Members of the Oak Park Runners Club before running a marathon over Labor Day weekend. | Photo by Paul Oppenheim

The Columbus Day weekend has also been the Bank of America Chicago Marathon weekend for many years. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, that wasn’t the case this year. 

Instead, the Oak Park Runners Club decided to do an unofficial alternate marathon right here in beautiful Oak Park. Club president Nick Bensen, vice president Geri Bensen and other club members worked out a loop of just over 6.5 miles. They started at Lindberg Park, ran south to Monroe Street before heading east past Village Hall, and back north to Lindberg Park with an intermediate water station at Longfellow Park. Four trips around the loop equaled a full marathon. All participants had to be alert for traffic as no streets were blocked.

Club members could choose to run all four loops, or run as a relay team.  Four runners could each run a lap, or two runners could run two laps apiece. Everyone was started at one-minute intervals to assure proper social distancing, and masks were mandatory at the start.

Carey Pinkowski, Director of the Chicago Marathon and a longtime friend of the Oak Park Runners Club, generously agreed to be the celebrity starter (he didn’t have too much to do that day, anyhow).

The total number of competitors included five participants doing the full marathon and 32 relay team members. There were numerous volunteers at the intermediate points and at the start and finish lines in Lindberg Park. Admittedly, this number didn’t quite measure up to the 45,000 runners in Mr. Pinkowski’s annual event, but it gave some local runners a chance to relieve their marathon fever.

The weather was beautiful but maybe a bit on the warm side for marathoners. However, Bensen beat all the guys to earn bragging rights for the full marathon, while Team No Tony & the Trotters (Rainer Schochat, Kristin Otto, Jane Murphy and Jeff Forst) took the Four-Person Team honors, and the SWatt team (Doug Watt and Sarang Supekar) won the Two-Person division.

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