayors, including Jerry Bennett of Palos Hills, John Mahoney of Palos Park, and Bob Straz of Palos Heights will also address the crowd before the races get started.
Straz is also local market president of CNB Bank, one of the principal sponsors of the event this year, along with Palos Community Hospital.
Wheelchair racers competing in the half marathon will get rolling at 7:25 a.m. at the starting point at 7600 W. Route 83, with the runners starting at 7:30 a.m. Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), is the grand marshal, will fire the shot to get them started, followed by the 10K runners at 7:35 a.m.
The route takes participants mainly through forest preserves, with the turnaround point near Archer Avenue.
A half-mile walk, run and roll race for the developmentally disabled clients of South West Special Recreation Association will then start at 7:45.
“We’re always very grateful that since its inception, you have always included everyone in your community in this great event,” said Lori Chesna of SWSRA.
In addition to having two new principal sponsors this year, Palos Community Hospital and CNB Bank & Trust, this is also the first year the Expo is being held in the Shepard High School gymnasium, which affords more space for vendors than was available at the previous venue, Moraine Valley Community Church.
Organizers said more than 40 local businesses and agencies have registered and will have tables at the Expo, up from 36 last year, making it the biggest expo ever.
The additional space will allow the health-oriented vendors to be on one side, with the businesses being on the other.
Palos Hospital will be offering blood-pressure screenings at its booth, and physical therapists from the hospital are going to be performing fitness stretching exercises with the runners before the races on Sunday.
Race participants will also be stopping by the Expo to pick up their numbers, shirts, and goody bags packed by volunteers.
“Before you know it will be all over,” said Prestinario, pointing out that the race officially ends at 10:30 a.m., with the awards ceremony scheduled for 11. Route 83 will reopen at 12:30 p.m.