The 25th edition of The Race That’s Good for Life was about as good as it gets, with 1,000 participants showing up to compete in the morning’s various running and walking events. Twenty fifth anniversaries may be silver, but this one seemed golden. Race Director Geri Bensen was delighted with the overall event, saying “It’s the best I’ve seen it. And if I could order the weather it would be this,” referring to Sunday’s cool, windless and sunny conditions.

The weather was ideal for setting records, but River Forest’s Jacek “Jack” Kafel, 30, came up a bit short, still finishing in a fast 14:53. Kafel, who did his college running at North Central, was feeling the effects of a recent trip to Poland, and said he was a bit less than in top form.Yet he led from the start and took home prize money for his second consecutive win, only eight seconds slower than last year. Second and third went to Greg Costello (14:56) and Chris Wehrman (15:13), both of Chicago.

In the women’s race, top honors went to Briana Boehmer, 27, from Ixonia, Wis., who won easily in 17:18. Race officials were puzzled for a moment since her first name and Wisconsin address looked familiar. When she had a chance to catch her breath after crossing the finish line, I asked if she was the same Briana who won three years ago. And sure enough, she is now married and was our 2003 winner under her maiden name. She primarily considers herself a triathlete, but her running credentials certainly speak for themselves. Second place went to Jennifer Garrison (18:21) of Naperville, and third went to Suzanne Ryan, of Collierville, Tenn., in 18:25.

In the Youth Mile, top honors went to Noah Kauppila, age 9, of Aurora, in 5:52, closely followed by Brooke Wolfe, age 10, of Mt. Prospect in 5:56, taking top prize among the girls. With these kids running sub-six minute miles at their ages, they appear to have bright futures in running.

A last minute contact from the parents of a young runner from Naperville asked if their son could still enter. The answer was yes, and his mother brought him early on race day to pick up a race number and chip. They were grateful he was able to sign up since they had somehow missed the early race publicity. But all turned out well since Luke Verbus easily won his 14 & under age group in 17:34 and was seen walking gingerly, but happily carrying the first place plaque for his age group.

This was the first year the race used electronic chips for race scoring, and the process worked smoothly. Chips were used for women’s and men’s 5K races, the competitive race walk and the Youth Mile race for kids. Results were generated quickly enabling age group award plaques to be handed out promptly and on schedule. This was a major improvement over last year when a computer problem delayed final results for many runners.

Race Director Bensen also was pleased with the sponsorship and participation of many village businesses in the actual production of the race, as well as their contributions of raffle prizes in honor of the event’s 25th running. Bensen and her race committee from the Oak Park Runners Club worked since last September to plan the race, and in a few weeks, they’ll meet again under much more relaxed conditions to see if any further refinements or changes should be made for Number 26 in 2007.

Paul Oppenheim is a columnist for the Wednesday Journal.

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