Why We Run  Real Stories from Long-Time Ridge Runners 

By Kristin Boza 

Runners, walkers, and spectators alike will converge on Ridge Park, 9625 S. Longwood Dr., for the 44th Ridge Run this Memorial Day, Mon., May 30. The Ridge Run attracts people from all over, even out of state, and many runners/walkers have made the Ridge Run an annual family event.  

One of the best parts about Ridge Run is that the route is relatively flat, making it the perfect course for first-time runners, but also has the challenge of the highest hill in Chicago for runners who want to push themselves. Coupled with great late-May Chicago weather, it’s easy to see why runners and walkers come back to the Ridge Run year after year.  

Tom Casey 

Never Missed a Ridge Run 

Tom Casey began his running journey in the 1970s when he quit smoking and gained some weight.  

“I didn’t carry the added weight very well and decided to start living a healthier lifestyle,” he said. “At that time, there were no formal racing events, and shoes specifically designed for running were only starting to be produced. I ran through Beverly in my Chuck Taylor low-cut basketball shoes.” 

Strongly motivated to stay healthy and lose weight, Casey worked his way from a beginner to running 10Ks, half marathons, and full marathons over the last 50 years. He was excited to run in the inaugural Ridge Run in 1977, and hasn’t missed a year since. “The Ridge Run has gone through numerous course changes over the years. The initial course was designed to go straight south down Longwood Drive to 111th Street and then turn west and run up the steep hill. This was one of my favorite parts of the early races, since there were different philosophies as to how to deal with the hill,” Casey said. “One friend insisted the best approach was to run up as fast as you could to get it over with while another insisted that it was better to walk up the hill to conserve your strength.”  

Casey ended up choosing to split the difference between those two extremes and maintain his pace up the hill. “The fun part was chatting at the post-race gathering in Ridge Park about how challenging the hill was and the success or failure of the different approaches to it!” 

Like many, Casey credits the beauty of the neighborhood and its great neighbors to adding some oomph to the course. 

“The race receives great support from the community, including all the super volunteers that help make it work, and those along the route that provide encouragement to the runners to keep our spirits up,” he said. His favorites are when the Ridge Run falls on a hot day and neighbors use their hoses to spray the runners, and the motivation from neighbors on the route blaring loud music.  

Casey advises people running the Ridge Run for the first time to get in as many training runs as possible. “At the same time, be careful to not overtrain to the point that you wind up with muscle soreness on race day,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun to run if you are in good shape without heavy legs and able to enjoy the camaraderie and the beauty of the neighborhood, instead of struggling to get to the finish line.” 

 

The after party with friends and family at Ridge Park is definitely a highlight for Casey, who has been running the Ridge Run with his northside nephew for the last few years. “We gather by a big tree and enjoy food and drinks to help celebrate our accomplishments and ease the inevitable muscle soreness that we knew would be coming soon,” he said. “It’s comparable to the enjoyment of ‘apre ski’ time after a day of downhill skiing!” 

 

Mark Kinsella 

From Zero to 10K 

Mark Kinsella moved to Beverly/Morgan Park in the fall of 1997 and, inspired by the neighborhood’s beauty and wide street, tried out his first run the following spring. 

“My start in running grew out of a time of stress and burnout in life and work. I remember on my first run, I could hardly make it from 110th and Hoyne to 107th Street, but I decided to keep going. The next day I ran four blocks at a very slow pace, which eventually became one mile with some walking in-between,” Kinsella said. “If you take it in small increments, you can do it; it’s really a mental thing rather than a physical one.” 

Kinsella credits his incremental start to running as the key to keep going, and that’s what he advises new runners to do as well.  

“I ran every other day, and that’s what I continue to do 25 years later. It’s not about how far you can run, but for how long a time. The goal is to get to a place where you can continuously run for 30 minutes without stopping, but at a pace where you can have a conversation with a person next to you. Speed will come later.” 

Taking a walk-run-walk approach is a great way for new runners to meet start, beginning with a simple 30-minute walk. “That first walk is a first payment toward a place of satisfaction and psychological victory,” Kinsella said. 

Kinsella’s own program began like this:
Every other day, plan to get outside for 30 minutes.
Start with a 10-minute walk, then run for one minute and walk for one minute for a total of 10 minutes. Finally, end with a 10-minute walk.  

For the next workout, walk for 10 minutes, then run for 2, walk for 3 (total of 10 minutes again) and end with a 10-minute walk.  

“Using this method in small increments will get you to your goal,” Kinsella said. “Just keep increasing the minutes of running and lessening the minutes of walking over a period of four weeks. You will be amazed at your progress! Once you hit 30 minutes of continuous running, you have hit the baseline for running a 5K. That should be the goal for any beginning runner, and we have one of the best routes here in Beverly at the Ridge Run on Memorial Day!” 

2022 marks Kinsella’s 24th Ridge Run. “My favorite part of the Ridge Run is the route itself. It has to be one of the most beautiful in the city; our beautiful homes, architecture, trees, and people cheering is a total inspiration,” he said.  

Running is so much more than achieving a fitness goal, although that is certainly a point of pride for Kinsella. “It’s also about getting mentally and spiritually fit; many of the words from the sacred texts have to do with running,” Kinsella said. “Life itself is a race. Running the Ridge Run can be a reminder of that. That race does not have to be drudgery or jus the daily grind; it can be a time of joy when you prove to yourself that you have really accomplished something.” 

The Herbers 

The Family That Runs Together 

“Movement is medicine” is the Herber family motto. Dad Joe (44), mom Kathleen (42), and kids Anna (13), Joseph (11), and Mary Caroline (10), all love being active and enjoying the outdoors together. Joe and Kathleen are both physical education teachers at CPS schools and have been working out with their kids since Kathleen was pregnant with them.  

“Joe and I run separately early in the mornings in the neighborhood; we each have running buddies to help keep us accountable,” Kathleen said. She is currently training for the Boston Marathon on April 18 and has completed four marathons already. Joe has completed two Chicago marathons in the last few years.  

Anna runs to stay in condition for volleyball, basketball, and tennis and loves the Ridge Run and Beverly Turkey Trot.  

Joseph excels at running the mile, and achieved a personal best of 6:17 at the Rainey Park Turkey Trot in November.  

Mary Caroline runs to keep up with the others and has also competed in many 5K and 1-mile races. 

“As a lifelong Beverly resident, I have been running the Ridge Run for as long as I can remember,” Kathleen said. “It is always a highlight of Memorial Day weekend and a chance to gather and run with cousins, aunts, and uncles. Joe has run the Ridge Run almost every year since 2007 when he moved to Beverly. All three of our kids have completed their first of many Ridge Runs in a jogging stroller with their dad.” 

The family’s favorite part of the day is seeing and cheering for relatives and friends, and redeeming enjoying the post-race Rainbow Cone.  

“We are thankful to BAPA for organizing this great event. The Ridge Run showcases the Beverly neighborhood and the positive spirit of the community. This Memorial Day tradition is a kick-off to summer and, most importantly, a way to remember all those who have served to protect our country and our freedom,” Kathleen said. 

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