The magic number for Naperville’s second annual citywide marathon looks like 26.
That’s the number of neighborhoods that will be targeted in coming months by organizers of the 2014 Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon & Half Marathon, half of them on the city’s north side and half on the south, as part of a drive to amp up the community-building leg of the race.
It’s the number of charities signed on to partner in a reprise of the debut fundraiser that netted a direly needed windfall for the local nonprofits last November — with bigger and better gifts assured from this year’s event, set for Nov. 9.
It’s also the approximate mile length of the entirely redrawn marathon route proposal that netted thumbs-up from the City Council this week. The all-street race course will begin and end at Naperville Central High School, with the race festivities next door at Knoch Park. The event will be open to 7,000 runners, double the number of registrations that were available for the inaugural run.
Codirector Bob Hackett told the City Council the debut fundraiser for Naperville charities yielded “in excess of $290,000” for the 26 participating agencies. The charities’ original fundraising goal from the 2013 marathon was $10,000.
The neighborhood program this year will draw in more interactive contacts with city residents whose streets will comprise portions of the route. Various neighborhoods will compete, Hackett said, to be the most cheering and welcoming along the course.
“The runners themselves will vote for this, and then we’ll award (the winners) afterwards,” he said.
Some council members voiced qualms about the leap in head count. They noted that just 2,900 or so turned out of the 3,500 who signed up to run last November, and suggested if nearly the full roster of 7,000 come out next time, the difference could be too great a burden on the city’s resources. Hackett, who related that promoting the Naperville marathon is currently his full-time pursuit, said that’s unlikely.
“I think we’ve proven ourselves, and I think staff’s proven themselves, that we’re up to that number,” he said.
Codirector Craig Bixler, who is overseeing the route planning, said safety is the paramount concern, and convenience comes next. Traffic counts could be part of meeting those goals, which will include keeping motorist detours at a minimum.
“We try to avoid any conflicts possible. With 26 miles, that’s not always possible,” Bixler said.
The aim is minimizing any negative impact of the route. That could involve thorough communication using postcards, signboards or whatever may be needed to ensure everyone knows the plans, Bixler said.
“We do everything we can to manage race weekend, as well as what leads up to it,” he said.
He emphasized that while the layout is set and meets officials’ approval, it remains a work in progress.
“We want to take a long-term approach to this,” Bixler said.
Council members were convinced, granting the marathon and half-marathon routes their unanimous endorsement, though some had suggestions to offer the planners.
Councilman Bob Fieseler emphasized the need to keep residents as up-to-date as possible, suggesting race committee members go to homeowners association meetings in the months leading up to race day.
“The residents, there will be some who will say, ‘How did this happen? Why didn’t somebody tell me?’” Fieseler said.
Councilwoman Judith Brodhead, a south Naperville resident, said she is pleased that the new course will bring the runners into her end of the city.
“I think it will be fun and exciting for people in a part of town that usually doesn’t get to have this kind of event near them,” she said.
Councilman Paul Hinterlong, who was serving as mayor pro tem for Tuesday’s council meeting, said the first marathon did well in setting precedent.
“We had zero complaints last year,” he said. “For the first time out, that’s unbelievable.”
Hackett said the event, which is expected to grow steadily but incrementally over the coming years, is bringing substantial prestige to the city.
“This race is going to continue to take Naperville to new heights,” he said.