Local News

Hidden Gem again named Race of the Year; organizers seek next generation of leaders

Hidden Gem Half Marathon organizers are calling it The Next GEM-eration meeting. From 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18, they are holding an information meeting for anyone who wants to contribute to the leadership of the race.

It’s a chance to have a hand in guiding one of the state’s top running events. The Hidden Gem Half Marathon has been named Race of the Year for the second year in a row by the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA).

Leaders of Flossmoor’s Future, the organization that started and operates the race, will hold the meeting at Flossmoor Public Library, 1000 Sterling Ave., in the Helen Wilson Meeting Room. They will offer a look at opportunities to get involved.

Tom Dobrez, one of the founders of Flossmoor’s Future, said the community has been enthusiastic in supporting the event. In the four years the race has been run, it typically attracts about 300 volunteers to help.

“We’re hoping some of those will step up and say, ‘I’m ready to do more,'” he said. “We figure the Gem already has quite a legacy, but the biggest legacy will be for it to continue.”

He said the meeting will provide a chance to discuss the future of the event and talk about what opportunities there are “for people to help keep it vibrant.”

He said the original core group of organizers plans to continue and will mentor those who want to move into leadership roles. The goal is to have new leaders shadow the current organizers to get a good sense for how the race operates.

He compared it to Flossmoor Baseball and Softball, an organization that has been managing youth baseball and softball leagues for six decades. 

“It isn’t always led by the same people,” he said. “There’s a foundation there. It’s just a matter of people filling in roles. That’s what we’re trying to do, create that continuing leadership.”

He said the race has a strong foundation, with established procedures and relationships with the government agencies that provide permission and support.

The race was created to pursue two goals: shine a light on the village’s assets for the rest of the world to see and provide a community-building project for residents.

The race quickly became a favorite of runners not only from the Chicago area but from around the nation, as indicated by the second Race of the Year award, which is based on runners’ reviews. 

Tim Bradley, executive director of CARA, said the community’s support and the strong organization help make the race popular with runners.

“Hidden Gem pulled it off again and won a narrow victory over some really great races in 2023,” Bradley said. “The Hidden Gem really has a great balance between a big race feel and a hometown community feel. The volunteers are great and the event is very well organized. We look forward to having the race back on the CARA Circuit in 2024 to see if it can three-peat.”

He said the last time there was a back-to-back winner of the Race of the Year honor was in 2018-2019 when the Good Life Race 5K organized by the Oak Park Runners Club won.

The Hidden Gem draws about 1,000 runners each year.

Organizers will accept the award at the CARA awards banquet on Feb. 25.

“As exciting as that is, the Gem is so much more than a half marathon,” Dobrez said in an email inviting volunteers to the meeting. “It’s a special day in our special community. It’s a day we all feel proud to call Flossmoor home.”

The 2024 race, the fifth, will be run on Sept. 7. Registration will open in March.

Community Calendar

News by email

Subscribe to The Latest (daily headlines email)

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Free weekly newsletter

Subscribe to The Weeks (weekly newsletter)

* indicates required
Most read stories this week