Monday, April 27, 2009

Elmhurst's Akita Wins Ravenswood 5K

Jim Akita, well-known in the west burbs as head track and cross-country coach at Elmhurst College, crossed the finish line first on Sunday at the Ravenswood 5K in Chicago. Jim averaged 4.52 per mile and posted a 15:06. Runner-up was Christian Escareno in 15:19, with Dave Wilson, last year's CARA Runner of the Year, third in 15:25. On the women's side, the pace was very fast as Catherine Beck won in 16:55, just ahead of Colleen Newhart, who ran 16:57. Jessica Langford of Rockford was third in 17:18, a time that would win some less talent-laden 5Ks on the men's or women's side! There were 2,795 finishers in another smashing success for this quality race. Once again, congrats to Jim Akita! Photos of Jim Akita and Catherine Beck are courtesy of Brian Jacokes from

Sunday, April 26, 2009

CARA's Lakefront 10 a Winner

Under new ownership, the CARA Lakefront 10-miler had a good day on Saturday along Chicago's north lakefront. Greg Costello, 28, of Chicago, made it look easy with a 52:49, for his second Runners' Choice Series victory in two weeks. Emisael Favela, 32, of Chicago, who runs for the race's founder and previous owner, Universal Sole, took second in 54:12, and Doug Pearson, 41, of Elmhurst, one of my fellow Elmhurst Running Club competitors, took third in a strong field, posting a 58:51. There were 579 male finishers. On the women's side, former winner Kim Miltz, 35, of Hoffman Estates, returned to the top of the podium with a 1:01:21. She was followed by Christina Overbeck, 22, of Chicago, who cranked out a 1:04:00. Third was another blast from the past, Ann Schaefers-Coles, 44, of Cary. She ran a 1:06:07. I am so proud of all of these runners. Hats off to CARA for purchasing this event and putting it on a very high level. I hope I can run it next year. Photo (Courtesy of Brenda Barrera --Chicago Running Examiner blog--): Doug Pearson nears the finish line for third place while CARA president Dan Daly (on bicycle) looks for the first female finisher.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Unexpected Injury - Back ASAP

I know the Lakefront 10 and the Ravenswood 5K were this weekend. Because of an unexpected fall which landed me in the hospital, I have been unable to access any information about these races or the London Marathon. I should be released from the hospital Sunday or Monday. Look for new postings mid-week if not before.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Salute to Illinois' Best at Boston

The Boston finish line, pictured the day before Patriots Day when the sun was shining, was crossed by some fast Illinoisans on Monday. Jonathan Eckberg, 28, of downstate Greenville, was our top male, clocking 2:36:03. Next came Jesse Kleinjan, 25, of Chicago, in 2:37:01, and Dave Strubbe, 27, of Chicago, in 2:38:12. Those are some nice times. On the female side, I'll go four-deep. First was Amber Hardin, 28, of Chicago, in 3:05:31. She was followed by Michelle Densmore, 28, of Chicago, in 3:06:22; Mary Paulsen, 24, of Chicago, in 3:06:23; and Sarah Bard, 24, of Chicago, in 3:06:33. Training through our wicked winter paid off. Great job!

Fiene Tops Vision Impaired Podium

Kurt Fiene was absolutely awesome on Monday at the Boston Marathon. The 47-year-old Elmhurst resident and president of the Elmhurst Running Club ran 2:43:44 to easily win the Vision Impaired division for the second year in a row. He soundly beat his rival, Adrian Broca, 32, of Los Angeles, who ran 2:56:55. Fiene's race was amazing in that he had a negative split on a course where the first half is much easier. He ran 1:21:53 and 1:21:51. Incredible! Hats off to Lori Dunn, who coached Kurt through the long, hard winter.
Illinois' other headliners were Dave Walters of Lisle, who ran a 2:44:23 to finish second in men's 50-59 and Nancy Rollins of Evanston, who posted a 3:28:20 to grab the runner-up position in women's 60-69. She was first American, but lost to Korean Soon Ok Kim, who ran 3:25:58. Congrats to all!

Boston 2009 -- Quick Take

The headwinds off the Atlantic were factors much of the way, but with all the winding roads and hills, not to mention the big houses in places like Wellesley and Newton, there were parts of the course where we were protected and quite comfortable. Temps generally were in the mid 40s, reaching 50 when I went through Brookline 3.5 miles from the finish. I had a Nike skull cap that I took on and off all day, and wore a Zensah compression shirt for my base layer on top. I wanted the protection for sure when I got to Beacon St.-Commonwealth-Hereford and Boylston (last 5 miles). That stretch was right into the teeth of of the chilling wind. Crowds were biggest I've ever seen at the B.A.A. Marathon, even in Ashland, which is out near Hopkinton. It was exhilarating to say the least. Boston is not just another run. There is a lot going on mentally, and if I may, spirtually, as you gauge your body and mind to make sure your tank is full and your focus clear for the long Newton hills on miles 16-21. I played it very conservatively because of border-line training and injuries, and it paid off through the first two Newton climbs. Like many around me, I bogged down as my quads and hams began to freeze up on the last two, including Heartbreak, but I got to the top and then found fast-twitch fibers in reserve for the final push to Copley Square and the coveted Boston medallion. I'll take a 3:50:10 on that course at age 60 any time! As I ran down Boylston to the finish with thousands cheering me on, I thanked my lucky stars that I am able to do this. It was a great weekend in Boston to say the least. There was plenty of excitement with the run, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics all in action. That is one passionate sports town. They dodged a huge bullet with the weather. It started raining about 5:45 p.m. I'm wearing my Boston shirt now. I don't want to take it off! Photos: I was freezing afterward as I made my way along Boylston to the "T." My favorite turn on the course is the last one: Hereford to Boylston.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On the Trail to Marathoning's Holy Grail

It's on to Boston today. From a fans' point of view, this one is special. Americans Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher have legitimate chances of winning, even though the Kenyans, Ethiopians, Russians and others are stoked. For history buffs, the last Americans to win in Boston were Grey Meyer in 1983 and Lisa Weidenbach in 1985. As for mere mortals such as myself, I'll start way back in the second pack and likely finish way back in the second pack, but for me, it's the experience and highly charged atmosphere that make Boston so much fun. The race itself is an intriguing run with plenty to think about along the way as you navigate downhills and uphills, hoping to keep some reserve in your tank for the finish. I really look forward to every mile of this race, which I haven't done since 2004. I'm going to take it all in this time and try to finish with a smile on my face. Just in case you live on another planet, the race is being shown live on, starting at 8:30 CDT Monday morning. I'll start at 9:30 CDT, surrounded by all of my fellow 19,000 bib wearers. I'll be pulling for my age-group "rival" Bill Rodgers on Monday. The four-time Boston winner (Bib 79) is running after recovering from prostate cancer. Bill is one of the reasons I got into road racing back in the '70s. He's one of my heroes to say the least. Well, I'll try to report from Boston. We'll see how it goes. Good luck to everyone racing and running locally this weekend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

28th The Race That's Good for Life

The CARA Runners' Choice competitive points series for individuals and clubs continues on Sunday with the 28th running of The Race That's Good for Life 5K in Oak Park. More than 700 runners are signed up, and there will be NO race-day registration. Online and walk-up registration remain available. I won't be there this year because I'll be in Boston, but this race is one of my all-time favorites. The fast course and the separate women's and men's races make the Oak Park Runners Club race extra special. Prize money of as much as $1,500, depending on whether course records are set, brings out top talent from Chicago and beyond. Course records are 14:25 and 16:31, both set in 1998. New records are worth $100. Other touches like flowers for female finishers, clydesdale competition, a youth mile and junior jog make this a complete package. Last year, Chicagoan Greg Costello and Colleen Newhart of Oak Park won in 14:50 and 18:12 respectively. The race also is a CARA Best of Chicagoland (not a competitive circuit) event. For information, click on:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Boston's Best Illinois Moments

As you quietly curse this ridiculous cold, wet weather, here is some local history from America's most famous footrace, the B.A.A. Marathon, which will be run for the 113th time this Monday, Patriots' Day in Massachusetts.
Yes, we had a winner. Charles Mellor of Chicago won the 1925 race over legendary seven-time Boston champ Clarence DeMar of Melrose, MA,, winning in 2:33:0 to DeMar's 2:33:37. Mellor had finished second to DeMar the year before. Quoting from the B.A.A. press guide, "Running with a wad of tobacco tucked inside his cheek and the morning edition of the Boston Globe placed inside the front of his shirt to serve as a windbreaker, Mellor finally pulled away from DeMar on Beacon Street, within two miles of the finish." Mellor also finished second in 1921.
Craig Virgin, of downstate Lebanon, IL, and University of Illinois fame, ran a great race in 1981, running 2:10:26, but lost to Japanese great Toshihiko Seko by a full minute.
Illinois had a pair of third-place finishes as well. Wallie Carlson of Chicago surged at the end for the No. 3 spot in 1923, and well-known miler Joie Ray, I believe of Chicago, was third in 1928.
And stretching our borders just a bit, Hal Higdon, officially of Indiana but of University of Chicago fame, was top American and fifth overall in 1964 with a 2:21:55. I'm betting many of you have used Hal's marathon training programs over the years.
And we might as well sneak north as well. Kim Merritt of Racine, WI, was the 1976 women's champion, running a 2:47:10, winning by 5:17 over Miki Gorman of California.
In the wheelchair division, Champaign's history-making Jean Driscoll won eight times (1990-96 and 2000), setting a world best of 1:34:22 in 1993. Shahan Rahn (1977) and Christina Ripp (2003) also rolled to victories representing Illinois.
And some recent history: Nancy Rollins of Evanston is two-time defending champ in women's 60-69; Kurt Fiene of Elmhurst is defending champ for vision impaired and Harry Roberts of Illinois won men's 60-69 in 1982.
Let me know what I missed!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Purdom, Mele Cruise the "Corridor"

Jeff Purdom of Naperville and Marisa Mele of Woodstock won the intimate National Heritage Corridor 25K on Saturday at Channahon. Purdom won the men's race and overall title in 1:37:40 for the distance which translates to about 15.6 miles. Mele ran 1:47:28 for fastest female honors. Going 2-3 on the men's side were David Hannius of Mokenga (1:38:17) and Macief Kurka of Chicago (1:40:07). Masters runner (shirtless wonder) Tom Estka of Chicago was fourth in 1:42:05. On the women's side, Kathy Daniels of Oak Park was runner-up to Mele with a 1:52:19, and Evelyn Wisniewski of Naperville was third in 1:57:34. There were 150 finishers on a cool, sunny day. Thanks again to the Prairie State Roadrunners for putting this on.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Valpo Mini Marathon Has French Connection

Patrick Merle, a native of France who resides in Plymouth, IN, won the Valpo Mini Marathon, winning the hilly 13.1-miler on Saturday in 1:18:19.3. Merle, who is coached by Christine Palmquist of Geneva, is training for Ironman Louisville, and told local reporters he had no intention of winning. But he did, passing the last two runners with just a block or two to go. At this point, I have no other results from this race.

The Illinois Marathon Report

They had good conditions, good runners and overall good numbers today in Champaign-Urbana for the inaugural Illinois Marathon, which also included a half-marathon and 5K. With the level (as in flat) playing field, times were darned good. In the marathon, Jacob Kendagor of Coon Rapids, MN, took home the gold with a 2:26:12. He was joined on the Memorial Stadium podium by runner-up Lars Juhl of Chicago (2:27:15) and third-place finisher Ben Schneider of St. Paul, MN (2:28:29). The women's top three went like this: Megan Kennihan of LaGrange (2:55:06), Krista Colberg of Rock Island (2:58:33) and Tracy Wollschlager of Novi, MI (3:01:52). Male half-marathoners were led by Jeff Jonaitis (JJ) of Tinley Park in 1:11:27. Ryan Giuliano of Schaumburg was a close second in 1:11:45 and John Njorogue of Coon Rapids, MN was third in 1:14:04. Bridget Montgomery of Chicago won the women's half in 1:22:26. She was followed by Emily DeWald of Bloomington, IL (1:23:14) and Anna Masinelli of Champaign in 1:23:49. Fields were deep in both races. In the 5K, Patrick Ford of St. Joseph, IL, won in 17:05. Anna Hall of Boulder, CO, was the women's champ in 19:37. The marathon had 1,606 finishers, the half 3,582 and the 5K 1,862. There also was a marathon relay. Can you spell success? I think they had a winner downstate today.

Two Boston Stories Worth Repeating!

Chicagoan Mark Buciak, who has 15-20 runners from his The Road to Boston training program joining him in Beantown, will be running his 30th consecutive Boston Marathon on April 20. I saw Mark today, and he is looking fit. Buciak, who had a heart valve replaced in 2006, has no illusions of getting anywhere near his Boston PR of 2:30, but he'll finish. You can take that to the bank.
Meanwhile, Nancy Rollins of Evanston, has been running 20-milers through one of Chicago's harshest winters in years. She is the two-time defending champion in the women's 60-69 (yes, 10-year age groups) division at Boston, and hopes for a three-peat on Patriots' Day. She ran 3:30:50 last year. Watch for sub-3:30 this time.
Well, those are only two of the hundreds of Illinois-northern Indiana pre-Boston stories. What's yours?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

2:04:27! That IS a Rotterdam Good Time!

Duncan Kibet edged training partner James Kwambi in a super-fast 2:04:27 today to win the Rotterdam Marathon. Once again, Carey Pinkowski has something to shoot for as he assembles this fall's Chicago Marathon field! Kenyans took the top 10 places at Rotterdam with third place being an amazing 2:05:03. Full details are at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Back in Business

I just unpacked the new computer, got through the preliminaries, and here I am.
There is much to catch up on, starting with good friend Charlie Kern breaking the USATF records for the mile (4:18.89) and 3,000 meters (8:37.94) for the 35-39 age group at the USATF Indoor Championships on March 21 and 22 in Landover, MD. Way to go, Charlie! Kern, who is a former coach of the York boys cross-country and track distance runners, is taking some time away from coaching to focus on family and records. He turns 40 in June. I'd say no masters record will be safe!