LIBERTY TOWNSHIP | The second annual 24-hour run at Sunset Hill Farm County Park is still wrestling with a name and has yet to draft rules regarding leaving the course for a cold beer.
Peru, Ind., resident John Sites, 62, noticed a nearby bar and grill when he found directions for the race course, and he took liberty in Liberty Twp. and visited Roadhouse Bar and Grill at the corner of U.S. 6 and Meridian Road once at 8 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. A tall MGD went on his tab each time.
“That was my unofficial aid station,” Sites said. “That really hit the spot.”
Runners are allowed to leave and come back, and often members of 10-person teams leave for a few hours to sleep.
Sites’ pit stops were not too costly as Sites covered the slightly altered three-mile course 29 times for a mileage total of 87 to win the overall individual title for 24 Hours at Sunset (previously titled Party at the Park 24-Hour Run) on Sunday afternoon at Sunset Hill.
Repeat: A 62-year-old man ran 87 miles in 24 hours with two pit stops for beer.
Sites’ best previous mileage for one race was 63 at the St. Pat’s 24-hour race.
“My goal was to run the whole 24 hours here,” Sites said. “The win was gravy. Somehow I just didn’t slow down.”
Proving that steadiness wins the race, Sites was the second-to-last runner around the first loop of Chesterton’s home cross country course when the 24-hour session began at noon on Saturday. By the middle of the night he was fifth among individual males and steadily moved up through dawn and into noon Sunday when the race concluded.
A semi-retired instructor at Ivy Tech’s Kokomo campus, Sites ran in his 20s and picked it up again at age 45. He’s now completed 40 races that were marathon distance or greater.
He spent four straight hours walking during the 24-hour period.
“I either walked or shuffled, but I don’t know if you could call anything I did running,” Sites said. “That was big. … This (feeling) is going to be hard to top.”
The overall female winner, Cindy Torres of Steger, covered 78 miles. She’s been doing a marathon or longer each month this year.
“I needed something closer this month because gas is so expensive,” the 53-year-old Bloom Trail grad said. “I’ve always been a runner, and marathons weren’t challenging me any more.”
A veteran of more than 50 marathons, Torres said she benefited from the weather in finishing second overall to Sites. She abstained from sleep and traveled solo with only a supply tent (her husband had to work all weekend). She stopped running shortly before 10 a.m. and said later that she probably could have done some more.
The team championship went to a unit named ‘Stros & Trolls, made up of runners from Shepard High School in Palos Heights (mascot: Astros) and Trinity Christian College (mascot: Trolls).
“We saw this in a running magazine, and we were looking for a cool event,” Shepard cross country coach and Trinity runner Joey Lerner said. “I wanted them to try it and experience the highs and lows.”
The 10-man ‘Stros and Trolls squad covered 210 miles to beat Extra Mile (201), a team from the store of the same name with some Portage and Valpo cross country runners and alumni. Defending champion Midwest Insurance Agency, a mix of youth and experience helmed by Paul Jankowski, was third.
While some prep and college runners use the event as a team-building offseason exercise, others, such as the two-man team champion Road Runners, use it to prepare for 100-mile races. Road Runners covered 132 miles total this weekend.
The second-place tandem, dubbed Stormin Norman Runs 100, had the better tale of achievement, despite being 15 miles off the lead.
Norman Williams’ teammate, Dick Canterbury, ran individually last year but had his race cut short by a visit to the ambulance. He had an intestinal problem stemming from a previous surgery and went to urgent care.
After running this weekend he simply went home to a whirlpool. The 65-year-old has completed three 100-mile races this year and needs two more for the Midwest Grand Slam. He’s done more than 170 marathons and ultra-marathons, including 23 100-mile races.
“This is just another challenge,” Canterbury said.
Running the event behind the scenes also was challenging, as return organizers Stacia Yoon and Todd Henderlong attested. At the very last minute, despite approval months ahead of time, Henderlong was told that a portion of the race course couldn’t be used because of safety concerns with the fireworks portion of a music festival at the park on Saturday night.
Participation rose slightly among individuals this year, but there were fewer 10-person teams.
“If we have the same number of people every year, I’ll be happy,” Henderlong said. “This is like a Woodstock for runners, and everyone comes out and there is a lot of camaraderie.”