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Hidden Gem adding participation cap this year; early registration deal ends this weekend

Runners who want to beat the cap and the price bump might want to register for the second annual HIdden Gem Half Marathon this weekend. The race will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11.

Organizers introduced a capacity limit on the race this year in order to ensure a good experience for everyone, according to race official Tom Dobrez. As of midnight Sunday, the discounted early registration fee will expire, so runners will have to pay full price starting Monday.

Currently, the fee is $60 for individual runners, but it will go up to $70 on Monday. 

In addition to the capacity limit, there will be no race day registration, Dobrez said. That change is designed to allow the volunteer staff to focus entirely on the race itself.

The cap is set at about 850 runners. More than 500 have already registered. About 620 runners competed in the inaugural race in 2019. 

Dobrez said the 2019 champions are expected to return, giving the race its competitive side, but the race is open to runners of all experience levels. Dobrez said organizers are working with local cross country runners to recruit “running buddies” to encourage runners during the last stretch of the race.

The race is sanctioned by the Chicago Area Runners Association and is timed to offer runners an opportunity to include it in their preparations for the Chicago Marathon. 

The route has changed only slightly from the 2019 version, which was designed to introduce runners to all the neighborhoods and characteristics of the village, including its parks, Homewood-Flossmoor High School and its public art installations. 

The race this year will end at the Flossmoor Public Library parking lot, about a quarter mile closer to downtown. At the end of the race, runners can await results by sipping a free Hidden Gem beer compliments of Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery. 

The race will begin with a tribute to first responders in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. 

Dobrez said Flossmoor’s Future, the sponsoring organization for the race, is creating a small park with a bench near the Flossmoor Fire Department to honor local first responders. 

Community groups and local performers will be stationed in each neighborhood to cheer runners as they pass. Last year, neighborhood groups provided themed cheer squads. 

“Every mile will have some form of local talent,” Dobrez said, including bands, singers and DJs. “Those are all donated. (They are) sharing their talents with our runners and our village to show off the talent this village has.”

Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson is working on lining up musical performers. She said the current list includes Kalind Haynes, who will sing the national anthem before the start of the race; the Homewood-Flossmoor  High School Marching Band; Sounds of Illinois Brass Choir; Joseph Robertson, also known as Drummer Joe; DJ Fidel Calderon; DJ Matt Kuhnen; Falling Stars; Sam Calhoon and friends; and Mud City Blu. 

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