Off and running

<p>A group of half marathon runners head up the final stretch to the finish line. The Inaugural Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon started and finished at North Central College on Nov. 10, 2013.  | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media  </p>

A group of half marathon runners head up the final stretch to the finish line. The Inaugural Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon started and finished at North Central College on Nov. 10, 2013.  | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media  

Naperville’s long, long yearly run is picking up speed.

The second annual Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half-Marathon has been set for Nov. 9. A qualifying event for the 2016 Boston Marathon, the event will follow an entirely new route, and it will be open to more than twice as many participants as were able to run in the inaugural event last fall.

The City Council Tuesday evening will be asked to approve the proposed route, which stretches from Ogden Avenue on the north almost to Knoch Knolls Road on the south, and is bounded on the west by Book Road and goes to just past Olesen Drive on the east.

City Clerk Pam LaFeber, who is among the staff members most deeply involved in the marathon planning, said the proposed course is entirely on streets, which will accommodate more runners than the preserve paths that were part of the initial run were able to handle.

The terrain also will be conducive to wheelchair-using participants, whom planners intend to include in future marathons, LaFeber said.

Last November’s full marathon route included six miles within the Greene Valley Forest Preserve. Designing a 26-mile course without preserves or parks in the mix proved challenging.

“We had to find an additional eight to nine miles for the route, to replace that,” LaFeber said.

Route planners also took steps to keep the Sunday morning event’s impact on residents, businesses, churches and overall traffic flow at a minimum.

“This route is kind of a first step in making the route permanent, and really starting to grow the race,” said LaFeber, who took part in her first full marathon in November and is now training to run in the next one. “It sold out in 14 hours last year, and we’re thinking it’s going to be bigger this time.”

That appears guaranteed. Instead of the 3,500 who could sign up last year, the second time around will be open to 7,500 runners. Co-director Dave Sheble, for whom the event will be his seventh as a race organizer, said a formula takes into account maximum running times and works backwards from there to calculate the appropriate number of runners to include in an event.

“We certainly could have put in a lot more runners last year (but) we’re trying to move ahead a little at a time,” he said.

The event already has outgrown its original home at North Central College, where the first marathon began and ended. Sheble said the college was a great host.

“We can’t say enough things about them. I wish we could accommodate our participants there this year,” he said. “We use the term bandwidth. … There’s no way you can grow (the race) without more bandwidth.”

Having the race start at Naperville Central High School and end at Knoch Park, winding through much of the city over the many miles in between, also will be a good way to showcase Naperville, Sheble added.

The second time around will also involve more nonprofits. Charity partners in the inaugural marathon raised more than $250,000, and next fall they are expected to do even better.

“We’re very proud of what we’re able to do with the area charities,” Sheble said.

Organizers are enhancing the charity element and streamlining the registration process, he added, so people won’t have to take time off from work to ensure they will have a spot in the event.

They’ll also be launching a bigger neighborhood program, and starting that effort earlier.

“Once the course is approved, we’ll be reaching out to a significant number of neighborhoods to get them involved,” Sheble said.

He hailed the collaborative work that made the first marathon go as well as it did. City departments, residents, volunteers and nonprofits all had a hand in that, Sheble said, and that’s exactly what is needed.

“It takes a lot to put something like this on,” he said.

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