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There’s nothing like a week’s worth of warm spring weather to get people in the mood for running. The result was a near-record turnout for The Race That’s Good for Life 5K on Sunday in Oak Park.

The first event, the Women’s 5K race, was won in a quick time of 17:01 by Jean Mariangeli, 26, of Arlington Heights, with Lindsay Hattendorf, 26, of Crown Point, Ind., only 12 seconds behind. Valerie Hubbard, 24, of Kenosha, Wis., took third in 17:22.

On a slightly humorous note, the car which was supposed to lead the women’s race died at the start line and had to be pushed off the course. But the race started on time, with the Oak Park Police Department’s all-terrain vehicle leading the way.

Next, the Youth Mile race was won by Jose Luis Castillo, Jr., age 12, from Chicago in 6:02, with the girl’s division won by 8-year-old Isabella Alansari of Hoffman Estates in 6:34.

The Men’s 5K saw a close battle right up to the finish line with Tinley Park’s Jeff Jonaitis, 29, nipping Chad Ware, 25, of Deerfield, by one second in a red-hot time of 14:28. That time was only three seconds off the all-time record for this race, posted by Poland’s Artur Blazynski back in 1998. Jack Kafel, 34, a previous race winner from River Forest was the top local finisher, taking eighth place with a time of 15:45.

Oak Park Runners Club President Nick Bensen noted that the race is on the Chicago Area Runners Association competitive race circuit, and attracts runners to the village from a wide area. This year’s 1,200 participants, plus their family members and friends, represented 13 states including California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as well as the entire Chicago region.

First-year Race Director Deanna Doohaluk was pleased and relieved with the results, saying, “Things went very smoothly, and our volunteers were amazing. At times I felt a bit overwhelmed, but there was always somebody there to help.”

Doohaluk added that she is already thinking about details for next year’s big event, the 30th anniversary race.

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