When 3,500 pairs of running shoes hit the pavement together in Naperville Nov. 10, they’ll follow a single course, winding their way through natural areas and neighborhoods, past intersections and cheering sections. But most will be headed to the “zone” as they cover the course laid out for the Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon.
Some know it well. Bob Kalinsky already had a dozen competitive 26-mile runs under his belt when he took part in the Chicago Marathon Oct. 13. Next month’s inaugural local event will be the 14th marathon he has run since completing his first one three years ago.
While each has participants go the full distance, he finds each marathon uniquely exhilarating.
“It’s the challenge of a marathon. With 26 miles, there’s so many unkown things that can happen. You don’t know,” said Kalinsky, 51, a 15-year Naperville resident with a wife and two college-age kids who lives on the southwest side.
He finds his performance each time varies, based on such variables as the course, the weather and the way he’s feeling on the day of the run.
“It’s almost like going to see a movie,” he said. “You don’t know anything about it, but you’re prepared for it.”
At this month’s Chicago event, under sunny skies, Kalinsky took less than four hours to finish the course.
“I love running Chicago Marathon: all the neighborhoods, the crowds out there. I had a really good race,” he said, noting that the phrase means something a little different to each runner. “It wasn’t my best race, but I finished in under four hours. When you cross the finish line and there’s family, you’re happy.”
Kalinsky is one of dozens of people training for the marathon who get together to run early every Saturday morning, gathering at Fredenhagen Park in downtown Naperville. But he does a substantial amount of running on his own, and logs about 30 miles every week when he’s not gearing up for a marathon.
“Seventeen weeks before a race, the training becomes more intense,” said Kalinsky, who covers about 500 miles over those final four months.
Meredith Kirby runs with different groups as she trains to run a half marathon on Nov. 10.
The Chicago event was Kirby’s first marathon, and she decided to shorten the distance in Naperville for her second one. She also opted not to put unnecessary pressure on herself by entertaining a steadfast vision of how long it would take to cover the 26 miles in Chicago.
“I sort of did have a time in mind, but as it came closer, with my first race I thought I just would have fun,” said Kirby, 41, who lives in the Tallgrass neighborhood with her husband and their two children.
She is grateful for the customized training regimen the Naperville Running Co. puts together for each runner. Kirby also trains with a running group based at the Fry Family YMCA with running coach Caroline Yasuda. She was glad to have the support that comes with her training relationships when a minor foot injury triggered knee discomfort in the Chicago event, and a muscle pain in her left calf wouldn’t quit.
“Coach Caroline’s biggest piece of advice is just listen to your body — which I think is good advice, because you never know,” Kirby said.
New long-distance competitor Pam Lafeber punctuates running with yoga as she prepares for her first full marathon. Lafeber, who is Naperville’s city clerk, has done six half marathons since she took up with the sport in the summer of 2011.
Saturday’s 20 miles with the Naperville Running Co. training group was to be Lafeber’s longest training run. She likes the encouragement and motivation she draws from running with a group of people.
As a pursuit, running appeals to Lafeber, who likens it to golf; she said there are bad days that somehow are forgotten when the good days happen.
“Sometimes I don’t like it. Sometimes when you feel like your body is just completely giving out on you, it’s not fun,” said Lafeber, 45. “But there are days when you get in a zone, and everything feels good.”
All of the runners expect it will feel good to do a marathon in the place where they live.
“To be part of the inaugural event, it’s an honor,” said Kalinsky, who noted the course is comprised of stretches where he has trained before. “This time we’re doing a real race, with a bib and timing. But it will be in Naperville.”
Crossing the finish line also will feel sweet to Kirby, who celebrated her finish in Chicago with the complimentary Goose Island beer handed to each runner on completing the course.
“I’m just going to have fun, hug people, take pictures,” she said, adding that her husband and kids will turn out with posters and cowbells to cheer her on along the way. “They like to tell Mama how many miles she has to go before she can have a beer.”