Eight Chicago area runners will be running over 160 miles this weekend across the state of Illinois to raise money and awareness for Chicago Run, an organization that promotes running programs in Chicago area schools.
With obesity being the leading risk factor contributing to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, Chicago Run’s mission is to work with elementary schools implementing running programs for children to help prevent the long-term diseases. In just 25 years from 1980-2004, the percentage of children ages 6-11 who are overweight or obese increased from 6.5% to nearly 19%.
“I think that if a kid sees that there is someone who cares about their well-being, that they’ll respond better and take action. If no one is there to help, then it’s easier to get lost or lose focus on what’s important,” says Brian Gaines, Team LOL member.
Chicago Run’s main methods of getting the children to embrace activity include preparing for 5Ks, 8Ks and even a virtual marathon where participants accumulate mileage through fitness breaks three to five times per week.
“A lot of today’s disease and health issues can be solved by simply eating right and exercising,” says Team LOL member, Mike Wolkowicz. “Staying active isn’t or shouldn’t be a fad. You need to keep getting out the door and protect your own heart and lungs.”
Team LOL, which stands for “Land of Lincoln,” will begin a trek from Dubuque, Iowa on Friday, August 17, running straight through for almost three days until they reach Lake Michigan on August 19 at the northern part of Illinois as an effort to educate the public about Chicago Run.
“165 miles looked impossible to me before, now it’s just a number,” said Juan “The Machine” Juarez, a Team LOL member who has finished numerous 50 and 100-mile distance events.
Training and running a marathon has become a very popular way for philanthropic individuals to raise large amounts of awareness and funds for local, regional, national and even international charities. Team LOL has stated that their name has dual meaning, following the popular text messaging acronym, “Laugh Out Loud,” since they have decided to not do just one, 26.2 mile marathon, but instead just about six full marathons in a row for their cause.
“It might be more of a head game for me after 100 miles. But the cause will help with that,” said Team LOL member, Kathleen Rytman of Chicago Run.
“There is only so much pain in each nerve,” said participant, Kamil Suran, of Crystal Lake. Kamil is no stranger to this type of endurance event, as in July he completed a 200 mile endurance run in Pennsylvania called the Viaduct Trail Ultra Marathon. Just as expected with the Run Across Illinois, Kamil raced for three whole days, finishing the event in 75 hours and 55 minutes. Not only did Kamil finish, but he won this event.
Kamil was not the only runner in this group that traveled to the Viaduct Trail Marathon in July. Cohort, Chuck Schultz also took on this massive trek in the 90-plus degree weather. When asked about what Schultz expects to be his largest obstacle, he said, “Sleep will be the biggest challenge. There is a small chance I could go without sleep but it’s not likely. So I need to accept that and plan for sleeping.”
“I think programs like Chicago Run have such a simple but important mission to build health, self-worth, self-esteem, accomplishment and goal-setting skills. It’s a great program,” says Scott Smoron, another member of Team LOL.
These runners will not be going at it alone, as there will be upwards of 20-25 supporters helping out as crew members and pacers. The crew members will provide vehicles along the way filled with food, hydration, extra clothing and other items. Pacers will be running various lengths alongside the runners for inspiration and support. The runners will be running alongside country roads for the entire distance, and will have ample reflective gear, including headlamps, between the hours of 7pm and 7am.
To follow updates on the group’s progress, you can visit www.facebook.com/RunAcrossIllinois, or follow them on Twitter at the handle @RunAcrossIL. These sites also provide the link to make pledge a donation to Chicago Run on behalf of the runner’s amazing feat. To learn more about the mission of Chicago Run, visit www.chicagorun.org.
When asked about the goal of running over 160 miles, team member Tony Cesario said, “the only obstacles you have, are the ones you place in front of yourself.”