Mark Rotundo probably could describe every twist and turn of the well-known 10-kilometer running course in Lake in the Hills.
The 32-year-old resident lives right off the course that starts near the AMC movie theater at the intersection of Randall Road and Acorn Lane. When the annual Run Thru the Hills race comes each April, Rotundo is sure to sign up.
“It’s like my neighborhood course,” said Rotundo, who has won the 10K race the past three years. “It’s probably one of the most challenging courses you can get for a 10K road race.”
The course takes advantage of Lake in the Hill’s unique geography, requiring runners to summit 10 hills and maneuver 20 turns while taking in the scenery surrounding Woods Lake.
“I think that’s the whole essence of the course,” said Trudy Wakeman, director of parks and recreation for Lake in the Hills. “It’s hilly, and there are a lot of flat courses around.”
Wakeman started the annual Lake in the Hills race 13 years ago, organizing the event around Easter and originally calling it the Bunny Trot and Hop. The following year, they kept the races on the second weekend of April and rebranded it the Run Thru the Hills.
Even with the name change, the race route hasn’t been modified.
“We’ve always had the same course,” Wakeman said. “The movie theater has been our host for all 13 years, and we really have never changed the course, as I can recall.”
Wakeman said most of the town’s events happen on the other side of town in Lake in the Hills.
Even the Sunset 5K, which the Parks and Recreation Department organizes the Friday before Labor Day, takes place in Sunset Park.
But Wakeman has kept the Run Thru the Hills at its original location to bring people back to Woods Lake and the “mature side of town.”
Woods Lake also is part of the town’s summer sprint triathlon composed of swim, bike and running components. The bicycle portion traverses some of the city’s hilly terrain, as bikers take on Miller Road up to Haligus Road and back to the lake.
Registration peaked for the Run Thru the Hills two years ago when about 750 people signed up for the 5K and 10K races. Other Chicago-area races on the same weekend have taken away some of those participants, but it remains Lake in the Hills’ most popular running event.
“This one presented more of a challenge because it was hilly,” said Alex Johnson, 19, who has run several 5K races in the area, but competed in the Run Thru the Hills for the first time this year. “It was tough, but it was fun.”
That, Wakeman said, is why they don’t foresee any changes in the future. The course possesses the right combination of difficulty and uniqueness. It’s something that not many other towns offer and is a big reason why many people come back year after year.
“[The course] is very challenging,” Rotundo said. “There’s an allure to it because of that.”