Idde and Luis Pagan brought Christmas cheer to September with their display marking the Braeburn holiday theme. Pagan is a retired Chicago firefighter who moved his family to Flossmoor in July. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
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The Gem 2023: Braeburn, Brassie residents offer holiday joy to Gem runners

The nine-mile team, from left, is Cristine Alcasia, Dave Mayer, Beth Kirchler, Jerry Zachary, Ron Kirchler, Ben Herman, Mike Kamradt, Betty Herman, Al Hill, Jennifer Dreyfuss, David Dreyfuss, Rose Mayer, Jessica Kors, Monica Zachary and Bill Sweeney. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
The nine-mile team, from left, is Cristine Alcasia, Dave Mayer, Beth Kirchler, Jerry Zachary, Ron Kirchler, Ben Herman, Mike Kamradt, Betty Herman, Al Hill, Jennifer Dreyfuss, David Dreyfuss, Rose Mayer, Jessica Kors, Monica Zachary and Bill Sweeney. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
After running for nine miles, Julie Gebel still seems to be enjoying herself. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
After running for nine miles, Julie Gebel
still seems to be enjoying herself.
(Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)

Flossmoor’s 4th annual Hidden Gem Half Marathon may be 13.1 miles long, but the race’s highest point — literally and figuratively — was at Mile Nine where Brassie and Braeburn avenues meet. This stretch includes Flossmoor’s biggest hill (on Braeburn) and a troupe of dedicated neighborhood volunteers who came together to set up a comfort station (on Brassie) for runners racing past their homes.

Just steps after runners completed navigating the hill at Mile Nine, they were greeted by neighbor-volunteers lining the route to pass out energy gel, Gatorade, cups of water, and even donuts and coffee for any pedestrians wandering about. 

Besides the hydration brigade, the group included a team of medical personnel ready to tend to runners’ needs, a sound engineer who set up loudspeakers that filled the air with music because he wanted to “add a bit of sound and rhythm to the race,” Port-a Potties, a neighbor doing traffic control to keep the route safe for the runners, and some spectators who set up a tailgate in the back of their SUV and parked at a strategic spot to cheer on friends and relatives as they sped by. 

  • Runners round the corner at the nine-mile point where Braeburn and Brassie avenues intersect. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Runners round the corner at the nine-mile point where Braeburn and Brassie avenues intersect. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • Cristine Alcasia tries to make sure runners stay hydrated. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Cristine Alcasia tries to make sure runners stay hydrated. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • Rachel Engram-Sims, left, and Maryah Jones-Person are ready to support Maryah’s mother, Rochelle Jones-Person, when she runs past their vantage point. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Rachel Engram-Sims, left, and Maryah Jones-Person are ready to support Maryah’s mother, Rochelle Jones-Person, when she runs past their vantage point. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • A sign at the top of the hill on Braeburn Avenue lets Hidden Gem runners know it's down hill thereafter. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    A sign at the top of the hill on Braeburn Avenue lets Hidden Gem runners know it's down hill thereafter. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • Blake Buysse leads the pack over the crest of the highest point in Flossmoor. He continued on to place first in the race. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Blake Buysse leads the pack over the crest of the highest point in Flossmoor. He continued on to place first in the race. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • Chantal Walker and Kobie Douglas wait for the first runners to pass. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Chantal Walker and Kobie Douglas wait for the first runners to pass. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • Idde and Luis Pagan brought Christmas cheer to September with their display marking the Braeburn holiday theme. Pagan is a retired Chicago firefighter who moved his family to Flossmoor in July. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Idde and Luis Pagan brought Christmas cheer to September with their display marking the Braeburn holiday theme. Pagan is a retired Chicago firefighter who moved his family to Flossmoor in July. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • Steve Ojode manages the traffic blockade as he waits for the runners to descend the Braeburn Avenue hill. While he let cars pass before 8 a.m., he said that “Once racers start coming, we don’t let anyone through.” (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Steve Ojode manages the traffic blockade as he waits for the runners to descend the Braeburn Avenue hill. While he let cars pass before 8 a.m., he said that “Once racers start coming, we don’t let anyone through.” (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
  • The nine-mile team, from left, is Cristine Alcasia, Dave Mayer, Beth Kirchler, Jerry Zachary, Ron Kirchler, Ben Herman, Mike Kamradt, Betty Herman, Al Hill, Jennifer Dreyfuss, David Dreyfuss, Rose Mayer, Jessica Kors, Monica Zachary and Bill Sweeney. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    The nine-mile team, from left, is Cristine Alcasia, Dave Mayer, Beth Kirchler, Jerry Zachary, Ron Kirchler, Ben Herman, Mike Kamradt, Betty Herman, Al Hill, Jennifer Dreyfuss, David Dreyfuss, Rose Mayer, Jessica Kors, Monica Zachary and Bill Sweeney. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)

The Braeburn-Brassie theme for this year’s half-marathon may have been “holiday,” and many front yards were decked out in Christmas, 4th of July, and other celebration-themed regalia, but the show of support at Mile Nine for the Gem and its 926 finishers was much more than a pep rally. 

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All along that stretch of pavement the strongest vibe was pure Flossmoor community, and it made many runners smile on their way to the finish line. 

Runners round the corner at the nine-mile point where Braeburn and Brassie avenues intersect. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
Runners round the corner at the nine-mile point where Braeburn and Brassie avenues intersect. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)

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