With over 45,000 runners hailing from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, the annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the world’s premiere races. Amid that Gatorade-chugging and stopwatch-checking pack of runners, 48 participants proudly represented Forest Park last Sunday. 

“Marathon day in the city is amazing,” said Forest Parker Katherine Valleau, an education specialist at District 91 schools. She and her husband, Chris Valleau, participated in the race for the first time, this year.

In the days before the Oct. 9 race, Valleau spoke excitedly about the forthcoming event: “Even with two million spectators cheering on 45,000 runners, there is a real sense of community. I love the sport of running and the subculture between runners where we all talk shop and are in the same boat. The Chicago Marathon course is brilliant with so many distinctive Chicago neighborhoods.”

The course for the 2011 race included Chicago neighborhoods such as the Loop, Old Town, Lakeview, Boystown, Little Italy, Pilsen, Bridgeport and Chinatown, among others.

David Formanski is another Forest Parker who ran in Sunday’s marathon, finishing with a time of 3 hours, 56 minutes, 50 seconds. When discussing the race, Formanski said that each runner is participating on his or her own terms.

“There are 45,000 runners with 45,000 stories,” Formanski said. “But we all run this marathon for a reason, whether it’s to accomplish a personal goal or raise money for charity.”

Sunday was Formanski’s seventh Chicago Marathon. It was also his 13th marathon, overall. He was running to raise funds for the Chicago Police Memorial Fund – something he’s done for three straight years.

“I run for those people near and dear to my heart,” he said. “The money I raise helps families of officers who have been killed or catastrophically injured cover medical costs, tuition and other financial needs.

“It blows you away when you realize how many people run this marathon for charity. I always want to run well and break my [personal] records, but I’m really going to enjoy the marathon and take in the atmosphere this year.”

In 2010, 10,000 charity runners raised more than $12 million on behalf of local, national and global causes, according to the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon website.

This year, Formanski said he personally raised about $600 for his charity; and he had nothing but good things to say about the event.

“The Chicago Marathon workers were phenomenal and the volunteers even better. A lot people were just helping out any way they could,” he said.  “Some volunteers sign up and help at specific points along the course. Other people just made a day of it hanging out in their front yard having a barbecue and cheering the runners as they passed by.”

For many, the 2011 race ended with mixed emotions, following the death of a 35-year-old veteran marathoner from North Carolina. On the positive end of the spectrum, both training for and, ultimately, completing the marathon was a way to pursue personal goals

Forest Park runners Ken Langen and Frank Hansen, lost 50 pounds and 30 pounds, respectively, in training for the marathon.

“I’ve lost 50 pounds over the past three years,” Langen said. “I’ve noticed a difference in my overall health and wellbeing.”

The 50-year-old Hansen began running in earnest about four years ago by competing in half marathons. Like many marathoners, Hansen faithfully followed the training regimen of running guru Hal Higdon while preparing for the Chicago Marathon.

Hansen crossed the finish line at 3:59.16 on Sunday.

“I kind of enjoyed the training as much as the actual event,” Hansen said. “I like how the Chicago Marathon has pace groups which run at certain times right on the dot. When you’re running sometimes it gets hot and you’re tired, but the support from spectators is incredible. I remember running through Pilsen [in 2010] and people were spraying garden hoses on the runners, handing out fruit and cheering on the runners.”

It’s not uncommon for married couples to team up in taking on the Chicago Marathon, either. Like the Valleaus, Josh Koppang (5:49.07) and his wife Joanna Koppang (4:55.22), of Forest Park, ran the marathon, for the second straight year.

“We train about 14 weeks leading into the Chicago Marathon,” Josh said. “Before the race, we start off running about five times a week. During high-mileage weeks, we cut back to four times a week, running 35-45 miles those weeks.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle to run 15 miles on a Saturday because it takes a lot of your time,” he added. “The reward is when you cross the finish line of 26.2 miles.”

According to a log of the finishing times, available on the event’s website, Forest Park’s top runner was Paul Gulezian, who finished a 3:29.30. He was followed by Shannon Hextrum (3:46.46), Ed Garcia (3:47.06), Donna Gelmanovich (3:48.27) and Kate Boris (3:50.44).

And Joe Rice, the son of Forest Park Review columnist and contributor John Rice, clocked a time of 5:35.06.

Regarding post-race recovery time for runners, Katherine Valleau (ran a time of 6:28.15 on Sunday) perhaps offered the best panacea.

“I am going to order a hamburger, Bloody Mary and a Coke,” the 35-year-old said with a laugh, “assuming that I’ll be able to walk.”