Photo by Dermot Connolly
Armando Avalos (left), 51, of Posen, and Joe Betz, 67, of Valparaiso, Ind., celebrate after running in the 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon in Palos Heights. Avalos said his habit of running the Swallow Cliff stairs on Sunday mornings prepared him for his first half marathon.
The 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10K races were run under blue skies on Sunday, and the cool temperatures were judged perfect for running.
“Here in Camelot, the weather is always like this,” joked Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz, as he welcomed everyone to his city before the races kicked off on Route 83. He did the countdown for the half-marathon at 7:30 a.m., while Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett did the honors for the 10K Run/Walk 10 minutes later.
Next came the Walk, Run & Roll, sponsored by Southwest Special Recreation Association (SWSRA) for people with disabilities.
About 100 children also ran in the new Kids’ Dash, featuring races of various lengths for children between 2 and 10 years old. The free event, with everyone getting medals, was intended to make the 10th anniversary more of a family event. Refreshments and live music were also part of the festivities. After Pastor David Grutheson, of Harvest Bible Chapel in Palos Heights, got the day started with a prayer service, a rock band entertained the crowds during and after the races.
“We’re almost sold out of beer,” said Bridget Provost, a volunteer in charge of beer sales, at about 11 a.m. “We had a lot left over last year, when it was raining.”
Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) continued his tradition of serving as grand marshal, and running in the half marathon. His wife, Judy, also ran this time.
After being introduced on the podium, the congressman pulled up his sweatshirt to show off the T-shirt with his original bib number 1 that he wore in the inaugural race. State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), also an avid runner, was there again on Sunday, too.
Emcee Jeff Prestinario, who co-founded of the race with Mel Diab, recalled how Cunningham’s predecessor, Ed Maloney, helped make the race possible.
“It takes a lot to put this on,” said Prestinario. “The two of us told him what we needed, and while we were in his office, he called IDOT and got permission to close Route 83,” he said.
“I don’t have as much clout as him, but I’m a runner, and this is my fifth consecutive half marathon,” said Cunningham.
Diab, the race director, was pleased with the turnout, noting that 1,000 people ran in the half-marathon and 400 in the 10K.