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From Running For Kicks, to Running For a Cause

One Palos Heights business owner took his passion for running and turned it into a huge charitable fundraiser.

As 2,000 runners stood Mel Diab sat in the pace car, ready to lead the pack. They were all here largely because of his work and his passion 

"I have been running for over 47 years," Diab said. "It just clears your mind and it is such a great stress reliever. It just makes life easier and beautiful. I just love it."

The First Midwest Bank Half Marathon attracts over 2,000 runners, 300 volunteers and thousands of spectators to the Palos area every May and has in five years raised about $125,000 for charitable causes. 

Diab is the owner of in Palos Heights. The shop specializes in specially fitted running shoes and other running gear. About six years ago he had the idea to bring a large scale half marathon to Palos Heights. Working with the idea quickly moved toward a reality. 

"I wanted to bring a major race here to the southwest suburbs, we needed it," he said.

Diab also organizes the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day in Palos Park. Last year, he estimates between 10,000 and 12,000 cans of food were collected for the Worth Township food pantry.  

The half marathon has grown in prestige and size over the years, but its impact on the community is always the central focus. The American Cancer Society for prostate cancer research, the Southwest Special Recreation Association, and are the groups that benefited from the over $25,000 raised at this year's race. 

Diab is passionate about what he does. From the detailed attention he uses to fit customers for new running shoes, to the planning of a large-scale athletic event, everything is done with drive. 

"Running my passion," Diab said. "I breathe and eat and think about it all the time. It has been with me for 47 plus years and I enjoy seeing other people's accomplishments."

The race relies on hundreds of local volunteers and brings out residents all along its route. 

"This has inspired a lot of people to train for this race," he said. "Running is not like any other sport. It is about the masses and anyone can do it if you train properly." 

Next year's half marathon is set for early May and it's never to early to start training. 

Jenny C August 09, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I have run The First Midwest Bank Half Marathon four out of the five years going. Wonderful race! Flat course, well supported, fun after-party and Mel is ever present and encouraging the runners. Same with the Turkey Trot - that has become a Thanksgiving tradition for me. All the participants are full of excitement and again, Mel is near the end of the course giving runners high-fives! Everyone at his store, Running For Kicks, is is super friendly. They bend over backwards to help you find what you need. (Hi Gail!) Mel cares about each and every person he comes in contact with, as well as having a big heart for the charities he supports. I can't say enough good things about Mel; the words just do not exist. To know Mel is to love him. Stop by his store and see if I'm not telling the truth.
David Mauger August 10, 2012 at 12:28 AM
This was a nice post about Mel and RFK and his efforts to support charitable causes through the races he and others sponsor. You can't beat either that SW-Bank Half in May or the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day in November - both are premier events and I love to run them because oh-so many run and other friends show up. Everything in this article about Mel is true - he has a passion - for life, for running, for helping others to run, and for helping other charitable causes via the races. And...you never get tired listening to him chat about running, the causes, the gear, the customer-care, life in general. You can't make a bad choice in choosing Running For Kicks as your source for inspiration and gear. Awesome!
Michelle Nugent August 10, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Mel, gail, and the staff are hands down the best store in town! I love running with the rfk group and have made lifelong friends. They are a huge support and provide continuous educational opportunities on running, nutrition, form, shoes, etc. love, love, love, love rfk!!!!!!

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