Runners are flanked on both sides by members of the Homewood-Flossmoor marching band. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Local News, Sports

Flossmoor’s Hidden Gem Half Marathon gears up for its 4th edition

Runners on the last few yards of the half marathon race. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Runners on the last few yards of the 2022 Hidden Gem Half Marathon. (Chronicle file photo)

Preparations are in full swing for the fourth installment of the Hidden Gem Half Marathon scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9. 

Tom Dobrez, president of Flossmoor’s Future and one of the organizers behind the Hidden Gem, traces the race’s origins back to a community meeting where residents planted the idea. The primary goals were to bolster Flossmoor’s visibility while fostering community unity and attracting visitors. 

The concept took root in the spring of 2018, eventually evolving into the Hidden Gem Half Marathon. The first race was run in 2019. It skipped a year due to the pandemic, but now is a hallmark event on the village’s calendar. 

Roman Ford, left, and Erin Graves hand cups of water to runners as they pass the water station in Flossmoor's Ballantrae neighborhood. The two are students at Flossmoor Montessori school, which sponsored a water station for the third year. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Roman Ford, left, and Erin Graves hand cups of water to runners as they pass
the water station in Flossmoor’s Ballantrae neighborhood during the 2022 Hidden
Gem. The two are students at Flossmoor Montessori school, which sponsored
a water station for the third year. (Chronicle file photo)

The race will start at 7:30 a.m. from the Infant Jesus of Prague school parking lot on Flossmoor Road. Athletes participating in the race will be given three hours to complete the 13.1-mile course. The day will kick off with packet pickups and gear checks at 6 a.m., concluding at 7:15 a.m., just before the race’s start.

The Hidden Gem Half Marathon has sold out all available slots, with an enthusiastic response resulting in a fully subscribed list of 1,000 registered runners and additional participants on the waitlist. The pool of runners includes many from the Midwest and others coming from 23 different states, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands and various foreign countries, as well as more than 20 running teams. 

“The Hidden Gem Half Marathon highlights our beautiful village to a regional, national and international crowd of runners,” said Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson. “Residents are filled with pride showcasing our musical talents, spirit, homes and tree-lined streets. Being awarded the 2022 Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) Race of the Year is a huge honor that further highlights our village as a gem that we are lucky to call home.”

Dobrez explained that residents who need to travel on race day should leave their neighborhoods by 7 a.m. before the race begins. Residents who live north of Flossmoor Road should go north to exit, and residents who live south of Flossmoor Road should go south to get out. 

“We really encourage everyone to stop and enjoy the race for two hours,” states Dobrez, speaking on this year’s road closures. “They (residents) need to understand that Flossmoor Road is completely shut down.”

Despite Flossmoor Road being closed, the perimeter of 183rd Street, Western Avenue, Vollmer Road, and Crawford Avenue are untouched and can be used as detour routes, Dobrez explains.  

The village will experience temporary road closures elsewhere to accommodate the race route. The road closures will occur in two phases: a preliminary “soft” closure and more extensive “hard” closures as runners enter various neighborhoods. 

Although the specific duration of the “hard” closures will vary depending on the locality, they are anticipated to last no longer than an hour, in most instances. These roadblocks will be lifted sequentially as the last participants traverse the neighborhoods.

A noteworthy alteration to the course lies near H-F High School. Due to ongoing construction activities within the campus for the school’s new science wing, the race route will cross the west side of the campus. Another change is the opening of Park Drive.

“Park Drive, north of Flossmoor Road, will remain open. It has been closed in the past. There was a slight adjustment at the 11th hour last year when we moved runners to Burns Avenue. Park Drive is a nice, easy way if they (residents) absolutely have to get out,” Dobrez said. 

Flossmoor’s residents demonstrate their dedication to the community in the lead-up to the marathon. Dobrez details the various cheer teams throughout the seven boroughs of the village and how they go all out to show their support. Leaders in these boroughs gather their neighbors together to organize cheer teams and neighborhood themes to display during race day. 

“The first year, we helped them with that (neighborhood themes), but each neighborhood has taken on its own. It has brought these smaller boroughs together in a way that we call the ‘Gem Effect.’ This has been one of the core values of the entire race,” explained Dobrez. 

Main road closures

  • Kedzie Avenue (Flossmoor Road to 193rd Street) 7- 9:30 a.m.
  • Governors Highway (Heather Road – Flossmoor Road) 7 – 9:45 a.m.
  • Flossmoor Road (west of Governors Highway) 7 – 9:45 a.m.
  • Flossmoor Road (east of Governors Highway) 7 a.m. – noon

Neighborhood closures

  • Baythorne — 7:30 – 8:15 a.m.
  • Ballantrae — 7:30 – 9 a.m.
  • Flossmoor Hills — 7:30 – 9:15 a.m.
  • Braemar Road — 7:45 – 9:45 a.m.
  • Heather Hill — 7:30- 10:30 a.m.
  • Flossmoor Estates — 8 – 10:45 a.m.
  • Flossmoor Park — 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
  • Old Flossmoor — 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.

More information can be found at hiddengemhalf.com

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