A roughly seven mile stretch of Route 83 sat deserted Sunday morning as about 2,000 runners stood eagerly at the start line waiting for the race to commence.
Just over an hour later runners in the Southwest Half Marathon began crossing the finish line with triumphant, yet exhausted, expressions across their faces. The race is in its fourth year and has grown at a steady rate.
Tricia Paul, of Frankfort, ran in the race for the third year. She was accompanied by a cheering section complete with a homemade sign.
"It is great knowing you have people supporting you," Paul said.
The clear skies offered an ideal day for spectators, but the runners also had to contend with gusts of wind and a bright sun.
"It was a very scenic course," said Sandy Kurby, of Carol Stream.
Runners started near Harlem Avenue and made their way down the wooded winding road of Route 83, before looping back once they hit Archer Road.
Kurby's young son Joey was on hand to cheer on his mom from his stroller.
"It is the greatest inspiration you can have," she said.
The race draws recreational runners as well as elite-level athletes. Benson Cheruiyot, of Kenya, completed the 13 mile course in one hour, five minutes.
Kevin Letz, 15, John Altman, 18, and Miguel Equina, 19, of Orland Park ran the race together.
Within two miles the back of Altman's foot began to blister and he thought about stopping, but his friends encouraged him to continue.
"I'm glad that I did," Altman, a student at Moraine Valley, said.
All three finished in the top 100 and said the crowd gathered gave them an extra boost as they made their way toward the finish line.
"It helped to push you during the last three miles," Equina said.
Palos Heights alderman Jeff Prestinaro helped organize the race, along with Mel Diab, who owns in Palos Heights.
"It is a south suburban race that has a number of different municipalities and agencies working together," Prestinario said.
Among the municipalities working together were Palos Heights, Palos Park, Palos Hills, Alsip and Cook County. Fire districts and police forces all worked in tandem.
Prestinario said that a core group of volunteers is what makes the race possible.
"We have for the most part the same group of people from last year and it is a real joint effort to put this on," he said.
Sara Reddy, of Palos Heights, and her son David volunteered at the finish line. They passed out water and sports drink to runners as they completed the race.
Reddy ran the race last year and decided to give volunteering a try this year.
"It was a lot of fun to see it from the other side," Reddy said. "I love it and am just glad the weather was so great."
The race results can be viewed online here.
Check back later today for an extensive photo gallery and a look at runners who came out for a cause.