Local runners' stories add flavor to Chicago Marathon

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

Approximately 250 runners from Oak Park and River Forest ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 13th, so surely there are many marathon stories out there – both positive and otherwise. As usual I was volunteering with members of the Oak Park Runners Club on Taylor Street at the Mile 18 aid station in front of Sweet Maple Café (a great breakfast spot). More than 30 club members were running, so we were looking for familiar faces among the 40,000 participants.

The weather cooperated this year -- perhaps a bit warm for the runners, but ideal for volunteers and spectators. Finishing times for most runners were good, indicating that temperatures were still fine for a marathon.

Top honors for our communities go to River Forest's Tyler Kirk who has fine track and cross country credentials from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Kirk, 32, finished in a quick 2:48:55. The oldest son of Dr. Scott H. Kirk, Dr. Tyler Q. Kirk practices at Kirk Eye Center and is the first of the third generation of Kirk ophthalmologists.

Helen and Steve Nuttall are British citizens who have been living in Oak Park for the past 4 years. In that time, Helen, 32, has developed into one of the top female runners in the area, and was by far the fastest female finisher in our towns. But on marathon day Helen struggled with severe leg cramps in the late stages of the race, still finishing with a PR (personal record) with an excellent time of 3:12. Steve Nuttall has also upped his running efforts (not quite with Helen's intensity) and knocked a huge hour and fifteen minutes off his previous best with a time of 3:45.

But Steve's job requires them to return to England in December, where running is not nearly as prevalent or competitive. Helen says she began running "properly" after their daughter Zoe was born in 2009, and she joined the Oak Park Runners Club. Encouraged by a few club friends to increase her pace and enter some races, she made huge strides. She also joined a more competitive running club in order to run with faster people, and this year set PRs at 5K, 10K, 10 Miles, Half-Marathon and Marathon (wow!). She adds, "This year has been the best year of my life. Running makes me happy, it is my therapy and it is a personal challenge."

Before returning home she will run the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December, hoping to improve on her Chicago time, and next spring she will return to the US for the Boston Marathon, for which she easily qualified.

Another interesting story is Oak Parker Emily Jensen, 27, who ran her first "official" marathon in 3:32 -- over an hour faster than her first effort back in Trinity High School when, as a member of the cross-country team, she decided to trot along with the marathoners as a "bandit." Her time also qualified for the Boston Marathon. This is a big deal for runners since Boston has strict qualifying times, and "BQ" marks a real accomplishment. Also, Jensen runs in those crazy, "FiveFinger" shoes, so she's almost running barefoot.

Congratulations to ALL Oak Park and River Forest marathoners.

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