LAKE BLOOMINGTON — Visiting the area to attend a church ceremony involving a family member, Rob Wiley of Gurnee gave some credence to the tenet that “the last shall be first.”
One of the last to register for Saturday morning’s 12K Lake Run, Wiley finished first after traversing the 7.5-mile, sun-splashed course on the shores of Lake Bloomington in 40:19.3 to take home the day’s top prize in the 30th annual event staged by the Lake Run Club of Bloomington-Normal.
“I kind of signed up at the last minute,” said Wiley, adding that he initially showed up to cheer on his wife and in-laws who were already entered. “I’m down here visiting my sister-in-law. My niece has a first communion today and they convinced me about 10 minutes before the race to register. It was a nice day, so I said ‘what the heck.’”
A project manager at a Chicago-area pharmaceutical company, Wiley is no stranger to distance events. He finished 48th overall in last month’s prestigious, 26-mile Boston Marathon.
“I’m a fairly serious runner,” Wiley said. “I specialize in the marathons and do the shorter distances like this just for fun. I figured this was kind of a nice, heart-training run today.”
It was a run that he enjoyed on the only USATF-certified 12K course in Illinois.
“This is a great group of runners down here,” Wiley said. “It’s such a nice community. I don’t get to run a lot of smaller community races and it was just a lot of fun with really great people and a really beautiful course.”
Wiley finished just over 3-and-one-half minutes ahead of runner-up Erik Bush, who won the masters (age 40 and over) title.
Kyle Bobbitt, the girls’ varsity basketball coach at El Paso-Gridley High School, finished third.
Like Wiley, Bobbitt competed in the April 18 Boston Marathon in what’s become a year of memorable events. His wife gave birth to the couple’s first child on Feb. 4 and later that month his EPG basketball team advanced to a sectional championship game.
“I got back into running about three years ago,” Bobbitt said. “I’ve always wanted to do this race, but it never worked out. But I had the opportunity to come out today and I decided to run and I did fairly well.”
It turned out to be a good day for employees of the EPG district.
Karen Dudek, a speech pathologist at the EPG elementary school, was the top finishing female in the 4.37-mile race (30:06.2) that was held on a different course around the lake.
“I felt pretty good the first two miles, but I was kind of having to dig the last half,” said Dudek, who’s returned to racing after being sidelined by a foot injury.
Former Bloomington High School star Andy Kubiak, a student at ISU, also returned from a foot injury and was the overall winner of the 4.37-mile race in 23:45.9.
Patricia Schaefer of Springfield was the women’s top finisher and 42nd overall in the 12K event in 52:31.3.