When organizers announced the Hidden Gem Half Marathon in Flossmoor, local runners leaped at the chance. Kaila Konecki, a regular runner with the HF Community Running Club, said she was excited when she heard the news.
“I was actually like the fifth person to register. I was all over it,” she said.
When organizers announced the Hidden Gem Half Marathon in Flossmoor, it didn’t take long to start moving toward the goal of 300 runners. Local runners leaped at the chance.
Kaila Konecki, a regular runner with the HF Community Running Club, said she was excited when she heard the news.
“I was actually like the fifth person to register. I was all over it,” she said. “I love racing. We used to have 5K circuits in the HF area but they’ve kind of dwindled out, so to hear that they were trying to get the running community built back up was incredible.”
Club members talked about the approaching race as they prepared for a 10-mile run on Aug. 10, part of their training for the Hidden Gem.
Most club members are traveling throughout the Chicago metropolitan area and beyond to get to races. They look at the Hidden Gem as similar to a home game in high school sports, a chance to compete on home turf and show off the charms of the village.
“Many of these people can literally roll out of bed and walk to the starting line,” David Crownover said. “You don’t get many races where you can walk to it.”
The club’s training routine has benefitted from the Hidden Gem, giving members a goal to work toward. The weekly long run has been incrementally extended to get close to the 13.1 miles of a half marathon.
The race also has contributed to a boost in the club’s numbers.
Long-time member Priscilla Cordero said regular participation was flagging last year to as low as five runners showing up sometimes, but this year it’s more common to have 20 to 30 people show up for runs.
Cordero said the club got more organized, with set schedules and a variety of types of running, which helped. The club meets at 5:30 a.m. every Tuesday to get in speed work at the Homewood-Flossmoor High School track, at 7 p.m. every Wednesday for a more leisurely fun run that starts at Irwin Park and at 7 a.m. every Saturday for distance work, meeting at the traffic island in downtown Flossmoor.
But the Hidden Gem brought more people out, some of whom were former club members who decided to compete in the local race and some who say the half marathon inspired them to start running.
Cordero is an experienced distance runner. She has competed in five marathons, and the Hidden Gem will be her 17th half marathon. For her, welcoming new runners has been the biggest attraction of the local race.
“It’s so exciting that so many people are training for their first one and are so dedicated,” she said. “We’ve had people come every single Saturday to the long run. It’s fun to bring somebody into the fold.”
Anyone who wishes to join the club can simply show up at one of the regular running sessions, Crownover said. Runners also keep in touch via the club’s Facebook group.