On Saturday after Thanksgiving Cliff Carlson, a member of the Oak Park Runners Club, ran 29 and one half miles on the Illinois Prairie Path. Yep, that’s three miles longer than a marathon. And it was just so he could say he ran the entire path from Maywood to Elgin.
Despite his Scandinavian last name Cliff is publisher of Irish-American News (his mother is Irish), and he was already in marathon shape, having recently returned from running the Dublin Marathon in Ireland. He had seen a recent story in Chicago Athlete noting that the Prairie Path covers 61 total miles, including its branch from Wheaton to Aurora, and its longest continuous length is from Maywood to Elgin, a distance of 29.5 miles. As far as he knew, no one had ever done it before.
So he organized his “First Annual CPR Run” (CPR standing for: Cliff’s Party Run or Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation). Figuring that since he regularly runs long training miles on Saturdays, why not make it mean something. He announced by e-mail that the run would take place on November 26th and would anyone like to join him? No fund raising, no memorial, just running for the hell of it. Everyone was welcome to come along for any distance?#34;or even the whole way. And the pace would be slow. Planning details included car shuttles for those going part way, or for the entire distance, plus mid course refreshments.
The big day was a frosty 27 degrees with snow on the ground. In spite of the weather, nearly 20 people showed up at the east end of the Prairie Path on First Avenue, about two blocks south of Madison Street in Maywood. Even Bob Hakes, one of the original members of the Oak Park Runners Club joined in, having mostly recovered from serious injuries suffered in a bicycle accident during the summer. Club member Bruce Svoboda, a Glen Ellyn resident, set up a water station near mile 11 in Lombard. This also proved to be a convenient spot to stretch, since Cliff’s legs had begun to cramp due to a little slipping on the snow underfoot. Feeling revived, it was on to Wheaton, the halfway point, for a boxed lunch, hot cocoa, coffee and more stretching, before taking the right fork of the path to Elgin.
Most of the original starters dropped off at Wheaton?#34;the 15-mile mark ?#34; and several club members drove ahead to provide improvised water stations along the way. Club member Sam Cushing joined the group in Wheaton, running with Cliff the rest of the way to Elgin while carrying towels, water and other supplies. At that point there were more people helping than running. Although water and nourishment were coordinated by club members, everyone also kept alert for construction sites along the route that might have porta-johns. And a few were spotted, located at convenient “rest” intervals.
Of the four who set out to run the whole distance, all made it, thanks to the support of the other club members. Two of the four, Cliff Carlson and Stephanie Skladzien, are Oak Park Runners Club members. The other mileage junkies, Erin Chernik and Jonathan Berens, are not, having received the message at Northwestern University from others. And to Cliff’s knowledge, this quartet is the first to do the full Maywood-Elgin run.
A few days after the event, Cliff was still a bit sore, but in fine spirits. He’s even talking about doing the same thing again, the next time taking the left fork from Wheaton to Aurora. Another challenge.
Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runner’s Club.