GARY | It's nice to be able to bike to work.
Roland Walker is giddy he can now bike from his home in Gary to run a marathon.
Walker was one of more than 500 participants at the inaugural Dawn of the Dunes Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K that took place Sunday morning – and for some runners well into the afternoon – in and around Marquette Park.
"It's great to finally get one here," he said.
Walker, 42, is the city's health commissioner. He was among those who helped plot the course for the 26.2-mile race. He ran the half-marathon event after running the Chicago Marathon two weeks ago.
"It took about four plans, but we finally were able to get one approved," Walker said. "We were thinking about extending all the way out to West Beach, but maybe next time."
For those running the full marathon, it consisted of a double-loop around the neighborhood before ending where it started, adjacent to the Marquette Park Pavilion. Overall winner Jeff Mescal, 48, had no problem with the sometimes hilly course.
The Lowell resident finished nearly eight minutes ahead of runner-up Kenneth Brooks, winning the event with a time of 2 hours, 49 minutes and 50 seconds.
"The scenery was awesome, and I'm one of those runners who likes double-loop courses," Mescal said. "When you see the same things over again, it gives you a better idea where you are in the race."
For Mescal, the Dawn of the Dunes was his 50th marathon. So far, he has a pretty good batting average for someone not playing baseball. He also participated in the most recent Chicago Marathon, and will run in the Monumental Marathon next weekend in Indianapolis, where he will attempt to run a marathon in under three hours for the fifth-consecutive weekend.
"This is my 10th overall win, so I've won about 20 percent of my races so far," he said. "My goal is seven-straight weekends (of under three hours)."
As for the marathon's overall female champion, Laura Attebery said she's going to shut down for the winter.
"I don't think running the Chicago Marathon and then running this on such a short notice is a good idea," said Attebery, 39, of LaGrange Park.
Especially when the said Chicago Marathon was her first 26.2-miler in 12 years.
"I wanted to see if I could do it again after so long," said Attebery, who finished the Dunes race with a time of 3:49, which was about eight minutes slower from Chicago. "I don't why that was because I don't like big races with 47,000 people. I run better when it's less crowded, that's why I came out here after hearing about this race last week."
Highland's Natalie Goolik was the overall female winner of the half-marathon race, her first substantial long-distance run since competing in the ill-fated Boston Marathon last spring.
"Oh, I'm definitely going back in 2014," said Goolik, 25, who finished her third Boston Marathon just before the terrorist bombings. "It was sad that people thought they could ruin something like ... to take away the happiness from those who accomplished so much just getting there."
The Dunes was Goolik's first half-marathon, where her time was 1:29:34.
"I wanted to push myself for more speed at this distance," she said.
John Borman, 35, of Valparaiso, was the overall male half-marathon winner with a time of 1:22:46. Borman is training for a trail marathon taking place Nov. 30 at Imagination Glen Park in Portage.
"The course was great; The neighbors were great as they were cheering us along the way," he said. "And the police escort was great."
Both the half-marathon and 5K attracted more than 200 runners; the full marathon had more than 70.
"Just two weeks ago we had 300 registered, and we ended up getting more than 550 from which 511 turned out," race founder Tom Taylor said. "Most of the feedback we received has been positive, though some have remarked that we needed a few more water stops and at least another (portable toilet) along the course.
"Much of the praise has been about the police presence, and how helpful and supportive they've been."