Marathon veteran Dan Danielson loves to run. He has run the Chicago marathon about a dozen times, and through the years has participated in a total of 42 marathons. It’s been a while since his last run, but each year he looks forward to hearing famed Race Director Carey Pinkowski of the LaSalle Branch Chicago Marathon speak at the Forest Park Public Library.
“This guy is the cream of the crop,” Danielson said. “He’s done a lot for the marathon in his 16 years of directing. And despite his schedule, he always finds the time to come and talk to us every year before the race.”
Danielson, a Forest Park resident, is one of at least 200 area volunteers for this year’s marathon, and Pinkowski said the support received from the western suburbs is always outstanding.
Since its inception in 1975, the Chicago marathon has played a critical role in reflecting modern Chicago’s politics, its people, and the way it engages the rest of the globe, according to “The Chicago Marathon” author Andrew Suozzo. This year, the marathon will take place on Sunday, October 22. The race will begin in Grant Park and end near Buckingham Fountain. With 40,000 participants, it is one of the largest marathons in the world.
For Pinkowski, however, the success of a marathon is not defined by the number of people who participate, but by the number of people he has to turn away. This year, that figure climbed to 15,000.
There are still ways for people to get involved in the race. Danielson, for example, along with fellow members of the Oak Park Runners Club (OPRC), will be volunteering at water stops along the course.
“For the last five or six years, the Chicago marathon has gotten a little too crowded for me,” Danielson said.
Open to residents of Forest Park and River Forest, the club meets twice a week to run, and once every first Tuesday of the month to discuss ongoing events.
According to Pinkowski, the average time it takes to complete the 26.2 mile course is about four hours and twenty minutes.
“Fifteen years ago, people were finishing in three and half hour’s time,” Pinkowski said. “The change has been dramatic, but it’s a cultural thing. The marathon is not as competitive as it used to be. It’s become more social.”
Training for the marathon is another story. It can take anywhere from 14 to 18 weeks, according to Greg Domantay, running coach and co-founder of Run Chicago.
“The training process is difficult but rewarding,” Domantay said. “One’s involvement depends on the point of entry. If you’re a first-time runner, it’s a lifestyle change. If you’ve been running for some time, it’s a natural transition.”
For people interested in joining a running program there are several groups in the area. Domantay himself leads a running group every Saturday at 7 a.m. in front of his store on Madison Street. There’s also the aforementioned Oak Park Runners Club, and finally, there’s the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA), a nonprofit group that offers training programs to runners of all skill levels.