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Organizers of The Race That's Good for Life always have to juggle between Palm Sunday, Easter and spring vacation week to find a suitable race date, and this year it looked like the second Sunday of April was a good choice. But then the Shamrock Shuffle 8K, a huge race in Downtown Chicago announced it was being held on April 10 (which seems pretty far removed from St. Patrick's Day), so the 30th running of the Oak Park event was bumped up to an early April 3.
And with such a change, there's always the weather to be concerned about. "I promised to do my best, but with rain in the forecast it's not working out," said Race Director Deanna Doohaluk a couple of days before the event. Fortunately she was wrong — there was perfect, dry weather on race morning.
It was no contest in the first event, the Women's 5K, with Chicago's Columba Montes finishing 24 seconds ahead of Jacqui Aubert of Crystal Lake in 17:41. Jessica Langford of Rockford was third in 18:31. Top local finishers were Oak Parkers Holly Porter, sixth overall, Meg Sullivan, ninth, and Helen Nuttall, 14th.
Lucy Jensen, age 11, of River Forest won the girl's division of the Youth Mile in 6:45, with Jason Giuilano of Schaumburg taking the boy's division in 6:14.
And Chad Ware of Deerfield finally won the Men's 5K in 14:51 after being edged by only one second each of the last two years. Ware beat last year's winner Jeff Jonaitis of Tinley Park by a comfortable 22 seconds — the first time Ware has defeated Jonaitis in numerous head-to-head competitions. Third place, in 15:25, went to Mike Ptack, a former Oak Parker who now lives in Elmhurst. Ptack was also third in the 2009 race.
Oak Park Runners Club President Nick Bensen noted that participation numbers were "respectable" with overall registration of about 1,100. However, since many people were away during spring vacation, the number of Youth Milers was down a bit. Also, a newly-established race in Downtown Chicago also affected overall numbers. And once again women outnumbered the men in their respective 5K races 456 to 415, reflecting overall increased female participation in running events throughout the country.
Post-race entertainment included an impressive show by the Jesse White Tumblers in the Oak Park-River Forest High School field house.
Asked how she thought things went, Doohaluk had a one-word answer: "Yeah," adding that she was delighted with the race volunteers who functioned like a "well-oiled machine. Everything just happened, with little direction from me." And with 30 runnings of The Race That's Good for Life now complete, it's evident that members of the Oak Park Runners Club are familiar with the many details that go into organizing a race.
And after a follow-up session to review any problems, race organizers will start again in September to plan for next year's race.
Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.