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Grateful Schramm treks from Joplin to St. Charles

Published: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 5:32 a.m. CDT

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Ken Schramm finished April’s Boston Marathon before the horrific bombings, but knows his fate would have been anyone’s guess had he stayed to cheer fellow runners.

A workmanlike finishing time and a quick flight home to Joplin, Mo., ensured an unwitting Schramm’s safety then.

His journey to St. Charles for Sunday’s Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon is a much more brooding one.

Joined by his wife, Dianne, and daughter, Angelina, Schramm will descend on the Tri-Cities for the first time since June 2011, when marathon co-organizers Craig Bixler and Dave Sheble offered a fundraiser run for the victims of the Joplin tornado in May of that year.

“It was a pretty touching, moving experience to come up there,” Schramm said. “We hadn’t met and we didn’t know anyone from that area, but we wanted to be there because they were willing to honor and raise money for the victims and people of Joplin.”

Schramm, 49, yearned to run the Fox Valley Marathon in the years since, but conflicts with his schedule always kept him from that goal.

In 2011, 10-year-old Angelina helped distribute medals that initially were to be awarded to runners of the Boomtown Half-Marathon, which Joplin officials canceled in the wake of the tornado.

“Somehow, we’re stuck in all these different tragedies, and we try to live life to its fullest,” Ken Schramm said. “Everybody that we’ve encountered and met, it means a lot to us.”

Movin’ on up: “The Running Grandma” sounds like a made-for-TV movie Hallmark Channel might trot out as prime-time fare on a given Sunday night.

To 75-year-old Kay Harbaugh of St. Charles, it’s her latest proud title.

A recent addition to the running community, Harbaugh found inspiration through her granddaughter, Lily, of St. Charles, who runs cross country as an eighth-grader at Harvest Christian Academy in Elgin.

Flanked by Lily as well as children Mark and Leanne, Harbaugh’s entry makes three generations of her family in the 13.1-mile race.

“[Lily] just runs like a gazelle, and I thought, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if grandma could get in shape a little bit?’ ” Harbaugh said.

She started toward that goal at her winter home in Florida, joining a running group called Sole Mates that met three times a week. Until then, Harbaugh had only run the baseline as an avid tennis player for nearly three decades until she suffered an arm injury.

These days, Harbaugh prefers discussing her neck. A necklace gift from Lily warmed her heart.

“She just said, ‘Grandma, I’m so proud of you and I just wanted to give this to you because I love what you’ve trying to do,’ ” Harbaugh said.

Costas’ new constituency: Valparaiso, Ind., mayor Jon Costas may not be in league with fellow hizzoners Ray Rogina (St. Charles), Kevin Burns (Geneva) or Jeff Schielke (Batavia), but he knows much of the lay of the land of those mayors’ respective towns.

One of many runners using the Fox Valley race as a 2014 Boston Marathon qualifying attempt, Costas has visited Geneva’s Herrington Inn with his wife, Sharon, annually for the past several years.

Their trips routinely include recreation along the Fox River Trail.

“When we go on vacation, I run and bike a lot because that’s how I relax,” said Costas, 56. “But yeah, I love the trail. I’ve been on quite a few long runs there.”

Rogina has registered for the half-marathon.

It’s academic: Chris Wright of Champaign is another out-of-town runner who brings muscle memory to the trail; she recently took a bike ride while visiting friends.

Wright’s other suburban excursions stem from her involvement as a speedskater on ice and inline tracks. She works as an assistant director of DNA services at the University of Illinois by day.

Wright doesn’t need her education to confirm it’s a rougher fall on ice than it is on pavement.

“When the group tumbles [skating], it can feel pretty bad,” she said.

Fox Valley Marathon Breakdown
Three years ago, before the inaugural running of the Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon, we offered Chronicle Country 26.2 reasons to attend – a motive for every mile.

Judging by the bustling runner registration and attendance since then, folks don't necessarily need further incentive to support athletes in downtown St. Charles or along the Fox River Trail.

"We're pretty much the same thing, just bigger," co-organizer Dave Sheble said. "Bigger and better."

Sheble left out a "B," it turns out. Two if you count his partner, Craig Bixler. Sunday's marathon strives to be basic above all. Beginning with those essentials and moving on from there, here's a spectator's guide to the race:

THE BASICS
When: The national anthem begins at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, with waves for the marathon, half-marathon and 20-mile race beginning at 7. Each wave comprises about 100 people and starts every 30 seconds. Where: The races start and finish near the intersection of Illinois and First streets in downtown St. Charles. The majority of the courses traverse the Fox River Trail.

Parking: Five garages or lots throughout town offer free parking. With entrances in parentheses, they include: West Side garage (W. Walnut St.); East Side garage (E. Walnut Ave., 2nd Ave. or Third Ave.); East Side lots (2nd Ave.); Northwest lots (N. 2nd St.); Northeast lots (Riverside Ave., N. 3rd Ave., State Ave.).

In addition, there is free street parking in the residential areas near downtown.

LOOK UP THERE
There's a new start/finish line – the item itself, not the physical location – this fall, designed to highlight a sleeker marathon logo.

"Runners who've been with us for a long time will likely see it more polished, I think, at the start and finish line this year with some things that we've done, which is good," Sheble said.

SOMETHING FOR THE KIDS
At 3 p.m. today, the Fox Valley Kids Marathon culminates as registrants complete their final 1.2 miles together. The group logged its first 25 miles through regimented, logbook runs beginning in early June.

Bixler and Sheble praised former St. Charles East coach and athlete Denise Hefferin's work with coordinating the event.

"Some of these kids are the soccer kids that are out there, athletic anyway, and that's wonderful," Bixler said, "but some of them are kids who normally wouldn't do this kind of stuff, and that's just the best."

GO FORWARD, MOVE AHEAD ...
Call it common sense for an uncommon feat.

Although Bixler and Sheble aren't urging runners against using their cellphone cameras like organizers of the Hong Kong Marathon – a woman's "selfie" at the start line caused a chaotic pileup in February – they hope athletes have an eye on their own and others' safety.

"If there's 20,000 people behind you running full speed, don't come to a full stop in the middle of the road," Bixler said.

With a total expected field of about 3,700 runners this year, Bixler and Sheble need not worry.

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