Oak Park's "The Race that's Good for Life" has record turnout

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Paul Oppenheim

The Race that's Good for Life brought out a record number of participants for Sunday's 32nd running of this annual Oak Park event. The race, organized by the Oak Park Runners Club, was voted 2012's top race by the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA), and Sunday's 2013 edition appeared to measure up to this high standard. It was the third scheduled race on the Runners' Choice race circuit, sponsored by CARA, whose executive director, Wendy Jaehn, was among the leading women runners.

Originally scheduled for April 7, the race encountered an early shock when the huge Shamrock Shuffle race in Downtown Chicago subsequently grabbed the same date. So the Oak Park race had to scramble for another Sunday, leaving race organizers worried that conflicts with other late-April running events would hurt their numbers of entrants. But as preceding weeks went by and race entries continued to grow, their fears were calmed. The final tally of entries in all of the race events topped 1,500, a record number.

The woman's 5K race was won by Jacqui Giuliano, 26, of Oakwood Hills, in 17:41, followed by Chicago's Pamela Staton, 26, in 17:56. But the most exciting finish — third overall woman — was Oak Park's Mary Blankemeier, only 13 years old, in 17:59.5, a personal best, and an impressive showing against the "big girls," some of the region's top female runners.

The men's 5K was won by Matthew Blume, 31, of Chicago, in 15:05, beating last year's winner Ryan Giuliano, 28, of Oakwood Hills, who posted a time of 15:13, and Rob Wiley, 37, of Gurnee, in 15:21 taking third place.

In the Youth Mile race, Wheaton's Jack James, 11, repeated his 2012 victory, with another overall win in 6 minutes flat, while Madison Rosen, also 11, was the top girl in 6:27. Later, James was asked to lead the Junior Jog for little kids on his scooter, guiding the kids down and back along the driveway behind the Oak Park and River Forest High School cafeteria.

Race Director John Kolman was pleased that all the pieces of the event came together so well, saying he was "happy to see so many families running the separate events, and all sharing the joy of running." And no rain.

So with Race Number 32 now on the books, the Oak Park Runners Club will look at what can be further improved to prepare for Number 33 next April.

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