Runners love Flossmoor’s Hidden Gem Half Marathon.
So many of them love the race that the Chicago Area Runners Association named the Gem the race of the year for 2022.
The honor is the latest achievement in the Gem’s rapid rise as a premier race in the Chicagoland running world. The race was certified in its first year, 2019. In 2020, it was named a Runners’ Choice Circuit race, one of the 15 top races in the region. The race took a pandemic hiatus that year, but returned as a circuit race in 2021 and 2022.
Brent Bachus and Katie Sullivan represented Gem organizers at the Feb. 25 awards banquet where the honor was presented. Co-founder of the race, Tom Dobrez, was unable to attend, but he said everyone in the organization was thrilled with the honor.
“It’s really been a heck of a pat on the back,” he said. “All of us were really thrilled. If you did 20 races it still would be an accomplishment, but to have it in our third race is pretty significant.”
Tim Bradley, executive director of CARA, said the race of the year is selected by the organization’s racing committee, which reviews the results of a 26-question survey taken by runners. Committee members can factor in their own experiences with the race as they determine the top race.
“Many on the race committee are long time runners and have done hundreds of races over the years,” Bradley said.
He shared a sampling of comments from runners about the Gem.
- “Great race, happy to run it for my second year…Overall, amazing work putting on another quality event!”
- “Fabulous volunteer staff, water stations, race day direction.”
- “Incredible race!…loved the shirt, the swag, and especially the community support. Would do it again and again.”
- “The race was absolutely wonderful! Awesome job! The volunteers (especially the high school really brought it). Will definitely be back next year!”
- “This was a very great experience. Very well planned and an extraordinary amount of volunteers. Bravo.”
“Thank you so much! I think Flossmoor is the friendliest town in America.”
In interviews with Chronicle reporters, runners have said they love the enthusiasm of the neighborhood cheer groups and the beauty of the tree-lined route.
The route will be even greener in future years after the Plant the Gem project volunteers added 300 trees in October 2022.
Registration for this year’s race on Sept. 9 will open within a few weeks.