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Memorial Day Mile in St. Charles covers wide spectrum

Runners compete in the Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile on Monday morning in St. Charles.
Runners compete in the Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile on Monday morning in St. Charles.

ST. CHARLES – Seven different races were conducted at the Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile, and each offered something unique.

Dog lovers began the event’s festivities and Lukas Verzbicas, an 18-year-old who is the two-time reigning champion in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships, ended them by completing the course in 3:59.

In between, hundreds of runners scampered down Main Street in St. Charles on Monday morning – some with their dogs, some with their families, some honoring the military, but almost all with a smile on their faces.

“We live in the area and there’s lots of community involvement,” said Merrinda Janas, who ran with her husband and two children. “It brings you down and shows you the downtown and the little shops here that need to survive.”

Janas signed up her family – husband Rich, middle-school student Jacob and daughter Emma, 10 – for the Families race. She did so, in part, to bring her family together on Memorial Day as well as to allow Emma to run in her first race.

“We’ve been running as a couple for a couple years and we brought our son in last year,” said Merrinda Janas, of North Aurora. “Then she wanted to join and we thought ‘This is a perfect starting point, a one-mile with her family.’”

Because it was her first race, Merrinda Janas didn’t know what to expect from her daughter. But “I turn around [near the finish line] and she’s right behind me,” she said. “Very surprised; this was her first race and she ran in eight minutes.”

The Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile was also the first race for Winfield resident Lynton Karhor with his dog Kiku.

Karhor entered Monday’s race nervous, not because he was worried about the distance – Karhor completed the Fox Valley Marathon last year – but because of his Shiba Inu’s tendency to get distracted.

“It was great,” said Karhor after he and Kiku finished third. “I was a little nervous because when we run on the trails she stops a lot and she’ll stop at random stops and kind of sniff, so I was afraid she was going to do that today. But she didn’t, she kept running the whole mile, and she had fun.”

As most runners, including high school students from Geneva, Batavia, Marmion and both St. Charles schools, hung around after their individual races and socialized with the other racers, Karhor and Kiku did the same with other runner-dog teams.

“It was fun,” Karhor said. “She loves to run, she’s a lot faster than I am and it’s a good chance to socialize with the other dogs afterwards and for us to exercise on the long weekend.”

After Verzbicas won the Elite Division race and Geneva’s Kelly Whitley ran the second-fastest women’s time, the event moved to the Arcada Theater for the award ceremony.

Awards were handed out in the Arcada, including the 2011 Foot Mechanics Soul Surfer Award, which was awarded to Wheaton Academy senior Lexi Youngberg and Geneva triathlete Kevin McDowell.

McDowell was unsure whether he felt ready to race on Monday during his ongoing battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but eventually decided he felt well enough to come out and run the mile-long course.

McDowell ran it in 4:27.8, finishing fourth in the 15-19 division.

“I’m happy with how I ran,” McDowell said. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to go today, but I went out well. It’s at the end of my week. Tomorrow, I have another treatment, so it’ll be a rougher week. I’m on my good end of this week and I figured that I’m feeling good, I’m in good spirits and I’m here.”

For McDowell, a recent Geneva graduate and elite triathlete, the Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile presented a unique opportunity to run a race he hasn’t run since middle school. 

“I haven’t run a mile since eighth grade in an actual race, so when we did the mile it was over before I knew it,” McDowell said. “It was like ‘Oh, all right.’ And the downhill was nice; it was actually hard because I’m not the best downhill runner.”

McDowell, who finished second in the triathlon at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, thought Monday’s mile-long race provided an interesting contrast to the norm.

“It’s nice because it’s like a home thing,” McDowell said. “It’s here in the area, a nice event, they did a great job hosting it and, yeah, it was really fun.”

The Zimmerman Ford Fastest Miler was Elena Shemyakina, 52, of Geneva, with a time of 5:29. That designation is computed by a formula that takes age and gender into account.