ST. CHARLES – Changes that made the races more challenging in Saturday’s Eighth Annual Bob Leonard River Run and Walk did not deter runners from competing in the events.
The 5K course was changed to make it more difficult and a 10K race was added. Race officials had to close walk up registration for the two running events because they ran out of racing bibs and timing chips.
“Today we had so many walk-ins that we ran out of bibs,” said Julie Farris, president of CMF Events, the company that managed the races. "Based on the bibs and based on the amount of the attendees, this was the largest event to date that the Bob Leonard River Run and Walk has done."
Ninety-three chipped runners competed in the 10K and 157 ran in the 5K.
Runners agreed that the 10K course, which started in Pottawatomie Park, crossed the Fox River and winded its way to Randall Road before returning to the park, was taxing.
“I would say the switches they put in there about mile four [was the hardest part of the course]” 10K male winner Matt Sagan said. “It was up and down and a big hill right in the middle. It was a pain.”
Sagan, a senior on the Riverside-Brookfield High School cross country team, finished with a time of 37:53.05. His younger brother, Jack, took third, crossing the finish line in 39:55.85.
“This [race] is more for me and my brother. This is like our preseason training,” said the older Sagan . “Our season starts on Wednesday.”
Farris said most of the 5K course remained the same as in the past.
“We changed it a little bit in sections with stairs and making it a little more difficult,” Farris said. “The 10K was an expansion of the 5K run – a little more rugged, a little more challenging.”
“I was expecting to run on road and pavement so that was demanding,” said David Phelps, a St. Charles resident who took fifth place in the 10K male division and first in the 40-49 male category. “Running in the grass and the switchback in the hills, I wasn’t expecting that this year.”
Elburn resident and Northern Illinois University dance student Jessica Lewis said she was surprised at all the hills.
“It was very challenging because I expected a very flat track,” said Lewis, who came in third in the 20-29 female group in the 10K.
Rounding out the top three male 10K winners was Matt Baker (38:15.32) from Polo.
Oswego resident Stephanie Johnson finished first in the female 10K division. She completed the circuit in 40:06.78. Sue Russell of DeKalb took second (45:14.22) and Bartlett’s Grace Churney finished third (46:48.99).
Stephanie Howe, 13, of Geneva took top honors in the female division of the 5K race with a time of 20:01.13.
Howe, who will be an eighth grader this fall, did not like the addition of stairs to the course.
“It’s kind of hard to go up and down and do it fast,” she said.
Emily Belanger, also of Geneva, took second in the 5K female division (22:24.44). Beth Daniel, from Tullahoma, Tennessee, came in third (22:44.59).
Top 5K honors in the male division went to Matt Rolain of Rochester, Michigan (17:43.31); James Myal of St. Charles (19:37.60) and Dan Roder of Elgin (20:05.83).
The event is name in honor of the late Bob Leonard, a St. Charles resident, who was instrumental in starting the River Corridor Foundation of St. Charles. The organization’s goals are to enhance, protect and beautify the Fox River in St. Charles.