DECATUR — The runners taking off from the Fairview Park pavilion Wednesday likely confused some motorists making their way through the park. In the dark, the more than 70 running figures wore headlamps, flashing lights, reflective vests and neon-colored clothing for visibility.
The organized group run originated as a fun idea between Shanna Saubert and her dad, Lysle Saubert.
“I wanted to run a race, originally, on 12/12/12 because we did a marathon in Chicago on 10/10/10,” said Saubert, home for the holidays from her Ph.D. program at the University of Leeds in England. “So I thought it would be fun, and I told my dad to look for races, and there weren’t any around here. And he posted on Facebook, and it suddenly became a run for the entire city.”
The father-daughter team has the goal of running 50 marathons in all 50 states. Lysle Saubert belongs to the Decatur Running Club and groups in Champaign and Danville. He has completed 10 marathons and started running races in Decatur in the early 1990s.
“It’s not a race. It’s just a fun run,” Shanna Saubert said of the 12/12/12 run, which kicked off at 5:30 p.m. and featured three different 12-kilometer courses along the bike trail.
Saubert ran in high school and has continued running for more than 10 years. She likes to spend time on the trails when she comes home to visit.
“Decatur’s always had a good running community, and we obviously have great trails,” she said.
The event organizers collected canned goods for local food pantries instead of an entry fee. Saubert also designed T-shirts for the event, and a portion of the cost of each shirt was donated to local hunger initiatives.
“When we coordinated this, we didn’t want anybody to spend money or to buy entry fees, so we said, ‘How about our entry fee just be some canned goods?’ ” said Brenda Moore, a Decatur Running Club member. “ … It’s just amazing how generous and giving everyone has been.”
Club member Melissa Rinchiuso took her mom and daughters to the event. She pushed the girls, 6 and 3, in a stroller. They planned to walk most of the way because of the weight of the stroller and recently getting over colds.
Rinchiuso started running last March after being inspired by her daughter’s involvement in Staley Striders, a local youth running group.
“I just thought it would be fun,” she said.
Rinchiuso now runs three or four days a week and has been encouraged by the camaraderie and challenge of the local running community. She is preparing for her first half marathon.
As the local athletes got ready for their nighttime run, Moore couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of the very visible group.
“We kind of laugh because we look like a bunch of Martians,” she said. “When you watch us go, the blinking, it’s hilarious to see. When it’s pitch dark, it’s absolutely beautiful.”